Sunderland takeover hits the rocks as businessman Mark Campbell snubs League One outfit to buy Falkirk
- Mark Campbell held lengthy talks with Black Cats owner Stewart Donald
- The former Celtic scouting chief will now try and get Falkirk promoted
- Campbell won’t rule out a fresh move to buy Sunderland in the future
Businessman Mark Campbell has parked plans for a Sunderland takeover after edging closer to a deal to buy Scottish side Falkirk.
New York-based Campbell held lengthy talks with Black Cats owner Stewart Donald over a deal which would have secured control of the Wearside club.
Conceding plans were afoot to install John Park as Director of Football, the former Celtic scouting chief will now oversee a blueprint to make relegated Falkirk one of Scotland’s top six clubs.
Mark Campbell has parked plans for a Sunderland takeover after edging closer to buy Falkirk
Campbell won’t rule out a fresh move to buy Sunderland and make Falkirk a feeder club in future.
Reluctant to disclose why a deal for the English League One side stalled, however, he claims money was never the problem.
‘Far from it,’ he told Sportsmail. ‘We spent a lot of time working on the Sunderland project and I have to hold my hat up to the current owners of the club Stewart Donald and Charlie Methven.
‘I have a very good relationship with Stewrt and a very good relationship with the Managing Director Neil Fox.
‘Like us they were really keen to get the deal over the line. But we fell short and it was not for the want of trying.
‘It was certainly nothing to do with finance or money. There was just a few things that couldn’t happen.
‘Timing was a big issue for us.
‘You can’t expect it to be done quickly with a club with a turnover of £160million.
‘When you are dealing with a club like Falkirk with a turnover of £2.8million it’s going to be quicker.
‘The aim was to buy both clubs and manage and run both clubs.’ Admitting English Football League and SFA dual ownership rules were a potential barrier to owning both clubs, Campbell’s plan echoes Partick Thistle takeover proposals put forward by Barnsley owners Chien Lee and Paul Conway.
‘There were dual ownership governance issues we knew we would come up against.
”But we would have worked something round that.
‘We were very open with the Scottish FA and English Football League when we started this process. All credit to them, they were great as well.
‘Would I look again at the idea? You can never say never.
‘You never know what’s around the horizon in the coming years and it would be foolish for me to say otherwise.
‘But at the moment we have a new Falkirk stand to build, we have an academy which we plan to build on the grounds over the next three years. We have another facility we plan on the other side of the ground as well.
Donald purchased his shares in the Wearside club just 13 months ago
‘We need to get this club to be ready for the Scottish Premier League.
‘It’s not going to happen overnight, but when we get there we will be ready.
Campbell is in detailed negotiations with the Falkirk board over completing a £500,000 takeover by the end of August.
Outlining his ambitious plans he added: ‘Falkirk is currently languishing in tier three and is not where it should be.
‘We need to invest in the team and get out of league one as quickly as we possibly can.
‘We need to get back into the Premiership.
‘In Scotland at the minute you have Celtic, Rangers, Hearts, Hibs and Aberdeen.
‘But the sixth place team is either Kilmarnock or Motherwell or a St Johnstone.
‘I think there is a vacancy there for a top six team and that’s what we want to aim at for Falkirk in the coming years.
‘We want to aim for cup runs and potentially European runs.
‘I brought John Park on board because his track record at Celtic and Hibs is outstanding.
‘I wanted someone to work with the manager to get some players not necessarily on everybody’s radar and give them a platform to play at Falkirk before moving them on.
‘John has a realistic plan where we should aim to be back in the Scottish Premier League within three to four years.
‘This is certainly not a short term project. This is a seven to 10 year project for us and we are not going to rush or jump into bankrupting the club. It’s a steady rebuilding job.
‘Falkirk needs a bit of magic dust sprinkled on it and we want to engage with the community to make it shine.’