Cork City’s prospective new owners target immediate return to Premier Division

Takeover of club was approved by members of supporters’ group Foras at online meeting

Cork City’s prospective new owners have targeted an immediate return to the Premier Division and European football again within three years after their takeover of the club was approved by members of the supporters’ group Foras at an online meeting on Wednesday night.

Just over 400 of the organisation’s roughly 560 members participated in the vote which went 69.8 per cent in favour of the proposal which had been heavily backed by the club’s board.

A statement from City’s staff had expressed support for the sale - for €1 with the buyers assuming around €200,000 of assorted debts - and the stability it would bring.

Critics - many of whom appeared to have seen a 'yes' vote as inevitable - had previously pointed to a lack of real engagement by Grovemoor, the company owned by British billionaire Trevor Hemmings, who also owns Preston North End, prior to the meeting.

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A statement relayed to the meeting, however, is said to have gone down well with the firm outlining Hemmings’ commitment to sport generally and to community related activities around Preston.

"Yeah, they gave some background on their sporting ethos, how ingrained they are with the community in Preston," says City chairman Declan Carey, "how engaged they are with younger people there and how they use the football club to engage with that and the charitable work that they do as well.

“I think that would have touched a lot of people, I think it would have been crucial to a lot of our members because Foras has done a lot of charitable work over the years and I think some members would have been very worried that that sort of thing would have stopped if the takeover went through.

"They didn't talk about the specifics of the financial aspect," he continued, "but they talked about getting the club back up to the Premier Division and then getting into Europe almost immediately, being back there within three years essentially. Clearly other clubs like Shamrock Rovers and Dundalk have wealthy backers now and I don't want to speculate what Grovemoor would have to put in, I'm sure there's a ceiling to it as well but I think everyone knows that they have the finance to do it."

Given the division the proposal had caused, Carey says he is fairly happy with the 70/30 spilt in the vote. “Less than 55/45 would have been a sort of nightmare Brexit scenario,” he says, “so this is relatively clear cut and I don’t think that too many of the ‘no’ votes were from staunch no voters in the end, they were people who had a very great passion for Foras and wanted it to continue; they believed that we could recover and they wanted to build it again.

“Clearly, from the board’s point of view, it was a good outcome because we had all backed the proposal heavily. I hope now that there will be no winners or losers really; the club will be the overall winner and at the end of the day, that’s what everyone wants.”

Talks have already started with Grovemoor about completing the deal and both entities are expected to apply for licences to play in the league next year. The intention is that a Grovemoor owned Cork City will get one but the Foras application is intended as a measure of insurance while the detail is being completed.

Carey said that he would stay on until the next Foras agm, most likely early in the new year and help beyond that in any way he could if asked to by his supporters or the new owners.

Emmet Malone

Emmet Malone

Emmet Malone is Industry and Employment Correspondent at The Irish Times