POLICE Scotland have been alerted to financial irregularities at part-fan-owned St Mirren FC involving commercial agreements and possible non-payment of tax and national insurance.

The Scottish Premiership club has called in forensic accountants to carry out what they call a "thorough review of a number of areas of its operations".

The Paisley club which is currently 11th in the top tier of Scottish football, said it has informed both HM Revenue and Customs and Police Scotland over the irregularities.

St Mirren chief executive Tony Fitzpatrick said that the club will "be co-operating to the fullest extent with any investigations.”

It comes as St Mirren has been moving to become the latest fan-owned football club through a unique link-up - the first of its kind in the UK – between the club’s supporters’ trust and one of the country’s biggest charities.

The plans originally unveiled in January saw the St Mirren Independent Supporters Trust (SMISA) join up with the Paisley-based social care charity and leading social enterprise Kibble, which the club said "would transform how the club is owned and run".

Last month the club said that St Mirren’s home is being renamed The SMISA Stadium in a show of recognition for the club’s fans as they start the final countdown to becoming its majority owners in the summer.

The club gifted the naming rights for St Mirren Park to SMISA for the rest of season 2020/21.

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After that, the fans group were to take its shareholding in the club to 51% by buying the club chairman Gordon Scott’s remaining shares.

The club said the purchase had been due to complete by the end of 2021, but had been agreed this will happen sooner than planned – on a date to be decided in the summer.

Under the plans Kibble, part-financed by the Scottish Government, would buy 27.5% of Mr Scott’s shares now.

As of February, this year, Kibble were classed as one of two that had "significant control" of the club according to Companies House with more than 25% but not more than 50% of the shares.

Mr Fitzpatrick said that "certain issues" were brought to light during the club’s annual audit process, following which the SMIS and Kibble tabled a joint response and recommendations at November’s board meeting.

He said they then "moved swiftly" to appoint forensic accountants.

It is understood that amongst the areas being focussed on are several commercial agreements, sub-contract arrangments and potential non-payment of PAYE (Pay As You Earn) and National Insurance.

The club has not divulged the amount of money involved. But it emphasised that none of what is being looked at relate to playing or management staff.

Mr Fitzpatrick added: "The club has taken these steps to ensure that we continue to operate on a sound and compliant financial basis. Fans can be confident that all actions taken are in the best interest of St Mirren to ensure it continues to be a club of which our supporters can be proud.”

"We can reassure supporters that the club continues to operate strongly in the current pandemic climate and our club remains in a healthy and robust financial position."

A spokesman for Kibble said: “Kibble is committed to operating to the highest levels of business practice, accountability and transparency.

"Supporters and employees alike should know we will leave no stone unturned in our efforts to make sure every aspect of the club operates to the highest ethical standards. The accountants involved have significant experience in this area and we are confident that any issues which may be uncovered will be dealt with quickly and decisively to ensure that the club’s reputation is utterly beyond reproach.”

The club board agreed the stadium-naming gesture to thank SMISA’s 1,150-plus members – whose monthly membership fees have been saved towards the share purchase since 2016.

The #BuyTheBuds deal had initially been expected to take ten years to complete but the club said last month that it was expecpted to be delivered because of the partnership.

That partnership was overwhelmingly approved by SMISA’s members during a vote in February and is believed to be unique in Europe by making a charity the part-owners of a top-flight football club.

Kibble, which specialises in the care of young people who have experienced trauma, last year agree to take over a vital service for vulnerable young people which has been threatened with closure.

It was offered up to £306,166 in grant funding by the Scottish Government for delivery of the Interventions for Vulnerable Youth (IVY) service between 1 April 2020 and 31 March 2021.

The IVY project was set up by the University of Strathclyde's Centre for Youth & Criminal Justice (CYCJ) and funded by the Scottish Government’s Youth Justice team to promote best practice in forensic mental health risk assessment and management for young people, aged 12-18, who present a serious risk of harm to others.

IVY, which has the only dedicated team of its kind in the UK, has provided support for more than 220 children and young people referred by 31 Scottish local authorities during its six years of existence.

CYCJ recently announced that IVY would close at the end of October, a decision they said they regretted but which was unavoidable, given the highly specialised nature of the service.

It was agreed that the IVY service would transition to Kibble in November, last year.

The board say Kibble "provide support services and commercial expertise" to the club, while working with it to creating job and training opportunities for the young people in their care.