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Glenn Moore

Australian buying English fifth tier club Southend

A consortium led by Australian businessman Justin Rees has agreed a takeover of troubled fifth tier English soccer club Southend United.

Rees, a former student at the University of Technology Sydney, is effectively rescuing the club from being liquidated due to unpaid debts. Owed to the British tax authorities and others, they total at least £1.3 million ($A2.5 million).

Tuesday's deal comes a day before the club is due in the High Court to face a winding-up petition. It would be their 18th winding-up petition since 2009.

With an estimated completion date of the start of next month for the takeover, Southend may have to seek another extension to the petition, the fourth, at Wednesday's hearing.

Rees' purchase follows that of fourth tier Swindon in 2021 by Sydney businessman Clem Morfuni, the founder of the Axis plumbing chain.

Rees is understood to have made his fortune in IT. On his LinkedIn page he says he is the co-founder of Eighty20 Solutions in which he is understood to have since sold a majority stake. He worked in London from 2008-2011 as an equities derivatives trader before returning to Australia to work for Westpac, then Transport for NSW. 

He has met with members of the club's staff and has also spoken to the local member of parliament.

Southend is a resort town on the Thames Estuary about 48km east of London known for its pier, billed as the world's longest at 2km.

Having been deducted ten points due to their unpaid debts the club are currently in 23rd place in the 24 team National League, the last non-regionalised tier in the English soccer pyramid. Teams are promoted from it to League Two in the EFL, which Southend dropped out of in 2021 after 101 years.

The club, known as The Shrimpers, have been owned by local businessman Ron Martin for 25 years. During that period they reached the second tier and in 2006 achieved a famous cup win over a Manchester United team that included Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo.

However, years of underinvestment led to the club sliding out of the EFL and supporters have been protesting against Martin's ownership for some time. 

A club statement said: "We can confirm that an agreement for the sale of the Club has been reached with a consortium led by Justin Rees.

"Everyone is working towards a completion date of 1 November 2023, that is when the consortium will formally take control of the Club.

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