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Kilmarnock fans urge Johnston to clear debt with eye on buyout

A CONSORTIUM of Kilmarnock supporters hope to make an offer for the club but only if it sheds its debt.

Johnston has held talks with the Bank of Scotland
Johnston has held talks with the Bank of Scotland

Michael Johnston, the Kilmarnock chairman, has reportedly held talks with the Bank of Scotland regarding the possibility of the bank writing off the majority of the club's £9m debt, with Johnston and fellow director Billy Bowie then taking on a smaller liability in the form of a soft loan.

Should that come to fruition, the Killie (Community) Working Party, a group incorporating the Killie Trust, Kilmarnock FC Supporters Association, Business Club, Young Kilmarnock and other minor shareholders, plan on making an offer to Johnston to take the club into community ownership.

Johnston has endured an acrimonious relationship with many of the supporters groups - some of whom have vowed not to put a penny more into the club while he remains in charge - and the Kilmarnock Futures Consortium, a group comprising local businesses and politicians, last week withdrew from negotiations over a possible takeover, frustrated by a lack of progress. That has not deterred the Killie (Community) Working Party who have encouraged Johnston in his efforts to eliminate the club's debt and hope that doing so will help bring about regime change.

"We would like to acknowledge the work being undertaken by the chairman . . . to make the club debt-free and would positively encourage him to make every effort to come to an agreement with the club bankers and other significant lenders to reduce the debt to zero," said representative Gary Torbett. "The Killie (Community) Working Party would like to make an offer to purchase the chairman's entire shareholding if this can be achieved. This offer would be contingent on a fair valuation of the company and the completion of a satisfactory due diligence process. This purchase would be undertaken by a new Community Interest Company (CIC) with a democratically elected board.

"Unfortunately there remains concern amongst supporters with the long-term position of the club and we firmly believe fan and community ownership is where that lies rather than relying on a single majority shareholder who won't be around for ever. We will shortly launch formal efforts to raise the money to take the club into community ownership and we hope the business community - both private and public - as well as community groups and supporters will get behind us."

Members of the working party have yet to meet Johnston but their proposals were presented to him by Paul Goodwin, head of Supporters Direct Scotland. "I met with Michael Johnston, on behalf of The Killie (Community) Working Party, on Friday [February 7] and conveyed the outline of the supporters' offer," said Goodwin. "I reiterated SDS' willingness to assist in progressing this offer to a satisfactory conclusion for both parties."

The move follows news that Rangers fans will meet Supporters Direct on Friday to discuss the possibility of delivering the Ibrox club into the hands of its fans. Four senior clubs - Clyde, Stirling Albion, East Stirlingshire and Dunfermline Athletic - are already fan-owned, while Annan Athletic, Ayr United, Motherwell and Hearts are also at various stages of going down the same route.

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