Greenock Morton have rejected a more financially lucrative takeover bid and plan instead to write off a £2m-plus debt and become a community-owned club.
But their Cappielow Park stadium will remain owned by current chairman Crawford Rae’s Golden Casket company and then rented back to the club.
The club will be sold to the Morton Club Together group for “a nominal sum” if it can prove viability by March.
MCT director Gordon Ritchie thinks fan fundraising will ensure it goes ahead.
“Our membership has increased in the last three months despite the pandemic and their financial contribution has increased,” he told BBC Scotland.
“That is a quite remarkable demonstration of commitment and loyalty from the community to the football club.”
No details of the rival bidder have been given other than it was a party with no previous connection with the Scottish Championship club or the Inverclyde area.
Ritchie insists that, while the community buy-out is in talks with businesses interested in investing in Morton, it has “no intention of selling the club to anyone else”.
He also thinks that not owning their own stadium will protect the future of the club as the stadium will “remain in friendly hands” should the community buy-out ever suffer financial difficulties.
MCT was established in April 2019 after Rae, whose father, Douglas, saved Morton from liquidation in 2000, indicated his food company would no longer subsidise the football club.
In January, it was announced that Rae had already written off £500,000 of debt and gifted 15% of club shareholding to the community group. This will rise to 90% should the deal be completed.
MTC had originally been given a target of raising £400,000 for the club by the end of next season.
However, while the pandemic altered the financial circumstances and negotiations were held with a third party, community ownership has been agreed in principle “despite the terms of that deal being much more financially beneficial to Golden Casket and the Rae family”.
“The faith that Golden Casket and the Rae family have shown in all of us cannot be underestimated and we thank them for that,” Ritchie said.
Morton’s new community owners will pay Golden Casket a “peppercorn rent” for the use of Cappielow if the deal goes through next summer.
The current club chairman added: “The Rae family’s final act of devotion to the club is to hand it over to the fans, marking their last involvement in the financial responsibility and stewardship at GMFC.”
MTC’s membership has grown to 440 members, contributed £50,000 to the first-team budget last season and has raised another £30,000 during the pandemic.