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Liquidation threat grows as Dunfermline braced for winding up order from HMRC

Dunfermline Athletic will be served with a winding up order tomorrow, after Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs lodged a petition with the Court of Session in Edinburgh.

Administration is not an option for the East End Park club. Picture: James Galloway
Administration is not an option for the East End Park club. Picture: James Galloway

The club owes £134,000 to the tax man, and if that sum is not paid within eight days then HMRC will lodge a further petition to liquidate the club.

Administration is not a viable option due to the complicated ownership structure, which includes the majority shareholder, Gavin Masterton, also owning East End Park Limited, the company which owns the stadium. Masterton is in Switzerland with his family, having grown increasingly alarmed by the anger directed towards them by Dunfermline fans.

However, the club's future depends on Masterton's decisions, and much of his wealth is tied into his majority shareholding. His representative, David Ovens, will meet members of The Pars Community, a collective of fans attempting to buy the club, this morning.

"We're pretty worried," said Donald Adamson, of TPC. "I've become quite frustrated at the lack of progress. I don't know what it takes to concentrate the mind of Gavin Masterton. We will not put money into the club without knowing the facts. We need to do due diligence, but we've had no visibility, despite having a firm of accountants on stand-by for weeks.

Dunfermline's solicitors were informed of HMRC's petition yesterday. Although the club knew the winding up order was imminent, the eight-day deadline is likely to hasten negotiations. Masterton had planned to launch a share issue to raise money to meet the immediate debts – Dunfermline owe £8.4m, much of it to Masterton's companies, which themselves are failing – and address cashflow issues. Dunfermline have still to pay £35,000 in player wages for last month and owe a further £450,000 to business creditors. This month's wage bill requires £95,000.

Supporters, however, are not keen on providing money while Masterton still owns the club. Herald Sport revealed yesterday that discussions have begun on an alternative rescue plan which would result in the club majority owned by TPC, which has so far raised £250,000, with Masterton accepting that a solution is urgently required or else Dunfermline will enter liquidation.

Stephen Taylor, the financial expert in the steering group set up to try to save the club, believes HMRC have become "unsympathetic" with Dunfermline following a history of unpaid taxes.

"Our compliance record has not been brilliant," said Taylor, a partner in accountancy firm Carter's. "We have been sending in returns late, we have not been paying tax on time."

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