The fans who represent Carlisle United’s supporters trust on the club’s boards say a decision to dilute their shareholding can be taken WITHOUT a members’ vote.

CUOSC’s club directors said that they have the legal power to agree to a reduction in their stake without putting the decision to fans.

The trust figureheads stressed that they would always want to take such a decision to their members, but said there could be circumstances where this did not happen.

The comment came in the latest fans’ forum at Brunton Park when CUOSC’s Jim Mitchell and Billy Atkinson were asked about the trust’s stake in United.

It followed recent revelations about “succession” talks at the top of the Blues involving Edinburgh Woollen Mill / Purepay Retail Limited.

Atkinson and Mitchell were asked: “Can [you] confirm that any proposals to dilute the trust’s share ownership will be put to the full membership, as you guaranteed after the Andrew Lapping offer was rejected [in 2015]?

That was a reference to the investment proposals which saw trust members vote to dilute their 25.4 per cent CUFC Holdings shareholding – before the Lapping-led plans were thrown out by club chiefs.

Mitchell, who represents CUOSC on United’s operational board said: “That’s a hard question.

“No - because we’ve already said that if there was a magic deal on offer, and people who we or the club were dealing with made an unbelievable offer, and the other party refused to allow us to talk about things or they’d withdraw their offer…

“Alone, that would probably signify we wouldn’t want them anyway. But there are circumstances, perhaps, where the deal is too good to risk.”

Mitchell added: “If the potential new owner didn’t want us to go into details, and there’s plenty of them knocking about, we would hedge our bets.

“But we can’t absolutely guarantee [that it would go to a members’ vote].

“We have the legal freedom to take our decision. But we’re all elected as board members by our members to act on their behalf.

“I can’t 100 per cent guarantee [a vote], because we’ve made commitment that if the right deal came along, and the people involved for valid reasons didn’t want us to go public on it, then we might not.

“In 99 per cent of the cases, we would go to our members.”

Atkinson, CUOSC’s director on United’s Holdings board, said the trust had let it be known over a year ago that they had the right to make such a decision without a members’ vote.

“But it would always be our wish to be able to take it to a members’ meeting, and get member approval,” he said.

CUOSC indeed back in December 2019 told a members’ meeting that the trust board had the right to make a decision on the shareholding without consulting the wider membership.

But Atkinson, at that time, stressed they would not simply “give up” shares under any proposal.

At that stage, CUOSC said the club were in talks with an “organisation” with a “vision” for the Blues.

It was the same period in which former CUOSC chairman John Kukuc went public on his reasons for resigning from the fan body, saying he did not agree with a “tight timescale” in which he had been asked to make a decision on a proposal by United’s Holdings board directors.

United co-owner John Nixon last week said that a “succession” deal with EWM had been close in 2019, and that the prospect of such a deal remained the Blues’ long-term goal.

CUOSC, in a statement on Sunday, added: "We have consistently said we would reluctantly be prepared to consider diluting our voting rights in order to achieve the ‘right deal’. 

"Of course the other shareholders can do what they want with their shares, but in terms of the ‘right deal’ and a dilution, succession has to mean a change of control.

“It cannot mean that the current ownership regime remains in place and in apparent or real control, but funded by others or significantly influenced by others with the safeguards our votes provide for the club diluted. 

“If for example a staged transition were to take place which may well be possible and appropriate to help to progress a longer term succession, our rights would only be diluted if and when that transition finally becomes a change of control, which the EFL would of course need to approve.”