ONE of Scotland's oldest football clubs faces court action after issuing denials that a bid for £2m of public money for a charity's 'first of its kind' Scottish care centre was earmarked for its land.

Questions have been raised about the legality of the bid after leaks confirmed that despite denials an application to the Scottish Government funding showed that land pinpointed for the development was owned by St Mirren.

The Herald previously revealed that St Mirren director Alan Wardrop resigned in a row over a conflict of interest as the care charity Kibble which is behind the project are part-owners of the club while there were concerns over a failure to inform about the bid for Scottish Government regeneration funds.

A solicitor for Mr Wardrop, who has now been banned from the St Mirren stadium after he raised questions over the bid has now called on the club board to withdraw a denial statement and issue an apology as it emerged a location map showed the charity's plan was earmarked for club land. He said any failure to do so would be considered in respect any future proceedings.

St Mirren says it stands by its statements.

Mr Wardrop, who is known by some as 'Mr St Mirren'  has questioned the legality of the bid for public funds while concerns surface over the charity abusing its relationship with the historic Scottish Premiership club.

READ MORE: Scots receive £200-a-month mortgage payments rise bombshell

He accused Kibble club board representatives, Jim Gillespie and Mark Macmillan of failing to disclose to directors, shareholders and fans of the bid to build the centre that the care charity would run on club land in Paisley. It appeared to wrongly have St Mirren's stamp of approval.

The Herald: Alan Wardrop

The former leader of the Labour group on Renfrewshire Council Eddie Devine, and ardent St Mirren fan has called for the resignation of the club's board saying he was "disgusted" by their behaviour in banning Mr Wardrop and over the land scandal.

Kibble – which cares for children with complex needs at sites across Renfrewshire – wants to build a £13.4 million wellbeing hub next to the SMiSA Stadium.

But there are concerns that despite denials, St Mirren land was earmarked for the project without permission - while seeking £2m of public money by way of grant from the Scottish Government.

In the ensuing row, an email seen by the Herald on Sunday from Mr Gillespie and shared with candidates standing for election to the board of the St Mirren Independent Supporters Association (SMISA) said that the council "wrongly shaded in an area of land owned by St Mirren" and gave a "categoric assurance" that club land would not be used.

As the dispute emerged, Kibble said Mr Wardrop's allegations are based on the "entirely false premise that there was ever any intention to build on land owned by St Mirren".

The spokesman for the charity went on: "There simply was not."

The Herald on Sunday can reveal that the council does not agree that areas of land indicated on a submitted map were produced in error and say the area earmarked in the application to Scottish Government was pinpointed by Kibble.

St Mirren's board insisted that the application was "unspecific" as to the precise location and that it was "not on land owned by St Mirren".

READ MORE: Call for action over Scotland's 'salt tooth' public health timebomb

But leaked emails from council managers have told a different story - with a diagram submitted to the Scottish Government for public funding showing that land proposed to be built on was, in fact, on St Mirren land.

The Herald:

The centre location map submitted to the Scottish Government for public funding (left) and (right) the title plan of St Mirren Park outlined in red

One from February, before the row erupted, from one Renfrewshire Council manager involved in the discussions, who is not being named, described it as the "Kibble application" and states that the area of land mapped "shows the location of the proposed centre".

He said: It was to be the first of its kind, to support children and young people with complex mental health issues. The centre was to provide a safe, nurturing environment for those who have experienced significant trauma."

After the row erupted, another key council officer emailed: "The indicative location was the one put forward by Kibble as being a possible area.

"This was selected based on what was emerging from the Ferguslie Park masterplan at the time..."

In the wake of the row, Renfrewshire Council insisted they had not made a mistake in indicatively earmarking the area of land which they say was based on their discussions with Kibble.

A spokesman said that the "exact detail and location would have been decided at a later date, as part of a wider masterplan for the area and through any subsequent planning application".

Mr Wardrop said there were now questions about the legality of the bid for public money and has taken legal action over St Mirren's denial that its land was earmarked.

"I have been made out to be a liar by Kibble and the board of St Mirren, now it should be clear to everyone what a huge cover up this has been, in denying, denying and denying, when they were actually lying, lying and lying."

His solicitor told St Mirren chairman that the club board statement "carries the clear meaning that our client’s candidate statement contained false information, when those issuing the statement knew that not to be so".

He said: "Such an approach is clearly actuated with malice.

"The natural and obvious outcome of such a statement will be to cause serious harm to our client’s reputation and his prospects of being elected, where those reading the statement are informed that our client is misinformed and by innuendo has peddled false statements, and therefore is not likely a trustworthy candidate to be appointed to the SMISA board."

Mr Wardrop's solicitor has called for the club board to immediately withdraw the statement and issue an apology for the "clearly defamatory innuendo contained within the statement that he has misled as part of his candidature application".

