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Glentoran face new closure threat


Glentoran's anonymously funded rescue plan has been hit by a new blow — just four months after the club came perilously close to going out of business.

Having seen off one winding-up order in January, a fresh petition has now been lodged against the east Belfast football club.

And unless demands from the creditor are met before a scheduled Bankruptcy Court appearance this Thursday, fans of the Oval outfit will see their club facing another closure threat.

This most recent winding-up petition is understood to have been served by Manchester-based sportswear company Umbro, who have supplied the Glens’ kit for the last five seasons, over an outstanding debt believed to be around £65,000.

A £300,000 tax bill that saw a winding-up order put in place against the Glens by HM Revenue & Customs last November was cleared a couple of months later when a mystery benefactor came up with the money to overcome that particular hurdle.

A portion of that debt was also paid by the Spirit of ‘41 fans group, who are named after the year the Oval was bombed during the World War II blitz.

That group had been attempting to put a rescue package in place before the wealthy fan, who insisted on anonymity, came forward with the money.

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Neither club chairman Terence Brannigan or vice-chairman Aubry Ralph responded to calls from the Belfast Telegraph last night.

It is, however, understood that there is no panic among Glentoran board members over the issue, despite this latest threat to the club's existence.

The club’s £900,000 of debt is made up of £700,000 which is owed to a developer and a bank, and is linked to the sale of the Oval site, possibly to make way for a planned new roadway entrance to the Titantic Quarter.

Those debts would, however, be wiped out, if and when, the Glens are able to vacate the Oval for their planned new 8,000-seater stadium development down the Sydenham by-pass.

Of more concern to the club is the remaining £200,000 of debt in the form of an overdraft from a second bank.

The club is believed to be in a position to pay the £65,000 bill from the latest pressing creditor, which sources last night suggested to the Belfast Telegraph this is down to a matter of logistics and cash balances.

Under the new board's business plan, all the club's debts can be discharged by their aspirational ground move, which was revealed by Brannigan at the recent AGM.

That is underwritten by a £10m funding package from former Sports Minister Nelson McCausland's £61m pot of gold for redevelopment of football grounds, ringfenced and unaffected by the changing of the guard at DCAL from DUP to Sinn Fein control.

Even the ground move is shrouded in uncertainty.

It had been thought the Glens would opt for the tailor-made option of a stadium on the current Blanchflower Stadium site at Tillysburn, opposite the George Best Belfast City Airport and less than a mile from the Oval.

Plans by a business consortium, with Glentoran links, are in place with work ready to start on the 8,000-seater construction immediately the green light is given and occupancy estimated within a period of 18 months.

A Plan B is now believed to be under consideration, centred on the former Esso fuel depot, within the designated Titanic Quarter, on the opposite side of the Sydenham by-pass from the Oval.

That could involve a major contamination removal operation.

What happens with The Oval is key to all the above — the repayment of the club's debts and future re-location.

Brannigan was installed as chairman as part of the deal which saw the Inland Revenue debt wiped-out by mystery backer — a move orchestrated by former MP for East Belfast Peter Robinson.

Two other prominent businessmen — Brian Ambrose and David Russell — were also appointed to the board at that time, although one has now left due to a conflict of interest surrounding the proposed move to a new stadium.

The trio are known as the ‘Coates Trust,’ named after one of the club’s founding fathers and they have been charged with the responsibility of putting the club back on an even keel and eradicating the debt that has surrounded it for years.

e LINFIELD last night announced that midfield pair Aidan O’Kane and Jamie Tomelty are to leave the club.

The decisions to end their Windsor Park careers were taken by the players themselves, rather than manager David Jeffrey.

O’Kane was transfer-listed by the club at the end of last season, while Tomelty lodged a transfer request during the January transfer window before withdrawing it.

“We haven't got round to discussing contract renewals with players yet but Jamie Tomelty has advised me that he wants to play next season for a team closer to his Cookstown home,” said Jeffrey.

“Aidan O'Kane contacted me and advised me that he has absolutely loved his time at Linfield, but feels now the time has come to move on.

“He feels it's now time to look to a new fresh challenge, but said that it's the hardest decision he has had to take.”

Meanwhile, Donegal Celtic’s left-winger Ciaran Gargan looks set to join Crusaders.

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