On Wednesday evening a General Meeting of Accrington Stanley shareholders will consider a proposal for new investment in the club from local business What More UK.
If it goes ahead the deal will clear around £1.2m in debt and provide additional working capital of around £600 000 to make the club more sustainable going forward. It will put the club on a firm financial footing for the first time in years.
On the agenda is a proposal which would see What More UK’s founder and Accrington Stanley fan Andy Holt take over a debt of almost £480 000 owed by the club, while his company would pump in more than £580 000 to pay off other creditors, with further investment to follow.
This would result in Mr. Holt becoming a director of the club as he and his company would between them hold more than three-quarters of the total shares, giving him a controlling interest.
It would enable Mr. Holt and his team to apply their considerable business acumen to helping make Accrington Stanley FC a successful business going forward.
Andy Holt was born and raised locally and founded What More UK 16 years ago.
Earlier this year the company became Stanley’s stadium sponsor in a separate deal worth £200 000 to the club, and which saw the Crown Ground renamed the Wham Stadium. Another of Mr. Holt’s business interests is PlasticBoxShop, the UK’s leading online retailer of plastic storage boxes, which became Stanley’s new shirt sponsor as part of the same pre-season finance deal.
What More UK is now based at a manufacturing and distribution facility at Altham, exporting its Wham brand products to more than 60 countries worldwide and with an annual group turnover of around £55m.
“I knew the club needed help financially, but it wasn’t until I saw the books that I realised how much it would take,” said Mr. Holt.
“I kept telling myself I just wanted to be a fan, but the truth is I couldn’t walk on by and not try to help. If this proposal goes through on Wednesday, it will make me the major shareholder. I don’t want to run every aspect of the club, but I do want to offer whatever help and support I can on the business side of things.
“My first priority would be to clean up the balance sheet and tackle all the club’s old debt and creditors, to get Accrington Stanley back on a sound financial footing. Next I would forge a board of directors to take the club forward, building on that footing to achieve tangible improvements for the club, the town and the fans.
“All lower league clubs have similar problems, with lower revenues and struggling with finance, but what kills them is high debt. Stanley is known as ‘the club that wouldn’t die’ and the fact that it hasn’t is a credit to those currently and previously involved in the club, and who have backed it financially.
“People like Eric Whalley, Ilyas Khan, Peter Marsden and the other directors there now have backed the club to the hilt. What attracted me to getting involved was their integrity and commitment to the club, matched on the field by John Coleman and his team. All the staff there are Accrington Stanley to the core and they are people I know I can work with.
“Everyone connected with Stanley is rightly proud of its heritage and the town’s place as a founder of the Football League and I want to do whatever I can to help secure its place in the future. My business is based in Hyndburn, which has supported and nourished its growth, so I am happy to put something back into the area through its football team.
“It’s important to everyone at the club to be open and let all the fans – not just the shareholders – know exactly what’s going on. We’re not doing anything behind closed doors.”