Sheffield United High Court case: ‘Club came within 24 hours of being unable to pay players’

Sheffield United came within 24 hours of being unable to pay its players and staff as its two co-owners rowed over how much they were investing in the club, the ongoing court battle for control has heard.

By Sam Cooper
Monday, 10 June, 2019, 13:47

The claim was made during the third week of evidence at the High Court as Stephen Bettis, current chief executive, gave evidence to judge Mr Justice Fancourt.

Paul Downes QC, on behalf of SUL - a company controlled by Blades' chairman Kevin McCabe, questioned Mr Bettis.

Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder and Stephen Bettis. Picture: Robin Parker/Sportimage

He showed Mr Justice Fancourt an email he sent to Mr McCabe and co-owner Prince Abdullah in November 2016 in which he warned that 'within a week the club would not be able to pay staff or players.'

Mr Downes QC said the cash flow for payments had been agreed by both SUL and UTB - a company controlled by the Saudi price - at an earlier meeting in Paris.

Mr Bettis said: "The reality was that there was a cash flow which quite clearly stated the dates the money was due and we were doing better than budget as well so it was frustrating."

The court was also shown a further email which Mr Bettis sent on November 28, 2016.

In it, he said: "Unless we receive the monies within 24 hours, staff and players' salaries will not be paid on time."

When asked by Mr Downes QC if he had started to make any preparations for the club going to administration, Mr Bettis said: "I always felt the money would arrive but it was just frustrating for me how long it was taking."

Mr Downes QC also said that the club was 'saved from insolvency' when SUL put £600,000 into the club but Mr Bettis said he 'couldn't remember the finer details' of that.

Mr Justice Fancourt also heard Mr Bettis was United’s chief executive when they won League One in 2016/17, before leaving his post to pursue other business interests in America.

But he returned at the beginning of last season when United secured automatic promotion to the Premier League.

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The court was also shown an email from Tareq Hawasli, acting on behalf of Prince Abdullah, to Mr Bettis in which he stated his results as chief executive were 'mixed'.

Mr Bettis told the court he felt UTB were trying to use him as a 'scapegoat for their own inefficiencies'

In his email reply, Mr Bettis said: "I have never worked with such incompetent people as yourself and Selahattin [Baki] in my entire profession.

"I am astounded at the tone of your email and your lack of professionalism."

The case also heard claims that Mr Bettis 'switched sides' from the McCabes' SUL to UTB, something which he denied.

Mr Downes QC ran through an email from Mr Giansiracusa sent on July 6, 2017 in which he stated he was 'expecting to win the fight as far as [Mr Bettis] was concerned'.

Mr Downes says 'the fight' related to Mr Giansiracusa getting Mr McCabe to accept to keep Mr Bettis on despite his move to the US.

Mr Bettis said: "I have never had a side."

Mr Downes replied: "I suggest to that by this stage you had been persuaded and you were very much in the UTB camp."

Mr Bettis said: "No, I had the best interests of the club. That was my sole position."

The case continues.