CELTIC'S ambitious package to restore fortunes and build a #50m stadium is in disarray after reports that the #20m cornerstone funding for the project at Cambuslang does not exist.
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Late last night club directors were trying to contact Geneva-based merchant bankers Gefinor, named as the core backers, and Mr Patrick Nally, of Stadivarious, who was said to have secured the funding. Gefinor executive Edward Armaly and Mr Nally were locked in talks in New York.
Oxford-based Stadivarious is contracted to raise funds by Superstadia Ltd, which, along with Celtic, submitted a planning application for the Cambuslang stadium.
The Celtic board's principal critics have demanded a public statement to end the ''sad shambles''.
On Friday, the club's deputy chairman, Mr David Smith, announced details of a three-pronged plan to build the stadium, float an enlarged Celtic plc on the Stock Exchange, and raise up to #6m by offering new shares.
He also announced that #20m cornerstone funding for the Cambuslang project was in place, thanks to Gefinor.
Mr Smith was not available for comment yesterday after Gefinor executive David Hagan, in Geneva, had not only denied any knowledge of a deal but said that the company had made no commitments or agreements whatsoever with the club.
In New York, fellow bank executive Mr Armaly was quoted as saying it was ''absolutely wrong'' that Gefinor was putting up #20m for a Celtic stadium.
Meanwhile, Celtic director Michael Kelly, who has been trying to get in touch with Gefinor, insisted he had no reason to believe anything had changed since Friday's announcement. Keystone funding was held by Stadivarious in correspondence with Celtic, he said.
The Superstadia chairman, Mr Laurence Davis, also insisted that the Cambuslang project was a reality, even if a Gefinor deal collapsed. He said: ''We have a couple of funding institutions in the wings anyway.''
Mr Davis saw no change of course from what was said last week, and added: ''We do not believe there is any cause for concern.''
He argued that critics, supporters, and the media had failed to understand that investment in the Cambuslang site was a separate issue to concerns about Celtic's playing side.
Glasgow was big enough to take the #50m complex, one of six planned in different parts of the UK. It included an indoor arena suitable for ice hockey, basketball, and other sports. Celtic, as lead tenant, was the icing, in effect.
It is understood Gefinor was in talks with Stadivarious some time ago about funding worth #65m for the stadia throughout the UK. Confusion over interest in the Cambuslang site may have arisen as a result.
Mr Davis claimed Superstadia ''had sight of'' a conditional offer by the merchant bank.
He added conditions included an approved detailed planning consent, plus surveys of the Cambuslang site, due in April and May, proving the land was suitable for building on.
Former Celtic director Brian Dempsey, who on Friday said the scheme did not stand up to scrutiny, called on Mr Smith to ''immediately make the fullest public statement on this matter''.