Martin Bain opens up on Sunderland's relegation, Ellis Short and a potential summer takeover
Martin Bain remains hopeful that Sunderland will be taken over this summer and says that will be the biggest '˜game changer' for the club.
The chief executive has opened up in the wake of an ‘extremely painful' relegation that has left the Black Cats facing third-tier football for only the second time in its history.
Bain confirmed that there are parties actively considering taking on the club, but that the significant running costs required are a potential stumbling block.
Sunderland are also saddled with a significant debt owed partly to Short and partly to a third party, the terms of which would be part of any deal.
Bain said: “There are a few parties who are currently looking at the club in a meaningful way.
“I would really hope that now the club knows its position in terms of which league it will be playing in, that might give some clarity to any potential buyer to formulate their thoughts and a deal.
“I feel positive because anybody who looks at the club now, can see that it is a distressed asset but one that has all the fundamentals, and that is exciting.
“So for example, we have a great academy delivering results against super clubs, good people coming through.
“These things give you hope that someone will see these things and see that it is a fantastic club to acquire.
“It surprises me that it has not been sold before now, maybe that is people seeing what is under the bonnet when they look.”
Bain says he has been actively involved in talks and explaining the club’s situation to interested parties.
Crucial to any deal will be ensuring a new owner has the capacity to meet the club’s significant commitments, something with Short has provided this season.
He said: “I wouldn’t say debt is the fundamental problem, I’d say it was very much about the running costs and future financial forecasts.
“You have, for example, players who don’t want to be here eating up vasts amount of our budget.
“That’s where I came in, to offer context.
“I have one single priority at the moment, to try and assist a sale and help full diligence be done.
“We have an owner who is very actively trying to sell the club and that will be the game changer for Sunderland football club.
“We hope that a new owner comes in, will have a better financial backdrop than what there has been in recent years and will be able to provide that spark.
“What we have at the club is good people, passionate people, a wonderful fanbase, fantastic facilities.
“You can imagine the number of people who pretend to have the money to buy a football club, they come forward and it ends up being a complete waste of time,” he added.
“So my role is to try to filter those out.
“Then where there are serious candidates, it is a case of getting one key stakeholder or investor – rather than a middleman – to have discussions with Ellis.
“Ellis knows the headline price that he would like and how those payments should be staged, and then he will hand them back to me and I will guide them through due diligence.
“That's the point when I sit down and explain what has gone wrong in the past which has got the club to where it is, but don't look at where it is now out of context, let me show you what a fantastic football club it can be again if A, B, C, and D are done.”
“I am actively involved in player recruitment at the moment, but this [the takeover] is so time-consuming because everyone wants a different model, everyone wants to understand the cashflow forecasts, everyone wants to understand players' contracts, the liabilities, and future payments to clubs.
“Despite the fact you have it all there in the data, it still needs explanation.”
Bain has himself faced fierce criticism for his role in the club’s successive relegation, particularly with regards the recruitment of players.
Signings made both last summer and in January have not worked out and in particular, the attempts to replace Jordan Pickford and Vito Mannone have firmly failed.
Bain accepted that the club have not got recruitment right but said his cost-cutting measures were vital to keeping the club in operation without Short’s funds.
He said: “It’s been an extremely difficult period for everyone connected to the club. I’m feeling that pain that people are attached to the football club.
“In terms of where we are now, we’re a club that has failed and any club that has failed has to look back and see where it went wrong.
“But fundamentally there’s a backdrop. That is that when I came to this football club two years ago it was one that was haemorrhaging money and to the extent that it was hugely reliant on owner funding.
“Couple that with a relegation from the Premier League and it culminates in an owner who no longer wants to fund the club, other than what is absolutely necessary to keep it going.
“It’s been a difficult, difficult time for all concerned.
“I don’t look at it as me inflicting pain [in my work], but keeping things glued together.
“There aren’t many football clubs in the world that could be massively dependant on owner funding then suddenly succeeds on the pitch if those funds are no longer available.
“My job is to protect the institution.
“With Vito, let’s leave aside that there was one year left on his contract, that he may have wanted to go. If I hadn’t sold him for £2 million I couldn’t have brought in eight or nine players for Simon Grayson. That’s the bottom line.
“I came to this club with a vision but because of the financial side I couldn’t implement that.
“Where it all starts and ends is recruitment and I get the frustration on that side. We’ve not got that right.
“This summer, if the club is not sold, we’re looking at probably 14 players required. At that point I would have to sit down with Ellis and present those facts.
“We have a great manager in Chris, who is the right person, and we have a massive determination to make things right.”
Bain’s own future will be linked to any potential takeover but he says he and Chris Coleman are determined to turn things around if Short stays.
He also moved to quash speculation that relegation would lead to the club entering administration.
He said: “If there's no new owner this summer, I need to have talks with Ellis and Chris.
“We will need to understand what Ellis's appetite and desire and input is, because it is all very well me and Chris putting together a plan but ultimately we need to know Ellis's appetite for that.
“I still have the same desire to work here, the same passion for the club, and the same desire to turn it around, but if it doesn't change hands then everything depends on that conversation with Ellis.
“He does not have any desire to put the club into administration.
“Ellis funds the club's losses, I have spoken to him and he has assured me that he will continue to do so.
“He has told me that he will not put the club into administration.”