As noted earlier this week on Roker Report, a recent document released by the club on Companies House has raised eyebrows among Sunderland fans. The document is a registration of a charge between the club, SBC (the bank we owe much of our debt to), and Story Homes.
The document discusses a plot of land - believed to be the former Charlie Hurley centre - that Sunderland AFC are keen to sell to Story Homes. The charge, however, suggests that the proceeds from this potential future sale could be transferred directly to SBC should the deal go ahead.
Unfortunately, Roker Report don’t quite have the budget to retain the services of Sunderland’s top lawyers, and as such we weren’t entirely sure what the charge meant in its entirety. Subsequently, we turned to Twitter and received the advice of a legal professional who explained to us that the terms put forward in the charge seem a done-deal rather than collateral in case we can’t make payments.
The club will likely use this to either remove a chunk of the debt, or to help with renegotiating the loan - something Martin Bain has suggested might be an option.
But moving forward, could this potential sale of land help hasten Ellis Short’s desire to sell the club?
You see, when we were a Premier League side, it would have taken a billionaire to buy the club. The land in question here would have had more potential value to a prospective buyer then because they’d have the money to redevelop the land themselves - boosting profits.
However, selling the land now, and potentially helping to pay down the outrageous external debt, is far more valuable to the kind of groups interested in buying a club on its way into League One.
Interested parties will now likely be keen on pushing ahead with a move that could well allow them to offer more money to buy the club from Short if the debt-levels have been reduced by some measure.
The new owners would still need to cover serious losses - likely close to £20 million per season - and reinvest in a struggling side; however, they wouldn’t have to contend with so much eye-watering external debt - one that comes with interest fees in the millions.
The next several weeks will be intriguing moving forward. With fresh financial movement at the club signalling a willingness to make deals to help reduce debts, potential buyers will now likely be keen to sit down with the club again and re-discuss terms relating to a potential sale.
Several groups are rumoured to be interested in purchasing the club, though no real concrete information is readily available - likely at the club’s request. Today’s news, however, will certainly have piqued their collective interest, so expect rumours and whispers to go into overdrive.
That being said, fans still need to remain cautious in what they wish for. New ownership needs to have the best interests of the club and the community at heart. Of all the interested parties, one of them must surely be in it for the right reasons - fans must rally behind that cause and look toward a brighter future.
We need a plan moving forward, a vision and a strategy focused on steady growth and self-sustainability. New ownership must reflect those needs.