Club members agree move from fan-ownership to shareholder model
In yet another major shift to the Irish League landscape, Crusaders fans have voted in favour of a significant investment proposal which they hope will bring rich rewards on and off the pitch.
Club members discussed the mega-money proposal at Seaview last night and voted 236-36 in favour of moving from a fan-owned club to a shareholder model.
Liverpool’s all-time leading goalscorer Ian Rush backed the deal as a stakeholder in Irama Sport, owned by English-born businessman Perry Chopra.
The new investors will hold 70 percent of the shares of the club and inject £1.75m into the business with Crusaders adding in £750,000, bringing the total investment to £2.5m.
Members overwhelmingly agreed two weeks ago to put the proposal to a vote last night and there was sufficient support for it to get across the line.
Club chiefs needed to pass the 75% threshold to see the deal go through.
The club stated: “At a packed meeting at Seaview Stadium, Crusaders members voted 236 for and 36 against to accept the proposal for a substantial investment in Crusaders Football Club.
“The 75% threshold was comfortably met and the club will now instruct solicitors.
“It is hoped the transaction will be complete by May 2022.”
With Larne and Glentoran embracing wealthy owners in Kenny Bruce and Ali Pour, combined with Linfield’s considerable resources, the Crues felt this was an opportunity to dramatically strengthen their hand.
The deal will see the Shore Road side move to a fully professional set-up, hasten ground redevelopment, generate new income streams and attract more young players to Belfast.
The club’s six-strong Executive Board would consist of four investors and two from Crusaders.
A 12-strong non-executive council would be elected by Crusaders shareholders, with a professional game support group to be established.
Club shareholders would include members, bond holders, affiliated supporters’ clubs and volunteers.
Wales legend Rush, who netted an incredible 346 goals in 660 appearances for Liverpool, was at Seaview recently to see how the fresh investment can make a difference and he was keen to see the deal go through.
There was a nervousness among some Crusaders supporters who knew little about the new investors, but the strong majority felt the club should move in this direction.
The club maintain it will not waste money on over-priced players and will seek to develop better income streams, particularly non-football related.
And Liverpool icon Rush said first team affairs would not be impacted.
“We don’t want to change the structures of the club. We want to create a grassroots programme to assess and nurture young talent, with a view to offering them opportunities in the UK,” he said.
“We know there is talent in Northern Ireland so it would be great if we could unearth a rough diamond or two and help them with their careers.”
The 60-year-old enjoyed magnificent success with Liverpool, with whom he won five League titles, three FA Cups, five League Cups and two European Cups.
He also clearly sees opportunities to develop young talent at the Shore Road venue.
The Crues are also keen to accelerate their stadium redevoplement plans.
There will be a new entrance feature on the Shore Road with a new South Stand boasting sports facilities, education space and rental units, along with a museum and duplex accommodation.
Another interesting aspect of the club’s ambitious plans is a cinder pitch at Loughside Playing Fields with an indoor soccer dome, funded with the help of grant aid.