Wanted: £6m by 5pm to save Argyle
DIE-HARD Plymouth Argyle fans remain camped outside Home Park on tenterhooks awaiting news of today's crucial takeover cash deadline.
An agreed takeover deal will collapse at 5pm today unless offshore company Bishop International Limited, led by Cornwall-based developer Kevin Heaney, comes up with the estimated £6million.
The Pilgrims' administrators, who remain confident of completing the sale today, have vowed to turn to other bidders in a last-ditch effort to rescue the club if Bishop International's money fails to arrive.
A legally-binding sale and purchase agreement that would see the Gibraltan firm buy Argyle's land assets, then hand the club itself to acting chairman Peter Ridsdale, expires today.
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But, asked last night whether the money had arrived, lead administrator Brendan Guilfoyle could only say: "It's coming".
Supporters, who are continuing a vigil outside Home Park, fear the collapse of the deal could force the club out of business in its 125th year.
Warren Bowden, one of the organisers, said: "I don't think people realise the extent of what is going on here, even the people of Plymouth.
"The club is such a huge part of the city. We've lost the airport and if we lost Plymouth Argyle as well that's £10million lost that goes into the local economy every year.
"It will also be the first ever professional football club to have folded during the season.
"All we can hope for is that Plymouth Argyle survives, no matter who owns the club."
Eighteen-year-old Chloe Warren was among those to spend a rainy Wednesday night at the vigil, which supportive locals visited at all hours with water, food and cups of tea.
"We spent the whole evening chatting about what would happen if Plymouth Argyle did go bust," said Chloe. "Whoever lives in Plymouth and supports Argyle will realise how much that means. If Plymouth Argyle is liquidated a lot of hearts will be broken."
If the cash arrives today, Football League approval is still needed to close the deal.
The governing body has the power to block any takeover that either breaches its ownership regulations or fails to prove a club will be put on a stable financial footing.
The Football League's board has had concerns over figures in Mr Ridsdale's three-year business plan, as well as Mr Heaney's role in the takeover.
He already owns ambitious non-league club Truro City – and having financial influence over two clubs is not allowed.
Bishop International would own Home Park and provide Mr Ridsdale with a multi-million-pound kitty as part of the proposals.
A Football League spokesman yesterday said there was "no further update" since its statement two weeks ago that said chiefs had "several" unstated concerns.
Mr Heaney has been unavailable for comment since saying he was aiming to deliver the money by the middle of this week.
Bishop International, whose true owners are concealed behind nominees, have paid just £300,000 since being named preferred bidders under the guise of an Irish consortium in May.
Mr Heaney, whose Cornish Homes (UK) Limited was liquidated in 2008 and who had a County Court judgement against him last month, is financing the deal with "borrowed funding", Mr Guilfoyle has confirmed.
It is unclear who is lending that money, which is said to be in the form of a bridging loan.
Mr Guilfoyle insisted he remained confident of completing the deal by today.
But Devon entrepreneur James Brent and a consortium fronted by London-based businessman Paul Buttivant are both expecting phone calls tomorrow if no cash arrives.
Home Park workers agreed to waive their August wages until the end of the month after negotiations between administrators and players' union the PFA, allowing administrators to avoid liability for the £230,000 bill.
But that must be resolved by September 1, meaning Mr Guilfoyle will ask Mr Brent and Mr Buttivant for cash up-front.
Neither is willing to hand over money before striking agreements with the club's creditors – which they have been barred from doing by the purchase agreement period – and that could take either party several weeks.
Even if a snap player sale brought in enough cash to cover August's bill, administrators The P&A Partnership will be hit with liability for next month's pay-packets on September 14.
There are fears managing partner Jeremy Priestley may opt for liquidation rather than foot that bill, a scenario that would spell an end to Argyle's 124-year history.
Supporter Nathan Stocker, aged 18, said at the vigil: "I want to show the Football League that we're not going to go quietly. If people want to close us down, we're not going without a fight. I honestly don't know if we're going to survive this or not."
Tom Stevens, 17, added: "This isn't just a ball game - it's people's lives."