By PA Sport
Last Updated: 23/05/18 2:52pm
Former Salford owner Marwan Koukash has agreed to write off the debt he is owed by the ailing Super League club and to match the proceeds from half-season ticket sales.
The gesture from the Liverpool-based racehorse owner is understood to be worth around £5million to the Red Devils, whose football and financial fortunes have both declined since he handed the club over to fans on the eve of the season.
Koukash declined to confirm the size of the debt but revealed that he had agreed to pay the transfer fee that would have brought St Helens scrum-half Matty Smith to the AJ Bell Stadium and also offered to pay the full salary of Warrington outside back Matty Russell.
Both moves fell through, with Saints opting to keep Smith and Russell deciding instead to join Toronto, but Koukash says the club are still striving to strengthen coach Ian Watson’s threadbare squad and he remains keen to help.
“I spent the best part of six years of my life there and you just can’t switch off,” he said.
“I am still a fan and it pains me to see them struggling financially.
“They are vulnerable, there is no denying it, and maybe the board should have been more honest with the fans earlier in the season.
“The sale of Gareth O’Brien eased the financial problems but did not resolve them.”
Koukash pulled Salford back from the brink when he took over in 2013 but gradually became disillusioned with their failure to increase attendances and made the decision in the winter to relinquish control to a consortium led by local businessman and long-term sponsor Andrew Rosler, insisting he left the club in a healthy state.
“The club had no debt when I left,” he said. “They had the best shirt sponsorship in the league and a good stadium agreement and all they had to do to stay viable was to maintain the crowd level of last year.
Castleford Tigers vs St Helens
May 24, 2018, 7:30pm
“They could have broken even on the same crowds and could have made a profit of £180,000 with an increase of only 10 to 15 per cent.
“I thought the section of support that I supposedly alienated would come back when I left but in fact the attendances have dropped by 30 per cent and that’s why the club is in financial difficulties.
“But I know that Andrew Rosler is working harder than I ever did and, although his plans will not reap immediate benefits, there is a lot of promise for the long term if they can get through this season and next.”
Rosler said: “I think Marwan felt that having gifted his shares, the local community would vote with their feet to demonstrate just how important the club is to the city.
“He has been disappointed with the declining attendances and felt that the demand just wasn’t there.
“However he has now bought in to what we are trying to do and can see that the fans can shape the fortunes of the club directly.
“It is an amazing gesture to write off such a large amount of debt but he is testing the fans and the whole community to do its bit and prove him wrong.”
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