He added: "Should you not do so then your failure to do so will be founded upon in respect of any proceedings (including interdict proceedings) to follow hereon."

Mr Devine, a former SMISA board member, and councillor for Paisley Southeast said: "I have previously called for the resignation of St Mirren directors and I stand by that. I am disgusted by their behaviour.

The Herald: Eddie Devine

"Alan Wardrop has done a hell a lot for St Mirren and they treat him like this, because he has brought this into the open. Not in my name. I don't understand what they are thinking."

Formerly one of four representatives of the St Mirren Independent Supporters Association (SMISA) on the board having played a big part in helping the club moving into fan ownership, Mr Wardrop has been seeking the removal of Kibble representatives on the board.

Kibble is one of two that has "significant control" of the club according to Companies House with more than 25% but not more than 50% of the shares.

St Mirren became fan owned in the summer of 2021, when SMISA bought out the remaining shareholding of chairman Gordon Scott to become majority (51%) owners of the Buddies in what it called "a historic day".

The move to fan ownership of the Paisley club came after Kibble became part-owners in March, 2020.

SMISA said the deal helped to safeguard the future of the club – formed in 1877 – by placing it in the hands of its supporters, "the people who care for it the most".

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

Mr Wardrop was previously credited with making fan ownership possible by teaming up with SMISA to initally begin a buyout process in 2016.

When SMISA became majority shareholders, they asked Mr Wardrop to remain on the board as one of their representatives and he willingly agreed.

The Herald:

Alan Wardrop with Johnny Cochrane's Scottish Cup Medal

Mr Wardrop was the mastermind behind the 1877 Club in the main stand of the SMISA Stadium and has also contributed several items to the mini-museum inside the club from his personal collection of memorabilia.

But things changed for Mr Wardrop when a project called "the St Mirren Masterplan" appeared.

Applications for public funds described it as an "innovative partnership" with "St Mirren Football Club’s Charitable Foundation cited as one of the three partners with Kibble and the council. But the foundation has sent a letter to Kibble saying that they had no knowledge of the project when the application for funds was sought in June "much less that its name would be associated with any submission for government funding".

It said it only found out through a third party in October, after a second stage bid and that it is carrying out an investigation into what happened.

It has called for a "full explanation surrounding the application process" and why there were "material misstatements and representations in support of Scottish Government funding".

In seeking election to join the SMISA board Mr Wardrop says that he and many others, "no longer have trust and confidence in Kibble’s directors serving on the board of St. Mirren FC" and that he put forward his application "on the basis I wish to remove them".

Renfrewshire Council initially applied for a £2.65m grant for what was titled the "St Mirren Regeneration and Well-being Masterplan" through the Scottish Government's Regeneration Capital Grant Fund in June, last year.

The proposal documents stated the project was due to start on April 3, this year and finish on March 3, 2025.

Project details put to the Scottish Government confirm that Kibble produced a business plan for the well-being centre on the derelict site which would support vulnerable young people and "provides evidence" that it is "financially viable".

The Herald:

Happier times:  The St Mirren Championship-winning board. They are from left to right David Nicol, Gordon Scott (chairman), Mr Wardrop,  Chris Stewart and Tony Fitzpatrick,

Mr Wardrop, who is an SMCF trustee and a retired financial advisor, says the application was not disclosed to other SMISA club board directors and no prior agreement was secured before the funding application was initially and it was only discovered in September, when a second stage submission was made.

Plot drawings submitted as part of the application to Scottish Government confirm that the land earmarked was owned by St Mirren.

According to the grant application submitted in September, the sale of the land "has been agreed" and that the land ownership would transfer on January 2023.

According to submissions to the Scottish Government, the project aimed to develop 10 acres of land - the equivalent of around five football pitches - and create a well-being centre "which will support inclusive growth in the Ferguslie Park area of Paisley, an area consistently ranked in the top 10 most deprived... data zones in Scotland".

The St Mirren board confirmed that neither the club or the charitable foundation had been engaged prior to the submission "as this was very early stages of the process".

They insisted they had not been expected to offer its land as part of the project.

The Herald:

Part of the 'St Mirren' regeneration plan

They said any sale or transfer of its land "would require to be subject to a robust process" including being professionally valued, recommended by a majority of the directors and approved by club shareholders as part of a legal agreement.

A spokesman for Kibble said: “Contrary to Mr Wardrop’s increasingly shrill claims, we are happy to confirm, once again, that it was never our intention - at any time - to build on any land owned by St Mirren. As the council has previously stated, the map in question was produced by them, not by us.

“We have already made clear that our plans instead envisaged building on one of the many other vacant parcels of land in the Ferguslie area.”

A St Mirren spokesperson said: "The board stands by its statement. This is a storm in a teacup and we are disappointed with the continuing claims."