Football: Consortium ready to take over Palace

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The Independent Online
A CONSORTIUM of City investors last night emerged as favourites to take control of Crystal Palace. The financially troubled First Division club's administrator announced that he will recommend the consortium's offer for Palace to its creditors and the Football League by the middle of next week.

The prospective owners will reveal their identity if and when they are successful, but a deal must be completed by 2 August or Palace face expulsion from the League.

"In terms of what will go back to the creditors, this bid is the best on the table," administrator Simon Paterson said. He added that he could not divulge the identity of the bidders, but said: "They are not household names. These are City people who have shown to me that they can invest an eight-figure sum, at least pounds 10m, into the club. They are interested in the club as an investment."

Palace currently have debts of pounds 20m but it is understood that pounds 10m would be sufficient to agree a partial payment of debts and to stabilise the club's finances.

Paterson added that the City consortium's bid was one of four he had been considering. Two of the others, funded by a foreign merchant bank and a stadium management company respectively, were unsuitable, he said, because they were conditional on the new owners either buying Selhurst Park or negotiating a new lease on the ground. Palace's former owner Ron Noades still owns the ground and would not be prepared to deal with such bidders.

The other bid, which is headed by Palace director Simon Hume-Kendall and has Noades' support "is not as good as the City bid in what it offers to the creditors," Paterson said. "We have found a bid that meets our criteria to take the club out of administration and we will take it from here."

Paterson's company, Moore Stephens, has the responsibility of finding new owners for Palace. The club's chairman, Mark Goldberg, who has personal debts of pounds 30m and faces potential bankruptcy a week on Monday when he faces a showdown with his own creditors, has consistently said that he would like to maintain control of the club.

His father-in-law, Les Hapgood, a Bromley-based businessman, has been linked with a bid for Palace, but Paterson said yesterday that he was not aware that Hapgood was involved.

"As far as I am aware, these people [the City consortium] are their own people, and have not had any previous involvement with Crystal Palace," Paterson said. On the question of whether there was any chance of Goldberg remaining at the club, he said, "Whoever comes in will make up their own minds who will be on the board of directors."

Dietmar Hamann has completed his move to Liverpool from Newcastle for a fee believed to be pounds 8m. The German international put pen to paper at Anfield yesterday afternoon.

Manchester United players will have bodyguards for the final match of their Asian tour, against South China in Hong Kong tomorrow.

The authorities are deploying hundreds of extra police at the Hong Kong Stadium to avoid a repeat of the riot during a recent Olympic qualifier at the ground between Nepal and Malaysia. Five Malaysian players were injured and two were taken to hospital after being punched and kicked by fans during a pitch invasion.

Ryan Giggs and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will miss the game because they have flown home after picking up injuries. Giggs sat out Wednesday's 2-0 win over Shanghai Shenhua with a thigh strain, while Solskjaer, who scored the first goal, suffered a knee injury.

Carlton have appointed a Melbourne law firm, compensation specialists Slater and Gordon, to represent them as they consider legal action over Andy Cole's tackle on their defender Simon Colosimo.

Colosimo needs knee surgery following the United striker's challenge during Sunday's match between Australia and United in Sydney. The Australian international could be out for six months.

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