Q&A: Why do York City’s owners want to take over York City Knights?

24 Feb 2015 @ 3.16 pm
| Sport
Knights move… the club’s old Huntington Stadium home. Photograph: Bing Maps

York City’s owners have made a bid to take over York City Knights, the York Press revealed on Tuesday (February 24).

But why – and what will it mean for both clubs and their fans? We’ve talked to the critical parties and put together some answers.

If you have more questions, let us know in the comments and we’ll try to find out the answers.

Who is behind the takeover bid?

Malton firm JMP Packaging. They have a 75 per cent shareholding in York City FC and JMP owner Jason McGill is chairman of the football club.

Why takeover the Knights?

The plan was always for York City football club and rugby league’s York City Knights to share the new Community Stadium when it is built at Monks Cross.

Huntington Stadium, where the Knights have played for 25 years, is now closed and set to be demolished as part of the plans.

Until the community stadium is ready, City of York Council proposed that the Knights play home games at York City’s Bootham Crescent stadium, and train at York St John University’s sports facilities.

However York City Knights chairman John Guildford, who is also the club’s sole shareholder, has not signed up to this agreement. You can read more about this wrangle here.

How the community stadium might look

As a result the council withdrew its offer to allow the club to use either Bootham Crescent or the university training facilities.

That means the Knights players have nowhere settled to train as they approach the new league season – and no idea where they will be playing home games.

In the light of these troubles JMP says it was approached by “the Knights Independent Supporters’ Society for possible assistance”.

“The company has decided to make an open offer to the Knights Chairman and 100% shareholder, John Guildford, with a view to providing a solution to the club’s current difficulties,” a JMP statement said.

What does John Guildford think?

Not a lot. He told YorkMix:

You can confirm we have had no approach from them and find it strange to make a offer though the media.

A JMP spokesperson said: “John Guildford should receive a letter today (Tuesday) expressing JMP’s interest in acquiring the York City Knights.”

How much would JMP pay for the Knights?

Very little by the sounds of it. It may be more the case of JMP being prepared to take over the Knights’ liabilities.

In their official statement, JMP quotes John Guildford as saying in the Press, “as it stands now the attraction of the club for any buyer is now nil”.

The statement goes on:

It has also been reported to JMP that, within emails and social media, Mr Guildford has accepted during recent weeks the club has no value

Any potential takeover would require JMP to come to an agreement “over any financial losses that may be present within the club’s accounts”.

This is what we do know about the Knight’s finances. John Guildford owns all 10,000 shares, priced at £1 a share.

The latest available accounts from the club date from 2013. At this time its total assets were £110,069 – but its liabilities were £18,394 more than that, at £128,463.

Is this just a JMP land grab?

“Emphatically not”, says the company. The rugby club would have its own board of directors comprising fans who have business or other skills.

JMP says…

No one appointed as a director will receive financial reward for their services in respect of this role from the rugby club, thereby enabling any surplus funds that may potentially be generated during future years to be utilised for the benefit of the club as it endeavours to achieve its objectives.

So what are JMP’s plans for the Knights?

JMP say they want the club to thrive.

Rugby league is a high impact, fast moving game with courage a key component for those participating.

We intend to provide the foundations upon which the club may build with a view to flourishing during future years.

While no specific playing target has been set, YorkMix understands that the potential new owners believe the Knights should be playing in the Championship, a league higher than they are now.

Would the Knights be able to play at Bootham Crescent?

York City mascot Yorkie and Knights mascot Norris join forces at the 2013 York Pride march. Will they unite under the same ownership? Photograph: York Pride
Yes, if a deal with JMP is done. But not straight away.

There are legal issues to sort out. York council is responsible for enforcing the law regarding safety at sports grounds.

And different rules apply to rugby league as opposed to football – not least the fact that you can drink alcohol on the terraces in rugby league but not at football matches.

To ensure all the legislation is complied with could take six weeks.

York City Knights kick off the new league season on Sunday (March 1) with a series of away trips. Their first home fixture is slated for April 19.

So, to use a famous sporting expression, it could be squeaky bum time.

How will York City FC be affected?

York City fans are bound to be anxious as their club is in a dogfight to save their league status.

City face the very real danger of being relegated back to the Conference only three years after promotion. Supporters won’t want the board diverting precious resources away from the battle to keep the club up.

JMP has invested a lot of money in York City over the years and say no money earmarked for the football club will be switched to the rugby league club.

The company believes there are benefits for bringing both clubs together, with regard to their community work and “some economies of scale”.

What happens next?

JMP waits to hear back from John Guildford. He says a non-disclosure agreement prevents him saying anything at the moment but it looks like there are four possible outcomes:

  1. He keeps control of the Knights but signs up to the council package, enabling the club to play at Bootham Crescent
  2. He transfers the club to JMP and the Knights play at the Crescent
  3. He transfers the club to another party, although no one else has publicly declared an interest
  4. He keeps control of the Knights, refuses to sign up to the agreement, and the club has to find somewhere else to play.

Whatever happens, the York Community Stadium plans continue with or without the Knights on board.

Meanwhile JMP wants to hear from both City and Knights fans about its plans. So… what do you think?