Sky Sports presenter Jeff Stelling on club ownership, Bury and Bolton Wanderers situation and rejected Hartlepool United approach this summer
‘We were in a financial mess, our books were chaotic’ – Hartlepool United club president Jeff Stelling is all too familiar with unscrupulous football club owners.
The Sky Sports Soccer Saturday presenter was part of Raj Singh’s consortium that effectively saved Hartlepool United from financial ruin and potential liquidation in 2018.
With the club now on a fairly sound footing in the National League, Stelling remains wary of disingenuous takeover attempts in the wake of the ownership troubles Football League Bury and Bolton Wanderers have had to endure.
The lifelong United fan confirmed that his club has been subject to a questionable takeover approach as recently as this summer.
“We were approached by a consortium this summer who wanted to buy us out, and came offering a fortune,” he revealed.
“It transpired that one of them had just spent a few years in prison for fraud, so we said 'thank you very much, no thanks, on your bike'.
“Those people will go to other clubs and try it on in exactly the same way. I've got a friend in the game who has a pretty good idea of who's kosher and who's not.
"All you can do is offer advice, you can't stop them because sometimes the situation is so extreme that you're going under unless you take the offer.”
The EFL came under a lot of criticism following Bury’s expulsion from the competition.
But Stelling recognises the conflict the governing bodies have with all clubs vulnerable to be taken over by the wrong sort of people.
"It's easy for people to say that the EFL should have more stringent checks on ownership, but if they'd said no to Steve Dale at Bury the club would have gone under [last year],” he added.
"I'm of the view that if you're a drowning man and someone throws you a rope, you don't examine his credentials too much before you grab it, and I think the EFL is in a really difficult situation in terms of fair and proper tests.
"Every club is in danger of being bought by people who do not have the club at heart.”
Stelling also took to Twitter to say: “We [Hartlepool] were lucky – we were under no pressure to sell. Just interested in what was on offer but would only sell if it was 100 per cent in the interests of the club. Raj has delivered all he promised and much much more. I am grateful and I think all Poolies are too.”