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The Non-League Football Paper

‘We wasn’t going to go under on my watch’ – Dagenham & Redbridge director on club’s takeover

Managing director Steve Thompson admits he didn’t know whether Dagenham & Redbridge would survive their financial turmoil – but now the only way is up after negotiating fresh investment which includes ex-USA international goalkeeper Tim Howard.

The National League club seem secure again after an American consortium, featuing former Manchester United and Everton goalkeeper  Howard, took over the club this week.

Victoria Road Football, LLC, a new company led by Peter Freund and Craig Unger, have purchased the majority of shares in Dagenham, ending a period of uncertainty surrounding the club’s finances.

The East London-based side had to drastically cut costs when director Glyn Hopkin resigned in February and appealed to the football community to raise more than £110,000.

Thompson has had to try and steer Dagenham through the turmoil, and finally his work has been rewarded.

“It’s been a really difficult eight or nine months and at times I didn’t know whether we were going to get out of it or not,” he told The NLP.

“Credit to the supporters, sponsors and advertisers who have all rallied round and have done their bit where they can.

“I’ve been involved here for 40 years and it wasn’t going to go under on my watch. All the way through I’ve tried to do it the right way. I’ve tried to keep the league and the FA involved when they needed to be involved. I’ve tried to keep our sponsors and supporters engaged.

“To pull off a coup and be able to attract the investment that we have, and the calibre of the people, that’s been a fantastic achievement as well.”

Freund and Unger founded United Soccer League club Memphis 901 earlier this year and both own sport franchises.

Freund is on the boards of two professional basketball leagues and the USL. He’s the principal owner of portfolio company Trinity Sports Holdings, who have interests in the New York Yankees as well as Minor League Baseball sides Memphis Redbirds, Charleston RiverDogs and Williamsport Crosscutters.

Unger is part of the ownership group of the Memphis Redbirds and oversees the running of AutoZone Park, a 10,000-seat multi-purpose sports facility in Memphis.

Thompson and chairman Paul Gwinn will remain in their roles with Freund becoming executive chairman and Unger a director.

More funds will be made available for manager Peter Taylor as the club targets a return to the Football League in the coming years.

Thompson added: “We’ve got the infrastructure. Everything is in place that if we ever did get another tilt, I’m not saying we are going to get promoted, but whatever league you’re in you want to be able to compete and go up to the next level, and if you don’t then you’ll fall back.

“We’ve got a fantastic manager and assistant manager who are top class coaches. I’ve been so impressed with Peter.

“We’ll be looking to progress, whether it’s this year, next year or the year after to make that tilt again, be competitive and have a go getting promoted.”

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