The long-running winding-up petition saga at Swindon Town FC continues to rumble on after a judge allowed a second company to be substituted into the petition.
Deputy Insolvency Judge Stephen Baister ruled last month that Able’s attempt to have the company which owns the League Two side wound-up should be dismissed.
They brought the petition over a disputed £100,000 ‘debt’.
But Centreplate UK, which previously claimed Swindon Town Football Company Ltd owes it around £312,000, applied to take over the petition instead.
Judge Baister ruled on Thursday (September 22) that the petition should be amended and relisted for directions.
The hearing, which lasted around 15 minutes, heard that Swindon disputed the Centreplate debt but did not state the reasons why.
Simon Hunter, who represents Centreplate, said: “It was only after 5 o’clock last Friday that my client got any information it was disputing the debt, the very reason you adjourned this matter.
“If you’re putting us to our election today, we will seek a substitution order today on the usual terms.”
Mr Hunter said that his client had not had time to assess the reasons why Swindon Town disputed the debt and make a decision on whether they wanted to pursue it.
Judge Baister decided to make the substitution order and relist the case.
Mr Hunter said: “If it should be that my client don’t want to go any further, they can pull it without any bother.”
It was also revealed in the short hearing that Able “are probably out of time” to appeal the judge’s decision to dismiss their petition.
Judge Baister said that the debt owed to AC Sports Wiltshire LLC is “capable of being disputed on grounds that are not fanciful but of sufficient substance to warrant dismissing the petition”.
Speaking in the hearing, Adam Deacock acknowledged Judge Baister had given him permission to appeal the decision.
“I haven’t so far but we are probably out of time for doing so,” he said.
At a previous hearing at London’s Insolvency and Companies Court, it was heard that Swindon Town Football Company had entered into a loan agreement with Able in November 2019 of £100,000 with the intention of using the funds to pay overhead costs and staff wages. It was not to be used to pay other creditors.
But on receipt of the funds, Mr Power paid himself back. He said in a witness statement this was because he had already paid for the costs out of his own pocket.
The following February, Mr Power spoke to Bill Keravouri at Able to say the club’s financial position had worsened and he requested more time to pay, when it was agreed it “could be treated as a deposit against a purchase”, Mr Deacock said.
Town had argued that the loan agreement was a sham and that the petition was brought with improper motive.
David Eaton Turner had said that Able wanted to gain control of the club. It comes after Mr Power was forced to sell Swindon Town to Clem Morfuni’s Axis, and not Able as he had wanted to.
They also argued that the loan was actually a non-refundable deposit put down by Able in order to conduct due diligence with a view to purchasing the club.
Judge Baister said in his ruling: “A fuller story of how the loan was treated from time to time has only emerged as a result of opposition to the petition.
“That leads me to suspect that even more might emerge if full and proper disclosure… is given and the witnesses are cross-examined.
“In my view, the Company is entitled properly to test the Petitioner’s case, which it cannot do in a summary proceeding such as this.”