Port Vale: The Blue Sky contract is revealed
DOCUMENTS obtained by The Sentinel appear to show that the original Blue Sky contract with Port Vale was dependent on the club securing millions of pounds of funding for major projects such as the Robbie Williams suite from other sources.
They also appear to confirm that the deal would have secured a maximum £500,000 investment from the U.S. firm, but did not involved Blue Sky paying cash up front.
The 24-page "Sponsorship Agreement", signed by Blue Sky boss Hank Julicher and Vale chief executive Perry Deakin and effective from August 30, outlines projects the board wanted to work on and gives time frames – some of which have now elapsed.
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Within three months of the signing of the document, the installation of a synthetic pitch on ground adjacent to Vale Park;
Within 12 months of the signing of the document, installation of not less than three synthetic pitches on the Chatterley Whitfield training ground site and/or land adjacent to Vale Park;
Within 12 months of the signing of the document, the completion of the area known as the Robbie Williams suite;
Within 12 months of the signing of the document, the completion of seating in the main stand at Vale Park.
The club claimed work was "progressing" on the Robbie Williams Suite last night, without providing substantive details.
But the other projects remain on hold, despite Port Vale trumpeting the Blue Sky deal, said to be worth up to £8m, on their own website on September 13.
Fans and shareholders claim they were misled into thinking millions of pounds worth of investment was coming into the club after reading the following statement:
"Port Vale Football Club is delighted to announce a strategic alliance with American sports construction firm Blue Sky International, which will facilitate an initial £5m investment into the club over the next 12 months.
"The partnership will see investment into the running of the club, as well as Vale Park and a training facility, with an expected additional commitment of £2.5m over the next five years for significant community facilities throughout Stoke-on-Trent.
"A further £500,000 will be spent on pre-season tours over the next 10 years, taking the total investment into the club to approximately £8m."
When the deal was announced, fans even asked then chairman Mike Lloyd how much of the £8m would be going directly into Port Vale’s bank account. His response was: “All of it.”
Lloyd made his statement on the club’s official website on September 26. It was one of his responses to a list of questions submitted by Port Vale Supporters’ Club.
He said it was “irrelevant” when asked how much of the £8m was to come directly from Blue Sky.
Documents given to The Sentinel by Julicher appear to support the suggestion Blue Sky were only ever planning to invest £500,000 into the club, and even that cash was to be generated by the finished projects at Vale Park and Chatterley Whitfield.
The contract states: “The sponsor (Blue Sky) shall reinvest into the club, from the profitable proceeds of the projects listed in Exhibit A1 (Lorne Street Stand, Robbie Williams Suite, training ground pitches) the sum of £500,000 which shall be utilised for the purchase of 100,000 x £5 shares in the club.”
It goes on to make it clear that no further funding would be forthcoming, stating: “It is clearly understood that no further financial liability or personal/corporate guarantees shall be required or necessary throughout the term of this agreement to be provided by the sponsor (Blue Sky) or any of its appointed officers for any reason whatsoever.”
The document adds: “It is clearly understood that the responsibility for securing the necessary funds to pay for the projects as set out in this agreement is totally, without exception, with the club and it understands and undertakes to explore all necessary steps to secure all available local and national grants, donations, commercial sponsorships and naming rights... and all other appropriate funds to pay for the projects.”
Fans’ groups accuse the club of misleading them and shareholders over the true nature of the deal.
Malcolm Hirst, spokesman for the North London Valiants, said: “The original presentation from the club said this deal involved an £8m investment with £5m to come in during the first 12 months.
“Fans will feel let down now it transpires that no up-front money was coming to the club, and even the money Blue Sky was due to invest would only have happened once they had made money from the projects.
“It feels like the announcement was only made to pacify fans who were concerned about the deal.”
Alan Baker, a spokesman for the Black and Gold Until It’s Sold campaign, added: “Many people had suspicions that this deal didn’t feel right, and there can be no doubters now.
“The board never explicitly said where the £8m was coming from, but when they set out their press announcement they surely must have known how it would be interpreted by fans. I would call that moral deception.”
Pete Williams, chairman of the Port Vale Supporters’ Club said: “When Mr Lloyd and Mr Deakin came back from America they told fans Blue Sky were going to invest in the club. They talked about investment of up to £8m and about it being a bumper deal.
“Fans not unreasonably believed this to mean Blue Sky were investing up to £8m in the club.
“As we can now see from the agreement, this was not the case in the sense that this deal was not worth £8m. So for the good of the club I believe the board has to go.”
Port Vale claimed last night the original deal had been amended to include an up-front investment by the company of £500,000.
A spokesman said: “The contract apparently referred to here reflects the original agreement with AGS, as signed by the previous chairman, that was then taken on by Blue Sky.
“During subsequent discussions with Blue Sky, an amendment was agreed that Blue Sky would commit £500,000 as an up-front payment.
“This was reflected in an addendum to the contract and was signed by Mr Julicher. The club has a copy of this signed document.”
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