Here is a rolling report of Norman Smurthwaite’s sale of the club which started in December 2015 and ended in the summer of 2016.
Note: This article is part of our reference library – a section of the site intended to store articles that may be useful in the future.
Following a poor FA Cup defeat to Exeter on the 6th December, Chairman Norman Smurthwaite tweets that questions need to be answered. At the same time, supporters in the coaches at the ground say that Smurthwaite told the fans that Rob Page would be dismissed. Smurthwaite’s tweets prompts this editorial from OVF:
December 6, 2015
Rob Fielding understands that Rob Page’s future is in the balance – but whether he stays or goes – he hopes the club don’t rush into a snap decision | Read more
The Vale chairman subsequently denies the Page sacking claims but questions his own future. On the 7th December the Sentinel says that Vale have been put up for sale but there is no official statement from the club. It prompts this editorial from OVF:
December 8, 2015
After a 72 hour period of incredible drama, OVF editor Rob Fielding believes most fans will want an end to the soap opera | Read more
On the 9th December, Smurthwaite is linked with a takeover of Torquay United. Then Smurthwaite says that he could sell the football club but maintain ownership of Vale Park. Finally, an official statement confirms Vale is for sale.
Smurthwaite’s comments to the press during this period are prompting much criticism. He alleges that he did not offer Burton manager Jimmyfloyd Hasselbaink a job because he would be racially abused by a section of fans, these comments prompt national criticism. The Supporters Club says that they are ‘very disappointed’ while Kick It Out calls the remarks ‘outrageous.’ OVF publishes this editorial:
December 9, 2015
OVF editor Rob Fielding thinks it may well be time for the club to conduct any potential sale behind closed doors. | Read more
Smurthwaite eventually apologises for any offence caused.
A crazy month ends with the Supporters Club claiming a buyer has been in touch.
After a quiet period (something many fans are probably grateful for) Smurthwaite breaks his media silence and says that four buyers are interested in the club. The Sentinel says one of the four is an American consortium. The Vale owner then says a deal could be done in February.
OVF publishes a personal wishlist for any potential new buyer to consider:
February 6, 2016
Rob Fielding outlines his own personal wishlist of items that should be high on the agenda of any future Port Vale owner. | Read more
On the 8th February, Smurthwaite says that the wage budget could be cut by 40% if he remains in charge next season. However, he tells BBC Radio Stoke that he has signed an exclusivity deal with one potential buyer who is now looking through the club’s books. Meanwhile, OVF reveals that the Football League say that Director’s Loans cannot be used to fund signings under the Fair Play rules.
On February 12th, manager Rob Page criticises what he calls an unwelcome statement from Smurthwaite on playing budget cuts. Page was joined by player Ben Purkiss on the 23rd of February who said the wages cuts news was “unsettling”
February 10, 2016
OVF editor Rob Fielding believes it would be a huge risk to sell the football club and not the Vale Park stadium. | Read more
On the 26th February, Port Vale issue a statement confirming that the buyer’s exclusivity period had been extended and the proposed fans forum planned to coincide with the end of the original exclusivity deal had been postponed.
On March the 4th the club issued a statement that the deal with the preferred bidder had been called off and that the club would be put back up for sale in due course.
On the 7th of March, the Sentinel reported that Norman Smurthwaite was to travel to the USA to speak to a consortium about their bid for the club. Smurthwaite told the newspaper that if talks were not “fruitful” then the club would be taken off the market to end “uncertainty” it has caused.
On the 18th March, the Port Vale FC Community Trust claimed that several buildings at Vale Park were owned by the Trust and that there could be a legal dispute over the ownership of the buildings. The Trust say that they could be liable to repay grants issued to them if the club continue to use the buildings for commercial activities. The club dispute the claims.
The club announces a fans forum to discuss the sale amongst other matters but there is a ban on reporting as it is declared a “closed meeting.”
OVF editor Rob Fielding believes a “closed meeting” for the fans forum doesn’t benefit club or supporters. | Read more
Post script: Eventually the proposed sale of the club didn’t happen. Norman Smurthwaite retained control of the club and it was under his helm that Vale started the 2016-17 season.