Curious observers may have noted in recent days that a new filing on the Company Houses website has appeared involving the club and the bank to which we owe an awful lot of money - raising eyebrows regarding what it means and why we appear to have entered into a new agreement with SBC (Security Benefit Corporation).
The document, which can be viewed by clicking here, appears to suggest that the club have entered into what has been called a ‘Supplemental Security Agreement’ pertaining to land north of Cleadon Lane, Whitburn - which we can only presume is the Charlie Hurley Centre, the former training facility used by the club before their move to the Academy of Light in 2002 - and a ‘Facilities Agreement’ valued at £85,000,000 which was taken out on the 27th August 2014.
Another party - Story Homes - are mentioned in what we can only assume suggests that the Charley Hurley site has been earmarked as a potential new housing project. In turn, it would appear that the club have agreed to potentially sell the land - pending planning permission.
How much that would generate is subject to speculation, but one thing that’s for certain is the fact that SBC either automatically gain that money, or do so in the event we are unable to continue our loan payments to them.
In the document, it is noted that:
This letter constitutes notice to you that under the Security Agreement we have assigned by way of security to Security Benefit Corporation (the Facility Agent) all our rights in respect of:
(i) The sale and purchase agreement made between the Chargor and Story Homes Limited
Furthermore the letter goes on to state that:
We hereby irrevocably authorise and instruct you to pay all monies now or at any time from the date of this notice due or owing to us under or by virtue of the Sale and Purchase Agreement to [.] (whose receipt shall be a full and sufficient discharge of such payment) or to such account of Security Benefit Corporation as Security Benefit Corporation may notify you in writing from time to time.
What this means for the club’s current finances can only be assumed, but if truth be told it doesn’t look particularly positive. No prices have been formally agreed for the sale of the land, and dates are also missing - talks are clearly advanced, however, and the club seem close to selling the land should planning permission be approved.
In May of last year both the club and Story Homes spoke of their intentions to discuss plans for the site, admitting that some sort of agreement could potentially have been in the pipeline.
A Sunderland AFC spokeswoman told the Sunderland Echo:
We are exploring opportunities with Story Homes in relation to land in Whitburn owned by the club. At such time as we have a clear intention for the site, we will communicate this with the public.
Story Homes then confirmed to the paper that they would be keen to build new homes on the site, and would liaise with all of the relevant parties in order to reach a successful resolution:
Story Homes is promoting the development of new homes on land north of Cleadon Land in Whitburn, which is owned by SAFC. At this stage, we are committed to discussions with the South Tyneside Council and the Whitburn Neighbourhood Forum in parallel to these parties progressing their emerging local plan and neighbourhood plan respectively.
Perhaps the club are merely covering their backs in an attempt at ensuring they don’t default on payments to SBC; however, competition money in the past has been suggested to have been claimed by the bank before ever entering the club’s coffers. Therefore, don’t be surprised if in the future the funds from this sale don’t make their way back to the club.
Ultimately, this announcement is another sad indictment of our current financial infirmity.
Unable to generate substantial income from player sales or league standing, Sunderland AFC are now scraping the barrel as we try to eradicate external debts whilst simultaneously trying to sell the club. The sale of the land in question will likely generate a hefty sum of money, yet the club won’t truly benefit from this deal - instead, we will use it as a means to eradicating reckless debt accrued from horrific strategy and planning.