Cork City was in the vanguard of a brave new world when it became a fan-owned club back in 2010. Tonight it looks certain to be sold for €1 to a man best known in sporting circles in Ireland as the owner of Grand National winner Hedgehunter and a string of other high profile racehorses.
Aside from his interest in the sport of kings, he is also the owner of Preston North End and was a white knight last year when injecting money into Cork City to enable them play this season.
His company Grovemoor paid €450,000 to buy back sell-on clauses from Sean Magure and other players. This was then backed up by €150,000 which gave the company first refusal on buying the club outright should FORAS, the fans ownership group choose to sell.
Unfortunately, the rapid decline in City’s fortunes on the field of play continued, and last weekend they were relegated from the SSE Airtricity Premier League.
It is only three years since they won the Double of the League and FAI Cup and secured wins in the Europa League.
Now it will require a simple majority of those who turn up to tonight’s online meeting from among the 560 owners to trigger the sale of the club and the taking on of its outstanding debts.
The Board have recommended this as being the only course of action that would secure the clubs future and it is hoped assistance and further investment to bounce back quickly from the first division.
Hemmings made his money in housebuilding, property and the travel business. He owned a large chunk of Blackpool town centre including the famous Tower and Winter Gardens. He brought Centre Parcs to Britain for the first time and owns the Trabolgan Holiday Village in Cork.
The 83-year-old is worth just over £1 Billion according to the Sunday Times Rich List and so would be in a strong position to add Cork City to his list of sporting assets.
He has won the Aintree Grand national three times, the first of those with the Willie Mullins trained Hedgehunter in 2005.
The relationship between Preston North End and Cork City goes back over a decade to the transfer of Graham Cummins after a successful season with 24 goals here.
Alan Browne, Adam O’Reilly, Sean Maguire, Kevin O’Connor and Harry Nevin have since followed and there may well be some football benefit as well as the obvious financial ones to follow from the link-up.
Hemmings is reported to have spent a number of childhood holidays in Cork, though he left school at the age of 15 and was reared in a working-class environment in the North of England.
It is a shame that the experiment has to come to an end for the fans who poured their energy and their funds into Cork City over the past ten years but Hemmings does look to be an owner that will do the right thing.
Sport for Business Partners