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Are Jeff Stelling and a local businessman set to save Hartlepool United

Friday 9th March 2018

Hartlepool United’s struggles have been well documented over the last year. Is their most famous fan set to keep the club afloat? #savejeffsclub

The North East side were relegated from the Football League last season for the first time in their history. Their problems have only worsened since.

On the field, they have had a disastrous time. A promotion push was expected, but they find themselves at the other end of the table.

Manager Craig Harrison was sacked in February. Defeat at Aldershot on Tuesday night left them 19th, three points above the relegation zone.

Since the new year, administration and even liquidation have been a possibility. However, Hartlepool have one thing other small clubs do not have: a big tv personality.

Jeff Stelling

Stelling has become one of if not the face of Sky Sports over the last two and a half decades. His influence in the game can’t be underplayed. Despite United’s struggles in League Two and this season in the National League, he has been able to maintain their profile in the spotlight on Soccer Saturday.

Clubs in a similar position would be easily forgotten having dropping out of the Football League. For Hartlepool, though, he’s fantastic. Stelling's name alone will help fundraising.

Stelling has been in talks with the supporters trust throughout, looking for options to save the club. Until this week, there didn’t seem to be a way. He is part of a consortium looking to ensure Hartlepool’s survival, but alone they do not have the financial resources. 

Trust Statement 6 March 2018 - News | Hartlepool United Supporters Trust

Raj Singh

Potential buyers were rumoured, including one from Sweden. Nothing substantial materialised. Teesside businessman Raj Singh was one of the names, but until Tuesday nothing officially had been confirmed.

On the national level, Singh is unknown. For Hartlepool, he has history close to home. Their oldest rival is North East neighbour Darlington. The two regional teams share a long tradition in the lower levels but haven’t met for over ten years, following Darlington’s demise. That was partly down to Mr Singh.

In Singh's time in charge of the Quakers, the club won the FA Trophy at Wembley. However, less than a year later, everything looked much different. Darlo were placed into administration leaving players and staff alike unpaid.

It was how he left the club that makes him one of the most unpopular figures in Darlington FC’s history. The all-important company voluntary arrangement was not agreed with the administrator.  Bereft the CVA, Darlington were demoted four levels to the Northern League. The club had to change its name and spent the next four and a bit seasons playing in another town. Singh became enemy number one.

He expressed interest in coming back to Darlington as an investor in 2017, but fan opinion was understandably strong in its opposition. He walked away.

This week

On Tuesday, Hartlepool’s Supporters Trust confirmed that Singh was the businessman in contact with the club, offering to take it off the hands of current owners, Sage Investment, providing current debts are cleared, and with further funds still needed.

The Trusts statement included:

We have been in discussions with the Jeff Stelling led consortium and we can now officially confirm that in line with online rumours Raj Singh is indeed the Teesside businessman seeking to secure the consortium ownership of HUFC.

Mr Singh has confirmed that an offer has been made to Sage Investments to acquire the club for no fee, with Sage Investment clearing their significant debts, (and therefore without interest payments accruing) and without any security held over the club by Sage.

It is clear why Hartlepool want Singh on board. They will do anything they can to keep the club afloat and secure its survival.

However, as their near neighbours can testify, they may be making a deal with the devil. Good job the FA are strict on people taking over club ownership.

Simon Hahn

Lifelong sufferer following Darlington FC from League Two to the Northern League. Freelance Sports and data journalist. Living for 3pm on Saturday.

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