Morecambe FC worker speaks out about club crisis

Joseph Cala, would-be owner of Morecambe FC, at the Globe Arena on Tuesday.
Joseph Cala, would-be owner of Morecambe FC, at the Globe Arena on Tuesday.

A worker at the Globe Arena has spoken exclusively about the ‘animosity’ at the football club towards would-be owner Joseph Cala.

The staff member, who wished to remain anonymous, said the mood amongst employees was down “due to Joseph Cala being there”.

The Globe Arena.

The Globe Arena.

The worker said a staff meeting was due to take place at the Globe on Friday as a delay in paying wages – due at the end of January – entered its eighth day.

Meanwhile a group of Morecambe football supporters said they had “serious concerns” about Mr Cala, who said he is ‘technically’ the new owner of the Shrimps.

The interim board of the Shrimps Trust said they were worried about his “past history with other football clubs and his intentions for Morecambe FC”.

Mr Cala, an Italian businessman, ran Italian club Salernitana Calcio in 2011 for 11 days and was briefly linked with buying Portsmouth FC in 2012.

He has been at the Globe Arena this week threatening to lay off staff but had still not been officially confirmed as owner by the English Football League (EFL).

Mr Cala said he was at Morecambe to “save the club”.

The anonymous worker said: “The mood in the camp is down due to Joseph Cala being there.

“He has been depressing a lot of people.

“There’s a lot of animosity.

“People are despondent but determined that the club will survive.

“Everybody will do everything they can to keep the club going despite the likes of Joseph Cala.”

Meanwhile the ownership battle took a new twist as a court case was heard at Manchester County Court yesterday (Thursday) between Diego Lemos – the man who claims he is still Morecambe owner and G50 Holdings – a company set up to faciliate the transfer of the controlling stake in Morecambe FC to him, versus Graham Burnard, a Durham tax consultant now listed by Companies House as G50’s sole director.

Manchester County Court told us on Friday there was no court order on file as yet regarding this case.

We are trying to contact representatives of the parties involved.

The Shrimps Trust, set up last month to safeguard the interests of the club and its supporters, also described the crisis at Morecambe FC as a “circus” and said they were “baffled” by the goings-on.

They also said they were “determined to make sure that every member of staff at Morecambe FC is paid what is owed to them”.

Staff and players were due to be paid on Friday, January 27 but as of Friday morning, February 3 only casual staff and those with urgent bills had received any money from the club.

Speaking to us on Friday morning, chairman Peter McGuigan said the board of directors had asked Mr Cala to leave the Globe Arena until he is confirmed as owner by the EFL.

Mr McGuigan also said G50 Holdings still owned the club and should be paying the staff.

But he said the board had “a few plans” to solve the wages crisis.

“We have told Cala he is not wanted on the site,” he said.

“One thing all of this has done is galvanise the board.

“We need to work out how we can get through the short-term, with wages, and we have a few plans for that, then how do we get the funds for the rest of the season, and we remain committed to there being a credible owner of Morecambe FC.

“The board is caught in the middle of this. G50 owns the club.

“We’ve got to pick up the reins.”

A Shrimps Trust spokesman said: “There is very little we can do as it is the duty of others to pay (staff) and we have no legal means to pay or loan money currently.

“However, we say to every member of staff that you are not forgotten in this awful sorry mess and should the worst come to the worst then we will be there for you and we will attempt to find the means to ensure that you are paid.”

On the subject of Mr Cala, the spokesman said: “The Shrimps Trust understands that a number of individuals and organisations have made representations to the EFL regarding Mr Joseph Cala, his company and his associates as it makes its deliberations this week.

“The Shrimps Trust has not agreed any formal position or made any representation to the EFL about Mr Cala.

“However, we remain seriously concerned about both his past history with other football clubs and his intentions for Morecambe FC.

“We have spoken at length with Supporters Direct (an organisation which helps fans to set up supporters trusts), who share those concerns, and we’re also approaching Portsmouth FC to understand their dealings with Mr Cala.”

The spokesman also said the crisis was making “a mockery” of the hard-earned reputation of Morecambe FC as a friendly family club.

“In every statement or interview given by just about everyone involved in this sad scenario the words almost never mentioned are fans or supporters,” said the spokesman.

“Without its supporters a professional football club is nothing.

“Supporters created Morecambe Football Club and have sustained it for 96 years whether on the terraces, in the boardroom or through commercial support.

“We’ve raised money whenever asked and never asked for anything in return.

“From our great founder JB Christie who gifted land to the club to those who stood on a bleak terrace at Leek watching us get thrashed we only did it for love of our club.

“Ours has also been a friendly community-centred club with no grand illusions about itself and we’ve gained respect across the football world for the fun we have and the friends we’ve made.

“Those now dragging our club through the courts and the mud are making a mockery of that reputation. They need to understand that they can’t take our loyalty to Morecambe FC for granted.”

The spokesman said the trust could do “very little” about the ownership situation.

“The owners of a company appoint a board of directors to manage and operate the company on their behalf.

“As it stands, the board of Morecambe FC is still as it was, and they have oversight of the club’s finances and manage operations.

“It remains their legal duty to operate Morecambe FC to the best of their abilities.

