Why is his statement significant?

While Peace’s position on the loan has been known since the issue was first raised, the statement issued to The Times is the first time the former West Brom owner has gone on the record on the matter.

His statement read: “Certain independent shareholders have been grumbling for years since I sold shares in 2016, when they know that they have no basis for complaint. I want to make it clear that money was not borrowed from the football club to buy shares.

“There was nothing untoward or improper in respect of any of my dealings with West Bromwich Albion. I welcome an investigation to put an end, once and for all, to the baseless comments of a small group of shareholders.

“The loan made to West Bromwich Albion Holdings by the football club was on arm’s length and commercially attractive terms at a time when cash deposits elsewhere were (and still are) earning a much lower rate of interest.”

Why is the loan controversial?

The loan of £3.7 million was made in 2014 by the football club to West Bromwich Albion holdings, the company owned by Peace which hold a majority stake in the club.

Peace sold WBA Holdings in 2016 to Guochuan Lai, the current West Brom owner, with the loan transferred as part of the sale.

It has not been repaid and interest means the outstanding amount now stands at almost £5 million.

Some shareholders believe Peace used the money to increase WBA Holdings’ stake in the club, which stood at 88 per cent by the time he sold to Lai for between £175 million and £200 million.

Peace has always denied the claim.

What happens next?

At the request of Shareholders 4 Albion, a group representing some small shareholders, West Brom called a general meeting, which was delayed down to ‘lockdown’ but will now be held on July 29 at The Hawthorns.

S4A is calling for an independent investigation into the loan and for the club to use “all lawful and expedient steps to obtain repayment in full with interest”.

However, while the meeting will finally give shareholders a chance to air their grievances in person, Lai’s majority stake means he has the ability to vote down S4A’s two resolutions.

(Photo: Matthew Lewis/Getty Images)



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