BARNSLEY FC are hopeful of having a new rent agreement with Barnsley Council in place this season, while reports of a possible take over attempt at Oakwell have been rubbished.
National newspapers reports claimed last week that the Reds owners had been approached by a new group who wanted to take over the club.
The club is currently owned by various parties including chairman Neerav Parekh, Julie Anne Quay, who represents a group of investors, the Cryne family, and also Paul Conway and Chien Lee – the previous co-chairmen who were voted off the board earlier this year.
Chief executive Khaled El-Ahmad told the Chronicle: “No one has contacted me or anyone on the board. It’s just rumours.
“There has been no approach.
“They are not looking to sell. I don’t get that feeling at all. All the discussions at board level are about the short-term and long-term and getting Barnsley where we want to be.”
Meanwhile, the Reds are hoping to renegotiate the lease with the council, which is thought to currently last until 2027.
The council own half the ground, with the other half owned by the Cryne family who are part-owners of the club and on the board at Oakwell.
El-Ahmad told the Chronicle: “I had meetings with Shokat (Lal) and others from the council this week. I am positive. You never know in negotiations but I would think that, at some point this season, we will have a deal.
“I am confident we are having relevant discussions and I can see an end.”
Chairman Neerav Parekh has previously said the club are not looking to buy the council’s half of the ground but the Reds have said they would like to build leisure activities on the site if possible. What does El-Ahmad want from the negotiations?
“For the club to stay here for many many years to come. In terms of the changes to the ground, it is yet to be seen. But I would like it to be sustainable and adapted for the future.
“We will explore everything and decide on what is best for us and the borough.”
Shokat Lal, Barnsley Council’s executive director for core services, said: “We are in discussions with Barnsley FC about securing a long-term lease for the club at Oakwell.”
This week, the Cryne family reached a settlement over the repayment of money owed to them following the sale of the club. The late Patrick Cryne sold the majority of the club in 2017 to a consortium fronted by Conway and Lee, but payments due as part of the deal were later withheld amid a dispute between the two parties.
Jean and James Cryne – the widow and son of Patrick – launched legal action against the club’s majority owners in 2020 but have now reached a settlement and will be repaid the money in full, in instalments starting in August next year.
El-Ahmad said: “Any time there are legal discussions around the club, it is a relief when that is gone. It’s good news. As far as I know, all the legal process is finished.”
Asked whether the repayments would come from the club’s accounts or from Lee and Conway, El-Ahmad told the Chronicle: “I can’t comment on that at this moment.”
Barnsley made cryptocurrency Hex their main sponsor in August but cancelled the deal within days after homophobic tweets emerged from people associated with Hex.
“We found out very quickly that it wasn’t Hex we had signed a deal with, it was three individuals who had history. In hindsight it was a big mistake. We should have done better due diligence.
“But I am proud of the fans and also the board and everyone internally for how quickly we made a stand of what is important to us as a club.
“From something bad, I actually think something even stronger evolved.
“We have added an extra code of conduct that every partner has to sign up to so they are aligned with that we stand for.”
Some fans, including the supporters’ trust, expressed concerns before those tweets emerged that the Reds were affiliated with the controversial cryptocurrency industry which some accuse of promoting pyramid schemes and scams.
Asked if they would have a cryptocurrency as a sponsor in the future, El-Ahmad said: “I think any company we are going to bring in, we have to really carefully consider. If we are going an innovative way, is it worth speaking with the fans first?
“It is hard to say we will never align ourselves with what some can look at as an innovation.
“We weren’t the only one looking at crypto. Inter Milan and other clubs have looked into it. We were trying to be innovative.
“We just have to do a much much better job of aligning everybody.
“We’re discussing what companies we would or wouldn’t align with. Betting, crypto, sport-washing – there are a lot of things that are coming up now. Hopefully that will create a more thorough guideline.”
Barnsley have since launched their ‘Forever Red’ campaign which will see several local companies sponsor the shirts throughout the season as well as charities.
“We have an opportunity to offer the front of the shirt to companies who otherwise cannot afford it for the whole year.
“Next season, we will be looking at either doing that again or having one big sponsor which would have to be the right one.”