As Chairman Mike Lloyd and Chief Executive Perry Deakin head across The Pond hoping to secure new investment, Vale supporters could be forgiven for experiencing a sense of déjà vu.
We are told that the proposed deal would be ‘worth millions’ to the club and, mercifully, doesn’t involve loans.
Nothing would please me more than to see that kind of money coming into the Vale but I can’t help but feel we’ve been here before.
It wasn’t so long ago that shirt sponsors Harlequin were the club’s great white hope.
Fans were told the overseas property firm were going to invest a substantial sum into Port Vale, take a couple of seats on the board, and bring their business know-how to the table.
Needless to say we’re still waiting.
Hopefully, this trip to the States will pay dividends but – however you dress it up – supporters are once again being asked to take a leap of faith.
Why? Because the truth is we know so very little about at least one of the companies on which the board is pinning its hopes.
The Ameriturf Global Sports (AGS) deal was announced with great fanfare on May 23.
I kept the Press Release. ‘New £1.6 million deal for Port Vale’ was the headline.
But, in terms of hard cash, the investment/sponsorship agreement (depending on who you spoke to at the time) amounted to just £500,000 – of which around £100,000 would be a loan.
The remaining £1.1 million involved sending the first team squad on pre-season tours to America for the next 10 years and creating artificial football pitches at ‘Port Vale’s new training ground complex’.
Now, we could argue the merits of committing ourselves to a decade of pre-season tours to the States. Suffice to say most Vale fans won’t be able to afford the trip.
As for the synthetic training pitches – it’s a fine idea in principle but wouldn’t be top of my list of priorities and right now it seems like pie in the sky.
I also find it deeply disturbing that despite repeated requests, The Sentinel has been unable to secure an interview with anyone from Ameriturf. Why is this?
Under normal circumstances, sponsors would be only too happy to talk to the local media about their investment in a football club – especially once the deal has been announced publicly.
After all, the million dollar question remains: Why would any overseas company wish to invest in a debt-ridden League Two football team?
Given that the board has been vilified for its lack of transparency, I would suggest they have a quiet word with the powers-that-be at Ameriturf in order that they start to be more open with fans.
This is particularly important if Ameriturf representatives are to take seats on the board and have a direct role in policy-making.
Peter Jackson and Stan Meigh were removed from the board at the EGM and both Bill Bratt and Glenn Oliver have agreed to step down from their role as directors in the near future.
However, the fear among the several hundred stay-away supporters is that any deal with Ameriturf would strengthen the hand of the old regime.
This would give them a block of shares large enough that they could effectively ignore the hundreds of smaller shareholders who wanted rid of them in June.
It is only thanks to the generosity of Robbie Williams that – through a proxy via the Port Vale Supporters’ Club – ordinary fans continue to have a voice.
Having spurned a multi-million pound investment from local businessman Mo Chaudry (seemingly on the grounds that they didn’t like the bloke) the board is now relying on investment from overseas.
I only hope the overseas companies will be subjected to the same rigorous checks as previous potential investors.
Just ask Mark Sims who was elected to the board at the EGM but is still waiting to become a director having been asked to jump through more flaming hoops than Evel Knievel.
Let’s not forget that Sims was the only candidate for a directorship who actually received the backing of a majority of Vale shareholders at the EGM.
Like all true Vale supporters, I want an end to the civil war which has turned fan against fan.
I want to see The Roy Sproson Statue – entirely funded by Port Vale fans – taking pride of place outside the club’s main entrance (preferably before I draw my pension).
I also want our first class manager to be given serious money with which to strengthen his squad and I’d like the Lorne Street stand to be completed.
But what I desire more than anything is a new era of transparency in which shareholders and supporters aren’t treated like second class citizens.
Vale’s board spent an awful lot of time and money fighting off the bid from Mo Chaudry and Mark Sims.
The bottom line is that they must ensure that any deal which comes out of America is more valuable than what was on the table from a North Staffordshire businessman and a lifelong Vale fan because anything less won’t wash with many supporters and shareholders.