GREG LAMBERT tries to make sense of the craziest week in Morecambe FC’s history as a director reveals details of a £40,000 bail-out to save the club.
MONDAY JANUARY 23
As Morecambe FC directors sit down with Qatari businessman and former co-chairman Abdulrahman Al-Hashemi for a crunch meeting about the crisis-hit club’s future, the town is buzzing with talk of Joseph Cala, a controversial Italian businessman who has been seen at the Globe having talks about a possible buy-out.
When The Visitor contacts Mr Cala, the head of the Houston-based Cala Corporation, at his London hotel, he says: “I want to purchase a British football club but I feel the club needs investment on the pitch. There is too much concentrating on catering and weddings. The clubhouse has become a wedding hall. It should not be that way. Fans go to watch football.
“The club needs money,” continues Mr Cala, quoting £2m as a figure needed to make Morecambe FC “healthy” again. “My suggestion was for the directors to resign and then we have a group to invest in the club.”
Mr Cala has a colourful past including an 11-day ownership of an Italian club in 2011 and a curtailed interest in buying Portsmouth FC in 2012.
Meanwhile Peter McGuigan, former Shrimps owner and club chairman, says talks will not be continuing with Cala.
TUESDAY JANUARY 24
“We’re not going into administration,” Peter McGuigan tells The Visitor, also saying yesterday’s meeting was a positive one and “the mess we inherited has been resolved”.
But when asked about Joseph Cala’s comments of the day before, the chairman turns the air blue with his response, which is not printable in a family newspaper.
Mr McGuigan is furious at Mr Cala’s suggestion that the directors focus too much on “catering and weddings” and says the board will not be resigning.
And he firmly blames the club’s current woes on Diego Lemos, the Brazilian former football agent unveiled as Morecambe’s new owner last September, but who has been absent from the Globe for two and a half months.
THURSDAY JANUARY 26
Diego Lemos breaks his silence. In an interview with The Bay radio, Mr Lemos finally speaks and disputes that he has been in hiding. He says he tried to contact Morecambe FC directors “a couple of weeks ago” by phone and has been been “in touch by email with some of them”.
“I let them know about everything that was going on,” he says.
Talking about owning Morecambe FC, he says: “I was very excited with the project, it’s a very good club who had a lot of plans. But when you buy a new house you find a lot of things going on. There were some things that I wasn’t expecting but even with that, we kept fighting because we believe in the club.”
When asked if he would return to Morecambe, he says: “Yes, definitely. I was planning to bring over my family to live there for a long time.”
Meanwhile administrators Moorfields confirm that staff at PMG Leisure, a company in charge of the youth and community pitches at the Globe Arena which went into administration a few weeks ago, have been made redundant. A spokesman says Moorfields will “continue to work with the football club to reach a solution”.
The Shrimps’ ‘football in the community’ operation is running as normal and as the outdoor artificial pitches at the Globe are now locked, the youth teams are now training at Lancaster and Morecambe College.
FRIDAY JANUARY 27
Joseph Cala is back in the takeover frame. Mr Cala has struck a deal with Mr Al-Hashemi and Durham-based tax consultant Graham Burnard to buy a controlling stake in a company called G50 Holdings Limited, which Mr McGuigan sold his majority shareholding to back in September, and which is now the focal point of a dispute over who actually owns Morecambe Football Club. G50 was previously under the directorship of Mr Lemos, but now Companies House lists Mr Burnard as sole director.
A club statement says: “The agreement provides for interim finance to secure the ongoing future stability of the club.”
Meanwhile staff and players have not been paid on time for the second time in four months. The club says Mr Cala has told them that “interim finance for creditors and wages will be received no later than Tuesday”.
The statement continues: “Cala Corporation will be speaking to the English Football League to arrange for clearance to be given to four representatives of theirs to become directors of Morecambe Football Club Ltd. Once clearance is given by the EFL the current board of directors will resign to allow the new board to take the control of the club.”
SATURDAY JANUARY 28
Morecambe are supposed to be playing Accrington Stanley at the Globe but the league game has been postponed due to Stanley’s FA Cup commitments.
MONDAY JANUARY 30
Club director Rod Taylor, a Morecambe football man through and through, seems bewildered by the whole affair. “It’s been awful for all of us,” he says.
Stung by criticism of the board, which he says have been caught in the middle of everything, Mr Taylor reveals that last month four directors put in a total of £40,000 to stop a wind-up order against the club. He also says Diego Lemos was fully aware of the financial situation at Morecambe FC when he took over and Mr Lemos has not been in touch personally with Rod, although Mr Taylor has seen two emails to the club from Mr Lemos “stating facts as he sees it about the ownership” of MFC, which Mr Taylor says remains in dispute because Mr Lemos and Mr Al-Hashemi both claim they had control of G50 Holdings.
Rod says they “can’t prove or disprove” who had control of the shares and “it’s a legal situation”. He also reiterates that Mr Cala, who is at the Globe today, has assured him that staff will be paid on Tuesday. And he confirms that the club directors will resign, but only once Mr Cala’s representatives have been approved by the EFL.
Rod says: “To resign en masse before the people coming in have been through the proper checks, we wouldn’t do that. Because does (Mr Cala) really own the club?
“You couldn’t make this up.”
The saga continues.