Sources close to the situation indicate that while Helou has claimed to have paid the Mariners a deposit, the money was not received by the club, , an allegation denied by Helou. The Mariners have since ordered Helou to stop speaking publicly about the subject and obey the NDA he signed, according to the sources.
The Mariners have also been unable to uncover any definitive proof that Helou is involved with Rayo Vallecano, who have spent most of the past decade bouncing between Spain’s top two tiers.
According to Australian Financial Security Authority records, Helou was declared bankrupt in September 2020.
Chief executive Shaun Mielekamp said: “Helou has not been in contact with Football Australia regarding the due diligence process that is a necessary requirement of ownership and has failed to show any real commitment to potential investment aside from speaking to media.
“The club has ensured that the sale process is undertaken in a professional and diligent manner to find the right investment model for the club’s long-term growth and progress.
“This process involves non-disclosure agreements being adhered to and thorough due diligence checks being completed. It is important that all potential investors for the club understand the importance of the professionalism and processes required to progress discussions on the future of the club.”
Helou insisted he had submitted due diligence documentation to Football Australia and paid a deposit to the Mariners.
“My lawyers are all across it. We definitely have paid a deposit, I’ve got receipts to prove it. They have received a deposit, or their lawyers have at the very least,” he told the Herald.
Helou said his interview with SBS was a “friendly chat” that was supposed to be off the record, and that he had since “put in place a full PR team to clean it all up, because it’s doing more damage than good.”
“Shaun’s ultimate worry is it’s going to distract players and staff away from the season, because I’ll be stepping in after the season starts – we always knew that because of the time and the process it takes. It’s taken time but my lawyers are doing their thing,” he said.
“I’m just going to push on, regardless of what anyone says. One crappy article is not going to stop me from doing what I need to do. If Charlesworth and Central Coast change their minds, there are three other [A-League] clubs that are knocking on my door, ‘please buy us’. If it doesn’t happen with one, I’ll go to the next.”
Asked if one of those clubs was the ownerless Newcastle Jets, he said: “Absolutely. Lawrie McKinna and I are close.”
Helou did not deny a bankruptcy claim had been filed against him but said he was challenging it in court. “That was a false bankruptcy claim. That will eventually be quashed,” he said.
As for his links to Rayo Vallecano, Helou said he did not own part of the club itself but its associated property, through a holding company in Spain. “The company that owns the property, I bought shares in them,” he said.
“When I say I own Rayo Vallecano, I own the infrastructure and the fiscal entities behind it. Am I involved in the club day today? No. Am I sitting on the board? No. Am I involved with the decision-making? No, but I’ve got a larger property play in Spain.”
Rayo Vallecano has not responded to requests to verify Helou’s claims.
Helou also took the time on Wednesday to respond to comments from Mariners fans on Facebook in a thread under the club’s statement, which was posted on the social media platform. “Tell me again how you know me? My financial situation?” he said to one supporter.
The Mariners are one of several A-League clubs to have entertained sale offers this year. In February, Perth Glory were on the brink of a sale to the London Football Exchange, a UK-based blockchain company that intended to set up a City Football Group-style network of clubs around the world using cryptocurrency ‘tokens’.
Central Coast’s nearest rivals, Newcastle Jets, are also on the market for a new owner after separate talks with a Sydney-based consortium collapsed this month.
Unlike the Jets, who are set to be bailed out by a ‘hardship fund’ provided by other A-League club owners, the Mariners will enter the season under the unpopular stewardship of Charlesworth, who has been chairman since 2013 and is content to stay on until a suitable buyer is found – despite initial threats he would hand the club’s licence back to Football Australia if that wasn’t possible.
Vince is a sports reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald.