Rochdale AFC’s supporters’ trust has launched a crowdfunding campaign in a bid to “save the club” from legal action enacted by a company which attempted a hostile takeover last summer.
The Dale Trust, along with eight individual directors of the football club, are currently the subject of a High Court petition from Morton House MGT, a payroll company which claimed to the EFL to have purchased 42% of all available shares in Rochdale AFC, directly from individual holders.
It is alleged by Morton House that the Dale Trust and the board have unlawfully caused prejudice to Morton House as a shareholder in the football club − something which the Dale Trust and the directors strenuously deny.
Owing to this being a dispute between shareholders, the litigation cannot be funded by the football club itself, meaning the Trust, a not-for-profit organisation, and the directors, all of whom are unpaid for their work at RAFC, must bear the cost of defending the legal claim.
The Dale Trust is now appealing to its members and the wider football community to donate to a crowdfunding website to aid its defence of the High Court action.
Trust chair Colin Cavanah said: “We find ourselves defending against a situation that is not of our making. We believe that this is the first time that any supporters body has ever faced such a legal action and we are calling on the help of football supporters within the UK and from around the world to support us in resisting the claim that has been brought by Morton House. Governance in football is a huge issue right now, what with the Tracey Crouch Fan Led Review, and we are of the opinion that the safest future for our beloved club is that it continues to be owned and run by supporters for the benefit of supporters and the community at large.”
The attempted takeover by Morton House last year made national news and became the subject of an English Football League (EFL) investigation, as it transpired the private acquisition of shares had not conformed to the EFL’s Owners’ and Directors’ Test (OADT). The EFL has launched an investigation into “multiple individuals”, demonstrating the depth and complexity of the issue.
Despite it telling the EFL in August that it planned to withdrawn and divest from Rochdale AFC, the investigation into Morton House continues, although it is unclear when this will conclude. An EFL spokesperson said: “Regulatory investigations are often complex and take time and, as a result, we do understand the frustrations of Rochdale supporters. We will provide an update as soon as possible, but the matter does remain ongoing.”
It has been widely reported in the media that the failed hostile takeover was led by Andrew Curran and Darrell Rose, along with their intermediary Alex Jarvis.
In October 2021, Curran was charged by the Football Association with an aggravated breach of rule E3 after being accused of calling members of the Rochdale AFC board of directors “Nancy boys” and the people of Rochdale “small minded”. Curran was confirmed guilty by the FA in January 2022 and suspended from all football and football activity, which includes a ground ban up to and including Wednesday, 14 March 2022. Curran has also been ordered to complete a mandatory face-to-face education programme.
This writer reached out to Morton House for comment, but discovered Rose and Curran are no longer listed as directors. No response has been forthcoming.
The Supporters’ Trust works closely with the Rochdale board to help provide its members and the overall fanbase with the opportunity to have a better say in the running of the club and to help spread ownership among its members. Much of the Trust’s work benefits facilities within the club stadium, which extends into the wider community as well as RAFC.
In June 2021 the board of directors at RAFC was overhauled and a new Chairman appointed. In addition, the Dale Trust obtained representation on the board for the first time in its history.
Mr Cavanah added: “We expect that our supporters, magnificent former players and fans of every club up and down the country, will back Rochdale AFC. Our slogan in Summer 2021 was clear, and the message remains: Up The Dale Not For Sale.”