As ever, it was down to the supporters of the club to get to what looks like somewhere near the bottom of what has been going on. It was probably too much to hope that, after a unanimous vote at their SGM last week, the Wrexham Supporters Trust would merely be allowed to get on with the job of completing their due diligence and purchasing Wrexham Football Club, but the way in which the story has continued to expand out over the last six days is enough to start to cast doubt over whether several of the key players in this ridiculously distended story – and not, as we will make clear, players from the side of the trust organisation itself – have an agenda which is intent on torpedoing the bid for their own ends.
The story’s new direction began at the end of last week with a leaked email. The email was sent from one member of the WST board – Rob Parry – to another. Or, at least, that was the intention. The email, which stated that “I suspect we should expect DS [manager Dean Saunders] to resign or threaten… the team’s form isn’t our ally here!!!” (possibly in relation to the possibility of budget cuts at some point in the future when the WST takes over the running of the club or because Saunders is understood to have a good working relationship with Jon Harris, the club’s current Chief Executive), found its way into the public domain and was forwarded to the press. So, a mistake, by all means, but hardly the end of the world. Saunders, after all, has his team playing good football and he would be foolish to walk away from that if or when the WST takes control of the club.
This news, however, exits the territory of merely being a storm in a tea cup when we pause to consider what is increasingly looking like a rival attempt to gazump the WST bid. On August the seventeenth it was reported that Geoff Moss had turned down a rival bid from a Colwyn Bay based businessman and former player, Alan Bermingham. This rival bid, however, has not gone away and the picture that has started to become clear over the last few days is that of who exactly is involved in what certainly looks from the outside like a concerted attempt to destabilise the WST bid for the club. It has been rumoured that this group involves the head of the Wrexham Former Players Association Nick Hencher, Chief Executive John Harris and, probably most significantly, Councillor Philip Wynne.
It is no great surprise that Harris is involved. After all, it is widely believed that it was he that was the source of the leaking of the email about Dean Saunders to the press and antagonism between him and some trust board members is common knowledge. If or when the WST takes ownership of the club, it seems inconceivable that he will continue to be employed at The Racecourse Ground. It has also been alleged that Harris may be the reason for the delays in WST’s due diligence before purchasing the club, though these remain unconfirmed. Similarly, it has been stated elsewhere that Hencher is also hostile to the supporters trust, although this again is anecdotal.
The leader of the bid is one Alan Bermingham, a man with a past of late, late disappointment. Bermingham played for Wrexham between 1967 and 1971, but prior to his arrival at the club he played for Skelmersdale United of the Lancashire Combination in the 1967 FA Amateur Cup final against Enfield at Wembley. With two minutes to play and the score goalless, Skelmersdale won a penalty but Bermingham’s shot was saved by the Enfield goalkeeper Ian Wolstenholme, sending the match to a replay which the London side won by three goals to nil at Maine Road. More recently, he has been involved in a company called CBI Insurance, but there is little to indicate that he is particularly wealthy. If there is more money behind this consortium, then where this is coming from certainly hasn’t been made anything like public so far.
Considerably more interesting is the involvement of Councillor Philip Wynn. Wynn has been a contradictory character throughout this saga. Although a member of the WST, he was involved in the abortive Stephanie Booth take-over attempt this year, and his actions over the last couple of weeks seem to have confirmed the suspicions of those with the opinion that he is prepared to attempt to gazump the WST bid to buy the club. On August the twenty-sixth, Wynn was at the special general meeting at which the vote to decide to proceed with the purchase of the club was taken. Why, if he had such reservations that, within seven days, he is involved in a counter-bid to buy the club, didn’t he raise his concerns regarding the Trust’s bid at that time?
He may well claim that the subsequent leaking of the email proved to be a deciding factor in itself, but deciding to get involved with a bid which has links to an individual that may or may not have forwarded said email to the press will lead many to an obvious conclusion, and it’s not a conclusion which reflects terribly positively upon Wynn. As recently as August the twenty-sixth, said on the Red Passion supporters forum that, “Nothing would give me greater pleasure than for the WST Board to get on with carrying out the memebership’s wishes of buying the club”, even after having publicly announced that he was looking at a Plan B which, “entailed asking a few contacts would they be interested in stepping in at the eleventh hour, if the WST Board were to announce the unthinkable ie they could not recommend to it’s membership the takeover of our club”. The word “treachery” has been used.
The saga of how confirmation of Wynn’s involvement in the rival bid became public knowledge can be seen here. It is not the place of this site to comment on the veracity of the comments attributed to this thread – although it is perhaps worth pointing out that Red Passion has been the recipient of legal threats before and, as such, can reasonably be expected to be more finely-honed to potential libel suits than some other forums might be. Wynn has not yet publicly commented on them. He may consider silence, for the time being, to be his best option, and there will likely be some this evening that will be thinking, “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt”, but his silence will, for many more, be speaking volumes. At the time of writing, it is almost two days since the details of this call were made public, and he hasn’t spoken yet.
A club statement released today at least set a final deadline for the WST’s bid for the club of September the fifteenth. It feels as if the WST have had long enough. The club’s statement claims that, “At no time has anyone withheld information, with the intent of slowing up the takeover process”, and if the information has all been given to the Trust (and the story of due diligence process itself is probably one for another day), then there should now be little reason why the Trust cannot complete the take-over by September the fifteenth. There is also solace, perhaps, to be taken from the club’s statement that, “An alternative bidder has approached the club, with a view to purchasing the football club, however, the WST have been assured that they have first refusal.” As such, there is reason to be confident that this take-over will go through on time. Whether there would be room for the likes of Phil Wynn or Jon Harris in a post-Moss landscape, however, remains a question for the future. It seems difficult to believe that they haven’t both burnt their bridges with the Wrexham Supporters Trust, though.
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