BREAKING: Cobblers ownership shake-up as club breaks ties with Chinese investor 5USport

Cobblers chairman Kelvin Thomas and 5USport CEO Tom Auyeung shake hands at last year's announcement of the investment into the club by the Chinese company
Cobblers chairman Kelvin Thomas and 5USport CEO Tom Auyeung shake hands at last year's announcement of the investment into the club by the Chinese company

The Cobblers have cut ties with ‘major stakeholder’ 5USport with immediate effect, with chairman Kelvin Thomas and the Town board reacquiring the shares purchased by the Chinese investors last summer.

The Guangzhou-based company was unveiled in June, 2017, as new major stakeholders, buying 60 per cent of the shares owned by Northampton Town Ventures Limited, which owns a majority shareholding in the club.

5USport's CEO Tom Auyeung and Cobblers chairman Kelvin Thomas pictured at a match at Sixfields in October

5USport's CEO Tom Auyeung and Cobblers chairman Kelvin Thomas pictured at a match at Sixfields in October

Town board members Thomas and David Bower make up NTVL, and with the shares returning to their ownership, the club will effectively be back to where it was before 5USport’s investment was announced.

The decision means that 5USport’s Tom Auyeung and Oliver Zheng are no longer directors of the Cobblers.

A statement entitled ‘Northampton Town Football Club announce changes to the ownership structure and Board of Directors of the club’, reads: “Following the share purchase by 5USport last year the club has been working closely with the Guangzhou based company to develop aspects of the club with the aim of improving long term sustainability.

“Progress has been made in certain areas in particular the educational offering in China.

Discussions mainly focused on the UK investment required by the club have been more problematic and the necessary funding has proved challenging due to what has been explained as overseas investment restrictions

Northampton Town FC club statement

“However, other discussions mainly focused on the UK investment required by the club have been more problematic and the necessary funding has proved challenging due to what has been explained as overseas investment restrictions.

“To ensure continued funding of the club David Bower and Kelvin Thomas have reacquired the shares previously held by 5USport.

“As part of the arrangement Tom Auyeung and Oliver Zheng have stepped down from the board of directors.”

The situation has left Thomas and his fellow Cobblers board members having to step in and make payments, in the belief that money from 5USport would be forthcoming.

The Chron understands this investment from the Town board included financing all of the club’s January transfer window business.

In all, nine players were signed by Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink with fees being paid for Kevin van Veen, Shay Facey and Joe Bunney.

With continuing problems in receiving the money from 5USport, a deadline was set, and when that wasn’t met, the shares were returned to the ownership of Thomas and Bower’s NTVL.

5USport CEO Auyeung was at Sixfields for the announcement of his company’s investment last summer, and said at the time: “We will make an impact behind the scenes with the right strategic direction and investment.

“There is much so interest in football in China and we are extremely proud to form a partnership with an English club with such a long history since the formation in 1897.”

It has transpired that partnership has lasted just 10 months.