The question of Edinburgh Woollen Mill’s involvement with Carlisle United dominated the Blues’ supporters’ trust’s AGM as fan representatives said: “Everybody knows who’s running the club.”

The Carlisle United Official Supporters Club, who have two club directors, said the Blues’ main co-owners had “taken something of a back seat”.

Supporter reps insisted EWM’s money was keeping the club alive, but they were still no wiser as to billionaire Philip Day and his company’s longer-term intentions at Brunton Park.

They do not even know if EWM will ever call in their loans, the CUOSC directors admitted.

Day’s firm have been loaning United money since March 2017 - £1.3m by June 2018 - and have a director on the club’s holdings board.

EWM have so far refused invitations to elaborate on their financial relationship and involvement with the Blues, declining to comment when approached by the News & Star last month.

CUOSC have in the past claimed the firm are behind the new "financial sobriety" at the club which has seen spending cut.

The issue was raised by supporters in today’s CUOSC AGM in Foxy’s Restaurant at Brunton Park, which was attended by just 20 people from a membership of more than 500.

Those on the panel included Jim Mitchell and Billy Atkinson, who represent CUOSC on United’s operational and holdings boards respectively.

In a Q&A session, Atkinson responded to the first question on EWM’s intentions by saying “they are going to support us this season, that is definite”.

He added: “I’ve seen nothing to say that will continue, but if you listen to what they say repeatedly, they want to support the club.”

Atkinson, though, said he was unable to say what EWM might do regarding United in two years’ time.

The CUOSC directors then faced questions over why they and the club were “happy to be in bed” with a company that “tells fans nothing”.

Atkinson said: “The fact of the matter is they put a lot of money into Carlisle United. If it wasn’t for that, we probably wouldn’t be sitting here today.”

Mitchell stressed that CUOSC have been “asking for ages” at board meetings for EWM to clarify their intentions, and would continue to do so.

He said that saying nothing “was their [EWM’s] style of operation”. When a supporter argued that that might work in retail but not in football, Mitchell said: “We’ve made that point to them. We have tried and we’ll keep on trying.”

Atkinson added: “At every board meeting I bring the issue up, asking for clarity. I don’t get that, because Mr Day is not there to give the answer.”

Atkinson also admitted EWM’s loans to have since increased since the last accounting period. Fellow CUOSC board member and former United director Norman Steel added that other club directors have also been loaning money.

Atkinson admitted the issue of increasing loans, without an obvious end-game, was “a difficult situation”.

But he added: “I saw a quote in the paper from Bonmarche [a company that has been the subject of a recent takeover approach by Day] saying their directors were looking forward to meeting Mr Day. If they can’t get a meeting with Mr Day, what chance do Jim and I have?”

The CUOSC panel asked those attending whether it was EWM’s involvement, or that of the “gang of three” [co-owners Andrew Jenkins, John Nixon and Steven Pattison] that deterred people from putting money into the club.

Mitchell, when then asked how much those three were now involved day-to-day, said: “I think everybody knows who’s running the club”.

Atkinson followed this by saying that “99 per cent” of Nixon’s involvement was now on “external” matters, while Pattison “does work around the ground”. Chairman Jenkins has “taken something of a back seat,” Mitchell added.

Asked if United were in a better position now than 12 months ago, Steel responded “with a touch of sarcasm” by saying: “The club is in a better position in that it is still going and still trading”.

Mitchell admitted United were “not better” on the pitch at the moment, while on the club’s financial stability Atkinson said: “We are assured we will be still in business for this coming season.”

Upon hearing this, a supporter said: “It’s not much of an aim, is it?” Another responded: “It’s better than some clubs.”

CUOSC’s Frank Beattie later cited the woes of other clubs like Bolton and Bury as something Carlisle must avoid.

Mitchell said the fact they were backed by someone [Day] “who has his business in the city, and wants to support the city in the wider community” meant United were “highly unlikely” to go down the same road as those crisis clubs.

“A bit more certainty would be great, and hopefully that will come before too long,” he added, admitting the current situation, of increasing loans and an uncertain long-term picture, was “untenable”.

Mitchell was unable to say whether Day/EWM would require their loans to be paid back. “We haven’t got confirmation of that,” he said.

Atkinson added: “EWM like successful businesses. I’m quite sure they want Carlisle United to be successful.”

Beattie also said the few lower-league clubs who run at a profit do so because they have greater commercial income.

He said it was “no secret” that United’s commercial income last season and part of the previous season “has been absolutely abysmal”.

On the pitch, meanwhile, Mitchell urged fans not to be “too despondent”, although he said that last season, which saw “a sniff of promotion” until the final day, “doesn’t look like it will be repeated – but you never know”.

He said manager Steven Pressley had said some much-needed new signings would soon be arriving.

The CUOSC panel also faced questions over the cost of membership and their own perceived lack of “strategy” to raise funds.

It was initially suggested by Steel that this be put on their next board meeting agenda but, when the supporter suggested it should be on the radar now, the trust’s Beattie replied.

He said “99 per cent” of people he had spoken to – including “wealthy business people” – with a view to lending financial support “were very reluctant to put money into the club in the current circumstances”.

Requests for as little as £250 to join a CUOSC business scheme were rebuffed by most, he said.

The trust, meanwhile, said they would “take on board” suggestions they should do more of their own initiatives to raise funds.

Atkinson pointed out that previous events CUOSC had organised, such as quiz nights and a recent concert, had attracted “disappointing” attendances.

“People didn’t turn up,” he said. “Whether it’s apathy, they don’t like us, they think we’re irrelevant…if people don’t support us, we don’t raise money.”

On membership fees, Atkinson said CUOSC “couldn’t take the chance” of offering membership for free in order to substantially increase its membership. “We still have a loan that we have to repay,” he said.

One fan said: “You could give people a tenner and many still wouldn’t join – that’s the problem.”

Atkinson also said CUOSC faced criticism for "being part of the club" but said: "The fact of the matter is, we are. We can't not be part of the club if we have 25.4 per cent voting rights".

The meeting closed with the confirmation that three board members – Mitchell, Atkinson and Steel - were re-elected for another term.

Just 72 votes were received from CUOSC members, with most received online, the rest either postal or cast at the AGM itself.

Atkinson was re-elected with 64 votes in favour, five against and three abstentions.

Mitchell received 65 votes in favour, six against and one abstention.

Steel got 67 votes in favour, four against and one abstention.

The News & Star attended the AGM with CUOSC’s permission.