Mansfield Town Football Club are facing demands for the repayment of loans worth almost £1m from former directors Steve Hymas and Andy Saunders.
The private approach by the pair, who left the club on angry terms last summer and then formed new club AFC Mansfield, was made in March, but was made public on facebook at the weekend by Carolyn Radford, chief executive and wife of owner John Radford.
She wrote on facebook: “When John took over Mansfield Town Football Club it was over a million pounds in debt and hadn’t paid the bills in several months.
“Saunders and Hymas were letting it go under - the receivers had been called in. We go on holiday last year and return to the news that these so-called ‘die hard’ Stags fans had resigned as directors and set up their own alternative football club with the same name!
“That hurt, but now, just as the town is about to enjoy a long awaited return to the Football League, Saunders and Hymas are trying to sue and destroy our beloved Mansfield Town Football Club. I don’t know how they can sleep at night.”
An official club statement on Monday said: “The board of directors of Mansfield Town Football Club are disappointed to have received solicitors’ letters acting on behalf of Mr Steve Hymas and Mr Andrew Saunders in relation to the repayment of loans from Mansfield Town Football Club.
“The club are contesting the demands and the matter is now in the hands of the club’s legal team.”
However, a joint statement from Saunders and Hymas said: “Until now we have kept our own counsel in the hope the situation could be resolved amicably.
“We are lifelong Stags fans with over 90 years of supporting the club between us, and that continues to be the case today and in the future.
“When we purchased the club it was clearly under very difficult circumstances, having just been relegated.
“From the very early days the owners were ploughing thousands into the club just to keep it going. Crowds were down and income falling.
“When Steve Hymas came on board, his extra finances helped, but it was clear we couldn’t continue to finance the club long-term, so we sought specialist advice. There were three options - administration, a part-time squad or selling the club.
“Administration was never considered and we decided to try to find a purchaser. We entered negotiations with John Radford, who would eventually go on to purchase the shares of Hymas, Saunders and Steve Middleton, but Andrew Perry steadfastly refused to sell his shareholding, which nearly destroyed the whole purchase.
“We were all then invited back onto the board (except Mr Perry) and, with a further £10,000, then £20,000 investment per director, we were able to purchase a five per cent shareholding in the club each via Yellows 08, the major shareholder of MTFC.”
The statement continued: “At that time the relationship with John Radford was excellent and we were able to take up effective roles within the club and worked, unpaid, every day to try to move the club forward.
“Regrettably, once Carolyn Still was employed as CEO the relationship began to fragment.
“John Radford then called a board meeting of MTFC and announced the board of Yellows 08 had agreed to sell all of its shares, including those of Hymas and Saunders, to a company called Amber 12, a company established by John Radford for £100.
“It’s important to note that both Yellows 08 and Amber 12 at the time had only one board director, John Radford.
“In effect, he had stripped us of our shareholding, having paid £30,000 each only a few months before. It was then decided we could no longer work with him and resigned. Yellows 08 have now applied to be struck off.
“We have never been subject to a club gagging order as alleged and did not launch legal action until March – Andrew Perry launched winding-up proceedings against the club action prior to the Liverpool game.
“With regard to the loans, which are substantial and separate from the substantial sums we invested in the club, given the breakdown in the relationship, we have decided that we must call in our loans, which we are perfectly within our rights to do as our purchase agreement states.
“We have asked on numerous occasion to sit down and discuss with John Radford a sensible and structured way to repay the loans, but none of these invites have been taken up, which has led to the action we have taken only very recently. It is our wholehearted desire that this regrettable situation can be resolved amicably.”
Stags manager Paul Cox admitted the cash wrangle was a worry to him, saying: “I just hope that anything that happens doesn’t put in any danger what we are doing and how we are trying to advance this club at this minute.
“A lot of people come to this club and pay their hard-earned money to watch us and I hope they don’t get affected by this scenario.
“Since I have been here there have been a lot of things going on. But I am working with a guy (John Radford) that, when he came in, found this football club on its knees and I personally don’t believe there would be a club here without him.
“He has ploughed his own money in the club and over two years he has produced. John has always conducted himself in a professional manner and with class.
“I can’t personally understand why anyone would want to attack him or do something that would stop the club’s progress.
“It amazes me sometimes why he doesn’t just up sticks and go off to do something else.
“Some things that materialise here leave a bitter taste in the mouth. Some of the things I have heard have made me question my own sanity.”