By Kyle Crawford and Adam Thomas
THE tax haven owners of one of Scotland’s oldest football clubs have agreed to bring their shareholding back onshore amid concerns over secrecy.
Historic Dumbarton FC has been under pressure for months to reveal its ultimate ownership as it plans the potentially lucrative sale of its current ground.
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In a move that will add to pressure for more transparency over the offshore shareholdings in other clubs, such as Rangers and Celtic, Dumbarton has bowed to public demands and said the Belize shell firm controlling the club would be shut down.
The Sunday Herald first revealed that Dumbarton, known as Sons of the Rock, was owned by a shell firm last year and our sister paper, the Dumbarton Reporter, has been campaigning for transparency ever since.
Formally a firm called Brabco736 owns around three-quarters of the club but it is, in turn, controlled by a firm called Granada in Belize. There is no way of knowing who owns Granada Enterprises.
The club has also stated that it intends to submit plans to West Dunbartonshire Council in June for the proposed ground move to a £13.5 million 4,000-seat development out of town at a site called Young’s Farm.
Club insiders were concerned about the image of an offshore entity owning the club and the new ground.
Dumbarton FC's stunning location
An anonymous Dumbarton FC source said: “We have, however, discussed with Brabco the non-positive perception that offshore registration elicits. These discussions are ongoing. The ownership of the new stadium is also part of ongoing discussions with Brabco.”
A spokesman for Brabco and Dumbarton director Ian Wilson said: “The majority shareholders of the club have felt for some time that the structure of Granada (the offshore vehicle) owning 100 per cent of Brabco (the onshore vehicle) was no longer in tune with the business climate and in 2016 started the process of closing Granada down. This will leave Brabco as the major shareholder in DFC. This process of change in structure will be complete before the application for planning permission at Young’s Farm is submitted.”
Mr Wilson was found to be a member of an “aggressive” tax avoidance scheme following a Dumbarton Reporter investigation last year. Late last year he told fans that Brabco, and not the club, would own the new ground.
The plans also include as many as 200 new homes, along with leisure facilities, gym and training apparatus. Ownership of this development is now being reconsidered. Brabco sister companies include a vehicle for owning the stadium.
Simon Barrow, communications and projects officer for fans group Sonstrust, said: “This welcome statement by Brabco/Granada is a direct response to three years of public and private lobbying from the Sonstrust. We are pleased Brabco have responded to our request to bring their operation fully onshore, following press publicity.” Dumbarton MSP Jackie Baillie, a Dumbarton supporter, has previously has expressed concerns about the club’s future.
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