SEPARATING the sale of Southend United from the 1,300 homes plan at Fossetts Farm will “buy more time” but could risk the club being left with “no assets”, according to the leader of the council.

Labour Southend Council leader Daniel Cowan, who has been working closely with club chairman Ron Martin and Citizen Housing over the homes plan, believes “decoupling” the club’s sale from the property deal will help speed up progress.

However, he admitted there is now a risk the consortium, led by Justin Rees, will not own Roots Hall despite taking ownership of the Blues.

The Roots Hall stadium is heavily linked to the homes deal with 400 properties once planned for Roots Hall set to be built at the ground.

It comes after the consortium said the “only option” to save Southend United is completing the takeover of the club immediately regardless of the housing negotiations involving the council and Citizen Housing – fronted by Ron’s son Jack Martin.

Mr Cowan said: “Only the consortium can speak to their risk appetite, but a coupled and decoupled deal have equal levels of risk in different ways.

“By decoupling, the risk is that they are taking on a club with no assets, which is a risk.

“The risk with the coupled plan is they walk away and lose all the money, or that they keep putting it in.

“None of these options are without risk, it is the same as the property deal, where we are balancing the acceptability from the property side to the point where we aren’t unduly risking public money.”

Mr Cowan added that “by decoupling, they are ensuring they don’t walk away without owning the club”.

“In terms of ownership of Roots Hall, that needs to be discussed between the Martins and the consortium”, he added.

“What this all does is mean the ownership of the club is not contingent on the property deal happening imminently, it buys more time.

“If Ron wants to save the club, he has to arrange an immediate transfer of shares.”

Despite the risks, Mr Cowan does believe this is the best option to progress the Blues situation.

He said: “We have negotiated a highly complex land and property deal with our back against the wall and the clock at a minute to midnight.

“This gives us time and breathing space, we need the heads of terms done today but it gives us more time to do the due diligence on a new deal and to work through any issues that come up .

“This has been a massively welcome development, we wanted this to happen, since I got the job I have believed the only route was decoupling and it gives the club a viable lifeline.”