Charlie Methven gives important update on Sunderland investment talks

Charlie Methven says that there will be no immediate change to the Sunderland board.

Tuesday, 9th July 2019, 7:34 pm
Updated Tuesday, 9th July 2019, 8:34 pm
Stewart Donald will not be seeling any shares in the short-term

The club have been in talks over potential investment with a number of parties through the summer, identifying a consortium led by real estate businessman Mark Campbell as the preferred bidder.

Campbell’s vision and plans for the club impressed, with the group even spending time on Wearside and meeting key members of staff.

A deal was ultimately not struck, however, and in an interview with A Love Supreme fanzine, Methven says that the current hierarchy have decided to press on with plans for the current season.

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“At this stage there are no changes to the board,” he said.

“We’ve been open that we’re looking for investment but, for now and because of the time of year, we’ve decided to get on with the job in hand and keep talking to interested people in the background.”

Campbell’s consortium are still interest in the deal but there is clearly no realistic short-term prospect of the hurdles in the deal being cleared.

Methven’s comments clear the way for other parties to potentially come to the table in the long term.

The club are pressing on with their plans for the new season, with players back training at the Academy of Light ahead of the first pre-season friendly at South Shields on Thursday night.

A number of significant decisions have been made in recent times, including the departure of Lee Cattermole by mutual consent.

Methven insists that the lack of investment does not mean Sunderland are financially at risk, but explained why it remains important for the club in the long term, particularly should they return to the Championship.

“There are two different types of football clubs, ones that are living hand to mouth and others who are able to act strategically and are able to do the things they should do to grow because they have the right financial support to do that,” he said.

“A lot of that is cash flow, it’s to do with the ability to say, OK, I can put in £3m now and I might get it back later on, but I've got that cash now and it's the right thing for the club now.

“Compare that to it being the right thing to do right now but not having the cash to do it. Then you’re having to try and just keep things bubbling along, as best you can. That is how a huge number of football clubs outside the Premier League are run and it really constrains growth.

“We're approaching the stage where there are things that, for the club to grow longer term, will need to be invested in, so we need a good base of available capital to ensure the club can invest appropriately,” he added.

“It can range from the relatively small things like putting a new sound system in the stadium to improve the fan experience, investing in the stadium itself, improving the corporate hospitality areas, that type of stuff, that's an investment.

“But it’s an investment made in the belief that you will please your fan base and customer base, and that more people will come more often, feel more engaged with the stadium and spend more there. But you need to have the cash underpinning that in order to be able to make those investment decisions.

“In terms of on-pitch investment, again it’s not a matter of splattering cash around everywhere and running up an unsustainable wage bill again. It’s a question of being able to sign the right player at the right time, even if he is under contract to another club.

“All these questions are moot unless you have the financial wherewithal to finance the answer ‘yes’ if that’s the right thing to do.”

Speaking to TalkSPORT earlier this summer, Chairman Stewart Donald insisted that whatever investment happens, and whenever it happens, he intends to retain a significant stake.

“The reality of it is that I’ll definitely be staying for years and years, I hope,” he said.

“I can’t see any reason not to, and what I’m trying to do is make sure I’ve got - not to the detriment of Sunderland - the biggest shareholding I possibly can so that I can try, which I hope the fans want, to keep the club with the same transparency and focus that I believe the Sunderland fans want. The challenge for us is not in the short-term, which I know everyone is focusing on financially.

“The short-term challenge is to get the club promotion. The long-term challenge is to make us financially viable and that we can then go into the Premier League. So the investment is long-term, promotion is short-term. Will the investment come in really quickly? Maybe, maybe not. I don’t know.”