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Cork City fan group vote to hand over control of club to Preston owner

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Preston owner Trevor Hemmings is set to take control of Cork City. Photo by Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

Preston owner Trevor Hemmings is set to take control of Cork City. Photo by Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

SPORTSFILE

Preston owner Trevor Hemmings is set to take control of Cork City. Photo by Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

Cork City members have voted to hand over control of the club to a company controlled by Preston owner Trevor Hemmings.

Supporters group FORAS have effectively decided to relinquish control of the Leesiders after ten years where they grew the club out of the wreckage of the old trading company and brought it to the top of Irish football before hitting the rocks again.

Grovemoor Limited now have the freedom to assume control of the Leesiders for a nominal fee of €1 and the current Cork City board, who endorsed a yes vote, released a late-night statement to say they have already engaged with Hemmings' company on the matter.

Crucially, Grovemoor will also take over responsibility for the club's debts. The prospective new owners can still back out of a deal if they wish but the Cork hierarchy feel they will follow through on an offer that was effectively put on hold by the pandemic.

Cork have paid the penalty for financial decisions in the aftermath of the double-winning year of 2017 with their budget proving to be unsustainable when they struggled to match the success of that campaign.

It has raised questions about the overall effectiveness of the FORAS model with a rotating board that was reliant on a fan-owned club to generate revenue without the support of a private backer.

Before the start of their season, they needed help from Hemmings to buy out clauses on ex-City players Alan Browne and Seani Maguire so Cork could take their place in the top flight.

However, the cash strapped club have suffered relegation and the club's staff also indicated they would be in favour of the takeover being given the green light.

This has tied in with the growing view that Cork cannot afford to turn away investment as they head into an uncertain period with Covid-19 raising doubts about all forms of revenue for 2021.

Hemmings has a strong connection with Cork that goes beyond football transactions with Preston. The high-profile Grand National-winning racehorse owner has bought a number of stud farms in the region in addition to the Trabolgan Holiday Village.

69.8 percent of the FORAS membership voted in favour of the Call Option Agreement with Grovemoor, an outcome that highlights how opposition remains to the idea of handing over the keys to an outside party.

Cork chairman Declan Carey had suggested that amateur status for next year beckoned unless this deal was approved.

"We didn't have the resources to plan for a rainy day, the way the club was run over those (successful) years," Carey told RTE before the vote.

"The financial situation is perilous. We've built a strong relationship with Grovemoor and would hope we would work very closely with them even if the takeover is facilitated."

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