The fans’ shareholding in Widnes Vikings as a result of the fundraising campaign that saved the club from liquidation is subject to an EGM vote this evening (Thursday).

Fans rallied to raise more than £130,000 which helped to finance the deal that saw a consortium of local businesspeople rescue the club in 2019.

Pouring the crowdfunding efforts in to saving the club was facilitated by the now defunct Vikings Quids in (VIQI) scheme, whose chair Jason Shaw sat on the club’s board of directors as a fans’ representative when the new takeover was ratified.

VIQI formally closed in August 2022 after more than 20 years of raising money to help fund player signings and contract renewals and has since been superseded by Widnes VIPS.

The old VIQI share in the club has subsequently been transferred to Widnes VIPS, a group formed of an elected committee and where fans can join to donate funds for the club, and it was credited for its support in the re-signing of hooker Matty Fozard.

Widnes VIPS, which has around 200 members, has called an Emergency General Meeting for February 15 where it will look to have voted through a notable change to its constitution related to its shareholding in the club.

It proposes to change its constitution so that if Widnes VIPS ceased to exist in the future, then its shareholding in Widnes Vikings rugby league club would first be offered for sale to the club’s board.

The amendment, to section 16, Dissolution, reads: “In the event of the dissolution of Widnes VIPS;

    * any income remaining shall be distributed to Widnes Vikings Rugby League Club.

    * Widnes VIPS shareholding in Widnes Vikings Rugby League Club will, in the first instance, be offered for sale to the Widnes Vikings Rugby League Club board.

    * If this offer is not taken up, the shareholding will be passed to another fit and proper fan-based or fundraising organisation, supporting Widnes Vikings Rugby League Club

    * If neither of these last two options are available, the shareholding will be sold on the open market.

That effectively means that should Widnes VIPS close down in the future, that the ‘fans’ share’ in the club could be bought by the club itself unopposed, with the fans then losing their share in the club that came as a result of their significant fundraising.

The situation has in-part been forced upon Widnes VIPS, which was initially set up specifically to raise funds for the club. It was only after the demise of VIQI that they were approached to take over the shareholding and board position at Widnes Vikings in March 2023.

A Widnes VIPS spokesperson said: “After taking legal advice and because we are a voluntary group and not a limited company, it was decided to accept the shareholding, but keep the board position in abeyance. We can activate this at any time in the future, if it is felt appropriate.

“We were also contacted by a member of Widnes VIPs with recommendations on amending the constitution in certain areas, for example, how many times can the same subject keep getting raised and over what time period. We took this on board as a committee to be a good idea.

“We consider all members of the VIP scheme to be important to the scheme and all the trustees welcome any ideas or suggestions.”

Through VIQI, more than £500,000 is thought to have been pushed in to club coffers since the administration period.

While there were seven members of the consortium that saved the club in 2019, there are currently only four directors of Widnes Rugby League Club Limited – Stuart Murphy, Roger Harrison, Rod Steele and Joy Morton, who was appointed as recently as December 2023. The appointment of Matt Taylor to the board of directors was announced earlier this week.

Former chairman and majority shareholder Chris Price announced he was to step down in July, and Jason Shaw’s departure was confirmed on Companies House in November. David Dean departed last January and Tracy Glendinning resigned from the board in December 2021.

Although on the field, Widnes have failed to make the play-offs in each of the past five seasons, they were encouraged by their ranking at 16th in the new rugby league grading criteria being led by global sports company IMG.

The financial stability brought by the board over the past five years is thought to be an important factor in that ranking, and new chairman Murphy expressed a desire to kick-on when he spoke to fans at a Members’ Monday event back in October.

The top 12 clubs in the grading criteria ranking will make up the 12 teams in Super League in the following season, in a not too dissimilar move to the previous licensing system which saw Widnes elevated to the top flight ahead of the 2012 season.

Two other relatively minor amendments relating to voting and changes to the Widnes VIPS constitution being able to be presented at the AGM are also to be voted on.

All Widnes VIPS members are entitled to a vote at the EGM, being held at The Cookhouse on Liverpool Road at 7pm on Thursday February 15.

Widnes Vikings did not respond when approached for comment.