“The Shrimps Trust have spoken to directors and offered our help and support with anything that helps us deliver a sustainable and well-managed future for Morecambe FC.

“We understand that there is a legal process in place to decide ownership of G50 Holdings, the company that acquired the majority holding in Morecambe Football Club.

“If true, then it further delays the process of deciding the future of Morecambe FC and may put the club further in jeopardy.

“Again The Shrimps Trust, like the board of directors of Morecambe FC and all ordinary supporters are largely helpless until this process reaches its conclusion.

“We’re also in communication with the administrators to PMG Leisure to ensure we understand developments there, which can directly affect the future of the club.”

The spokesman encouraged people to come forward to join the trust board. Anyone interested can contact the trust at shrimpstrust@gmail.com with your contact details and a brief summary of yourself.

He also urged all supporters who can to get to the League Two game at Doncaster Rovers on Saturday to get behind manager Jim Bentley and the team.

“Fans are planning to meet the team bus as it arrives to show that we’re all together,” he said.

“Because together, positive and determined we can help ensure the survival of our fantastic club.”

Morecambe FC put out a statement last Friday (January 27) saying: “We have been informed by representatives of G50 Holdings that (former club co-chairman) Abdulrahman Al-Hashemi has agreed to sell his interest in G50 Holdings Ltd that has a controlling interest in Morecambe Football Club to the Cala Corporation and that the agreement provides for interim finance to secure the ongoing future stability of the club.

“The objective is that Morecambe FC should be a successful and sustainable football club of which the local community can be proud.

“We have been informed by Joseph Cala that the interim finance for creditors and wages will be received no later than Tuesday.

“Cala Corporation will be speaking to the EFL 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.”

On Tuesday at the Globe Arena, Mr Cala told us “some staff would have to be let go” in departments where there were “three employees when you only need one”.

Then in an interview with Radio Lancashire on Thursday, Mr Cala said he was willing to pay wages, but can’t until the board resigns and the EFL confirms him as club owner.

“We arrived here after the pay cheques were due,” he said.

“It has nothing to do with us. We are here to save the club because the directors failed to do the job.

“We said we would bring money in, which we are pretty much ready to do so, but we are not going to put a penny in until the board resigns.

“You first have to be approved by the EFL. The league have to do ‘fit and proper’ checks. It’s going to take at least 10 days, two weeks. The only ones who can put money in are the directors and G50.”

He said staff who are unhappy over the wages situation should “quit”.

When questioned about his past business track record, he said he had been “extremely successful”.

Mr Cala has been critical of Morecambe FC’s reliance on its hospitality department saying he would invest “only in football” and said the pitch was “fit only for sheep”.

“There is nothing wrong with the football, just the hospitality, period,” he said.

“Do people come for the food or to watch 11 lions on the pitch?”

He also said on Tuesday his door would always be open to fans and wanted to build strong links with them.

Mr Cala also said he’d been asked by the EFL not to “do anything on football” at Morecambe FC until approval is given but he “can run the business”.

He said he was due to meet with the EFL on Friday and also said he had “suggested” to G50 that they pay the staff and players.

Mr Cala’s associate, entrepreneur and ex-football agent Michael D Williams, tweeted on Friday: “I’m saddened by the fact that there has always been enough cash to pay all the MFC staff, however a decision is made to pay others instead!”

The Morecambe FC hospitality team won the small stadium award at the National Stadium Experience Awards in 2016 and came second overall.

MORECAMBE FC CRISIS IN SUMMARY - FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 3 2017

Most staff and all players have still not been paid their January wages

The Professional Footballers Association (PFA) confirmed on Thursday they were in contact with players and offering help

Joseph Cala and Morecambe FC have both said that Mr Cala struck a deal to buy the majority shareholding in G50 Holdings, which has the controlling stake in Morecambe FC, subject to EFL approval

His ownership has not yet been confirmed by the English Football League which was carrying out a test on Mr Cala and the other representatives who he wants to be Morecambe FC directors

The critera for the EFL test can be seen HERE.

G50 Holdings was set up to facilitate the transfer of the majority shareholding in Morecambe FC from former owner Peter McGuigan to Brazilian football agent Diego Lemos

Mr Lemos was unveiled as the new Shrimps owner in September 2016

Staff and players were paid late in October 2016

Mr Lemos has not been seen at the Globe Arena since mid-November 2016

The directors said shortly afterwards that Mr Lemos had “failed to deliver promised investment”

PMG Leisure, a company operating the Morecambe FC youth and community pitches, went into administration in December 2016

Mr Lemos is listed as having resigned as director of G50 Holdings in January 2017

Graham Burnard, a Durham-based tax consultant, is now listed as sole director

Mr Lemos is disputing that he resigned and has taken legal action

A court case ‘G50 Holdings Limited and Lemos v Burnard’ was heard at Manchester County Court on Thursday.

It was revealed last week by director Rod Taylor, that four un-named directors put in £40,000 to stop an HMRC winding-up order against Morecambe FC in January 2017

Mr McGuigan announced in March 2016 that he had put Morecambe up for sale after 16 years as chairman.

The club’s latest accounts, for 2014/15, posted an £830,000 loss. The latest club accounts are due to be published at the end of February 2017.