Fan rep 'really disappointed' over slow progress on Carlisle United debt

·7-min read
United's debt situation was a major topic at the latest fans' forum (photo: Richard Parkes)
United's debt situation was a major topic at the latest fans' forum (photo: Richard Parkes)

Carlisle United supporters’ trust director Billy Atkinson issued a firm public appeal to the Blues’ lenders Purepay to “sort out” the debt situation once and for all.

CUOSC’s Atkinson, who sits on United’s Holdings board, also said he was “really disappointed” the firm had still not come to the table to thrash out an agreement.

Atkinson spoke out at United’s latest fans’ forum on Thursday at a time club owners said they were hoping to agree a repayment plan.

United owe Purepay £2.4m as a legacy of loans from Philip Day’s Edinburgh Woollen Mill since 2017.

READ MORE: Carlisle United fans forum - as it happened!

Blues co-owner John Nixon said he had recently spoken to Purepay’s John Jackson about the situation.

While United await further clarity on the way forward, supporter representative Atkinson challenged Purepay to act.

News and Star: CUOSC's Billy Atkinson (photo: Barbara Abbott)
News and Star: CUOSC's Billy Atkinson (photo: Barbara Abbott)

CUOSC's Billy Atkinson (photo: Barbara Abbott)

He said: “As somebody that sort of single-handedly talked my [CUOSC] board into backing the proposed takeover by what was at that time EWM and Philip Day, only to find out when we got to Christmas they weren’t going to take it over, they were going to do something else…

“I am really, really, really disappointed in a man who says he supports the city and the football club, that it’s taken them until now, a year and a bit after we effectively told them we would no longer support the takeover…I’m really disappointed that they have made no effort to come forward and talk to us – not necessarily negotiate, but talk to us about this loan, and a formula for repaying it, sorting it out, whatever.

“My plea to whoever owns Purepay – please, get to the bottom of this and sort it out, because this club needs it sorted out, the supporters need it sorted out, the team, manager and everybody else needs it sorted out, and there’s only one person that can do that.

“My plea to them would be, don’t just put it back and put it back like you’ve done all this time – come forward and sort it out.”

The News & Star has invited Purepay via their director Jackson – also a CUFC Holdings director – to respond to Atkinson’s comments.

Carlisle co-owner John Nixon, speaking at the supporters’ groups-organised forum at Brunton Park, said United had tabled formal proposals to Purepay over a repayment plan.

He said they were awaiting further contact from Jackson over the balance of interest that has accrued on the debt in the last financial year.

News and Star: John Nixon (photo: Barbara Abbott)
News and Star: John Nixon (photo: Barbara Abbott)

John Nixon (photo: Barbara Abbott)

Nixon said the club hoped for a written agreement to their proposals and stressed that United wanted to pay back the full debt amount over a period of time.

Nixon explained: “[At the time] of the last fans’ forum at the end of May we’d been in touch with Purepay and their representatives, trying to get them to agree to a payment plan.

“We sent them notice of that payment plan, first of all [with a] text message with what we proposed – we were trying to get a meeting but we couldn’t get that meeting.

“Then we as a board got together and, formally, the chairman [Andrew Jenkins] wrote to Purepay at the beginning of June, saying, ‘This is our proposal, what we want to pay back, how we want to pay back’.

“We’re talking about paying back 100 per cent of the loan, over a given period of time, with interest and capital repayments on each year going forward.

“We did a very quick chase-up from there to ensure they’d got the documentation. I had a conference then have been on holiday, but after coming back we did a chase-up first thing Monday morning, because we hadn’t had an answer to that letter.

“I did get a form of reply, and [last Wednesday] night I was able to speak to John Jackson, and he informed me that he was working on the balance of interest for this year, which is important. There’s been two interest rises this year. The interest we pay on the loan is a percentage above the bank rate. He said he was working that out.

“I said we need to know that, please can you get it back to us. I then spoke to Andrew Jenkins about what we’ll do when we get that figure – we want to pay some capital and all the interest this year. We can then have a quick board meeting and agree to put monies aside for this financial year, which ends tonight [last Thursday], ready to pay over to Purepay as part of that loan, as soon as we get a written agreement that they accept our terms.

“We put a proposal to them, they’re working on the numbers, and then it will be over to the board to decide that they’re going to put so much money aside this financial year.

“It won’t leave us until we and they have an agreement that this is what we’re going to do over a number of years.

News and Star: Philip Day, back right, from United's former lenders EWM (photo: Stuart Walker)
News and Star: Philip Day, back right, from United's former lenders EWM (photo: Stuart Walker)

Philip Day, back right, from United's former lenders EWM (photo: Stuart Walker)

“Getting to that stage is absolutely vital. If we can clear this hurdle, that opens the gateway very clearly for other people to come in and say, ‘We want to invest in Carlisle United’ and know the money isn’t going to disappear immediately down the old debt pothole. It’s going to go into the team, on the stadium, for infrastructure improvements or whatever they decide they want to do.”

Nixon said he understood Atkinson’s position but also stressed that Purepay had never put United under pressure over repaying the debt.

He said: “That’s absolutely key. We want to pay them back because it’s the right thing to do.

“We’ve got a degree of honour as businessmen to say when you made a debt, and you can afford it, you should be paying it back.

“I understand Billy’s frustration. We’ve got to try and work with them to do what’s right for Carlisle United.”

Chief executive Nigel Clibbens also said it was “clear” that Purepay understood the implications should they ask for all the money back in one go.

He said: “John Jackson has told me this with his Purepay hat on – they don’t want to call for cash from the club that they can’t afford to pay and in such a way that it becomes detrimental to the club and we get into a spiral and things get worse rather than better, and it damages them as much as the club.

“If we’re going to pay this debt back, it needs a strong football club. That’s to everybody’s advantage here.”

United manager Paul Simpson also underlined the importance of the club not being asked to repay the debt in full immediately.

“My plea is don’t come and ask for it all back now, because that would affect what I’m trying to do,” he said.

Both Simpson and Clibbens, meanwhile, appealed to supporters to focus their attention on football as much as possible rather than the debt situation.

The Purepay matter was raised a number of times by fans at the forum.

Simpson said: “The football club has a really good, positive vibe about it at the moment. The staff are doing an absolutely brilliant job, there are new appointments in the shop and commercial, and they are brilliant from what I’ve seen so far…

News and Star: Paul Simpson: appeal for positivity (photo: Barbara Abbott)
News and Star: Paul Simpson: appeal for positivity (photo: Barbara Abbott)

Paul Simpson: appeal for positivity (photo: Barbara Abbott)

“Let’s try and keep it positive. Let’s not have a fight that we don’t need at the moment. Let’s make Carlisle United about football, not politics and fighting over things.

“I understand there’s issues – there’s issues at every club you go to. Let’s make it about football, and let’s build on the positive stuff and feel we had at the end of last season.”

Clibbens added that stressing the positive feeling at United would be to everyone’s benefit.

He said he wanted people to focus more on the good vibes around the club and the football side of things. “We spend too much time getting into talking about the debt. We need to create a position when we’re talking about the football more,” he added.

Atkinson said he acknowledged Simpson’s point, but added: “This club will not move forward until we get new investment – investment that’s in the club and not just debt.”

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