Last Updated: 16/09/19 7:29pm
Kevin McCabe (left) with Prince Abdullah Bin Mosaad Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud in 2014.
Regulars at “Beautiful Downtown Bramall Lane”, as the faithful know Sheffield United’s historic home ground, have become accustomed to waiting for news from a courtroom 160 miles south, down the M1.
Blades fans have learned to be patient, waiting to discover which way the scales of justice will tilt, such as in the case of Carlos Tevez.
But Mr Justice Fancourt’s findings on Monday in Court 11 of the High Court may have more repercussions for the club than any previous legal battle waged by its soon-to-be former owner, Kevin McCabe.
In a hearing lasting less than three minutes, the die was cast, bringing to an end McCabe’s association with the club he supported as a boy, directed and finally owned since 2005 – and a new era for the club’s sole owner, Saudi royal family member, Prince Abdullah bin Musa’ad bin Abdul Aziz, or Prince Abdullah.
Ordering McCabe to sell his 50 per cent stake in Sheffield United for £5m, Mr Justice Fancourt said the 71-year-old had “injected tens of millions of pounds into the club out of love and loyalty, not for financial return”, but ruled the contract of sale and purchase of United should go ahead.
In a statement, Prince Abdullah said: “I am delighted that this judgement brings an end to the uncertainty over Sheffield United’s future. Our manager Chris Wilder and the team are off to a promising start and we can now focus on this vital Premier League season under stable ownership.
“[…] I am fully committed to continued investment in both the first team and the academy and to bringing best practices and the highest standards of management to the club.”
McCabe may well choose to continue this fight, with Monday’s case adjourned until October 14, when he will have 21 days to lodge an appeal.
However, the damning nature of Mr Justice Fancourt’s finding that McCabe’s conduct was “manipulative and devious” and his evidence in places on key events “disingenuous”, may encourage him to lick his wounds rather than climb off his stool for another round of a fight he may be destined to lose.
Those close to the property developer say, regardless of the cash he has invested, McCabe will be devastated by Monday’s ruling.
Sheffield United are currently 15th in the Premier League
“For the McCabe family to have lost their connection with the football club in this manner and by way of this judgement is simply heart-breaking,” a statement said.
“Kevin feels a deep sense of betrayal and is in a state of shock about the way that he has been treated by Prince Abdullah and he now deeply regrets going into business with him.
“[…] the McCabes were very seriously misled about the true extent of Prince Abdullah’s wealth and had to rescue the club from insolvency because of the Prince’s impecuniosity around December 2016.”
A workaholic flitting between China, Australia, Spain and the east coast town of Scarborough, McCabe attends more games than he misses, building a global business strategy around United’s fixture list.
Aidan Magee reports on the outcome of the legal dispute between Kevin McCabe and Prince Abdullah over Sheffield United
He was holding fort at Bramall Lane on Saturday, alongside six US businessmen prepared to buy United once Monday’s decision confirmed McCabe as the victor. For now, those plans are on the scrapheap, with McCabe not only losing the club, but also ordered by the court to complete the sale of the stadium to Prince Abdullah by July 2020.
How McCabe will rue the spring evening in 2013 when he was introduced to the Saudi royal in a London restaurant. What looked like a match made in heaven for both him and the Blades came at the perfect time as McCabe’s patience, along with his willingness to fund a struggling League One club, was wearing thin.
A deal was done to sell half of his club to the Saudi, in return for him funding United for three seasons. By 2016, the prince’s investment had changed little in S2, with McCabe now back and sharing 50 per cent of the club’s costs. Already strained relations between the two were to get much worse.
Born less than 200 yards from Bramall Lane, McCabe built a global property empire and poured, he says, more than £100m into his club. His tenure has often divided Blades’ opinions, with some questioning his choices of manager, while wanting him to reach deeper into his significant pockets.
Chris Wilder has led Sheffield United to the Premier League
However, few would quibble today with his most recent choice of manager in Chris Wilder, who has prompted two promotions in three seasons and a return to the promised land of the Premier League – and now leads a club, according to the judge, worth around £100m.
Indeed, those Unitedites with longer memories will be glad of the stability provided by McCabe following the catalogue of unsuccessful owners who preceded him.
Those included Paul Woolhouse who disappeared after being linked to a series of alleged frauds – and is yet to be found, while Mike McDonald, with the help of Charles Green of Rangers fame, invested heavily before a drastic cost-cutting exercise which saw Brian Deane and Jan Aage Fjortoft sold on the same day.
Change brings a fear of the unknown and Blades supporters will no doubt flock to Bramall Lane in their numbers on Thursday when Wilder, CEO Stephen Bettis and representatives of the prince will hold a fans’ forum.
For many, the sight of a top table without Kevin McCabe at its centre will be a strange one indeed.
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