Gateshead owner Dr Ranjan Varghese breaks silence on club's future with series of stunning revelations

Gateshead FC.
Gateshead FC.
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Gateshead owner Dr Ranjan Varghese has broken his silence on the club’s future in an interview with a local radio station.

The Hong Kong-based businessmen spoke the Radio Newcastle’s Breakfast Show as he addressed several issues surrounding the National League club.

It rounds off a tumultuous week for Gateshead after Varghese sacked a number of key figures including club manager and Heed legend Ben Clark, assistant manager Ian Watson and general manager Alisha Henry.

Their departures were the result of a cost-cutting exercise undertaken by the Heed owner as he looked to give the club “financial stability” – although the Sunderland Echo understands that the club’s former players and staff are still awaiting their wages for April and a number of creditors are still owed money by the club.

Varghese confirmed that the club are no longer actively looking for a new buyer – a move that that means former Rochdale chairman Chris Dunphy’s hopes of completing a takeover deal are all but over.

However, the Gateshead owner revealed that they were still up for sale “for a price” and announced that Under-19’s coach David Dickson will be the club’s new first-team coach.

He told BBC Newcastle presenter Alfie Joey “Now the club has achieved financial stability, the club will always be available for sale, but now it will be for a price.

“Because now we have constituted a very nice board here.

“We have two new directors coming in and that is Nigel (Harrop, former Ilkeston FC owner) and Trevor (Clark, local businessman).

“They have very long experience in the business.

“We have a solid media manager which will be Peter Grant and we have a first-team coach in Mr David Dickson.

“Right now, financially, the main goal was to achieve the financial stability with the club.

“Now we are pretty much done with that and we look with a great ambition for the new season.

“During the last month, we have financially taken control of the club and we are doing a lot of financial restructuring.

“It is up to them; you have a value in the club and the club is debt-free.

“We are not persuading for sale like we did two months ago, but if someone comes to us with an offer, why not?”

Earlier this week, Varghese confirmed that the club were looking to find a new home in a statement released on their new Twitter account.

It is six weeks since Gateshead were kicked out of the International Stadium after the local council took action over an unpaid rent bill.

In the statement attributed to “The office of Dr Ranjan Varghese” he said “We have been working hard behind the scenes to identify an appropriate venue that could become our new home.

“We are currently exploring several options and expect to make an exciting announcement in the coming weeks.”

However, less than 72 hours after the release of that statement, Varghese contradicted his comments on the possible move away from the International Stadium.

“I never said that we were going somewhere else,” explained the Heed owner.

“We are going to play in the Gateshead International Stadium, and we are not going anywhere.

“This season we are going to play there, and we have this new board, and we will have a team and we will be playing there.

“So, everything will be fine.

“We have a fantastic relationship with the council, we have a fantastic relationship with the Football Association, and we have a fantastic relationship with the league and everyone.”

The Sunderland Echo approached Gateshead Council for comment and a spokesperson said “The Council is obviously disappointed about the current situation surrounding Gateshead Football Club.

“We are in discussions with all parties concerned with the Club to seek a way forward.”

Varghese also hit out at the Gateshead Soul Supporters Association after they announced plans to form a breakaway club.

The influential group confirmed that they would begin fundraising to support the formation of a new club at a meeting in midweek.

A GoFundMe page was set up within 24 hours and had received over £5,000 in donations from supporters around the country by Friday lunchtime.

It also received online support from a number of big names as former England captain Alan Shearer, former Sunderland midfielder Don Hutchison and Sky Sports News report Keith Downie all retweeted the fund on Twitter.

Varghese claimed that only “25 or 30” people were supporting Gateshead Soul – despite over 200 attending the meeting at Pelaw Social Club in midweek.

However, more seriously, the Heed owner accused the association of committing a criminal offence by fundraising using the company trademark and logo of Gateshead FC.

He explained “I hear that a small group of people are trying to take a political advantage out of the club under the leadership of Mr Bernard (McWilliams, Gateshead Soul chairman).

“And it is a small group of people, around 25 or 30 of them.

“There are no fans, in our club we had only 350 paying fans.

“It is only a small group that is protesting, and at the same time they are now raising funds under our company trademark and logo.

“It is a criminal offence, how can they use our club logo to raise money for something else, it is a criminal offence.”

Gateshead Soul hit back with a statement of their own on Friday afternoon saying “Gateshead Soul has had various meetings which have been well attended.

“Wednesday’s meeting saw roughly 200 people in attendance while various protests have gained plenty of support.

“Not to mention the majority of fans at the final match of the season against Barrow signed a petition that supported the Gateshead Soul cause.

“The Gateshead Soul is increasing in members daily and we are about to surpass 100 active members who donate at least £10 per month.

“Gateshead Soul has already raised a significant amount of money in a short space of time towards our goals. Although some way short of our targets, it is clearly evident that we have the backing of the footballing community at home and abroad.”

Varghese made no mention of the club’s controversial financial advisor Joseph Cala and it is believed that the duo are to meet with the Football Association as part of an investigation in Cala’s role at Gateshead.