A consortium aiming to take over Albion Rovers and rename the club Shamrock Rovers Coatbridge to 'tap into the town's Irish heritage' has called on the current Cliftonhill board to resign after overseeing the end of the club's 120-years in senior football.
Rovers were relegated from the SPFL last week after losing the Pyramid play-off final to Spartans and will now play in the Lowland League next season.
But it is a situation the 'Project Phoenix' consortium claim would never have happened had Rovers not rejected an initial takeover bid last summer.
The consortium still aspires to take control of Rovers and rebrand the club to reflect what it believes is the heritage, history and culture of the town's demographics, as part of a multi-million pound plan.
But they also admit they may acquire another club and become a local rival if Rovers continue to snub their plans.
Their project includes building a new 10,000 seater multi-purpose entertainment arena in Coatbridge within five years of rebranding the club to Shamrock Rovers Coatbridge.
The consortium, which is not affiliated with League of Ireland club Shamrock Rovers, claim the new arena would be the home of the rebranded club, an entertainment complex and would also be the home of a local GAA (Gaelic Athletic Association) football team, with training and coaching facilities for the local community and schools.
Among the proposals are an Irish-Scots Museum and cultural centre, which the consortium claims would create hundreds of new jobs in the area during construction and when operational.
London-based potential investor Paul Reilly, who hails from Coatbridge, met with Rovers chairman Ian Benton and the board last summer on behalf of UK, Irish and US investors with the intention of investing in and/or acquiring the club.
However, the rebranding of the 141-year-old club was shot down, despite the board being told the consortium's proposal was the only way to stop the Wee Rovers being relegated.
Rovers have confirmed they met with Mr Reilly but decided against moving forward as it "wasn't in the best interests of the club."
Almost a year later, the Monklands side are now facing up to life outside of the SPFL, with Mr Reilly insisting the current board are "killing the club" and must resign in their entirety to avoid oblivion.
In an exclusive interview, Mr Reilly, who operates in capital market activities and private equity, told Lanarkshire Live Sport: "This idea was rejected last year when it could have saved the club. The club would not have been relegated if this proposal was implemented last summer.
"We did an analysis of the club's demise over the past decades and we did a model based on maths which we were very confident in - and it doesn't take a brain surgeon to work this out - that showed the club was going to be relegated. This was presented to the board, but the name change was the problem.
"We are still going ahead and pushing for this - and we want the current board to resign.
"The board has to resign because they are killing the club, there is no doubt about it.
"You can't say you accept full responsibility for a club with a history of 120 years in senior football falling out of the SPFL when you were told long ago that it was going to happen.
"You have to fall on your sword. There is no other business in the world where that would not happen.
"They have destroyed that club. The club is in existential threat - this is not just about falling into a lower league.
"This is about Coatbridge possibly not having a football team.
"We all know the saying about the definition of madness - and it is being played out here.
"Trying to do the same thing over and over again to give you different results is ludicrous.
"We have said to them if this is not a route you wish to go down, we will acquire a club from the lower leagues or another SPFL team, bring them to Coatbridge and do it with them instead.
"The club is at the tipping point where it has to change course.
"The only way to change that is to get positive momentum and the only way for that to happen is through the removal of the board in its entirety.
"There is no ambition there and the club requires a whole new rebranding, new ideas and positive momentum to reverse the trajectory of that club to get it back in the SPFL.
"They couldn't even sustain their place in the SPFL, so what makes them think they are going to get out of a lower league with the same model?
"It is utterly ridiculous."
The name change is non-negotiable for the consortium, who insist it is fundamental to making every facet of their proposal successful.
But this did not go down well with the Rovers board, which currently includes Mr Benton, Liam Nugent, Mark Hunter, Jordan Campbell, Robert Cameron, Alan Benton and David Hancock, while former chairman Eddie Hagerty has recently stepped down.
Asked why the consortium had chosen Shamrock Rovers Coatbridge, Mr Reilly explained: "Coatbridge is very much a unique town in Scotland and the UK itself with its demographics, history and culture.
"There is huge potential there.
"And the reason Shamrock Rovers Coatbridge was picked is because there is still an element of 'The Rovers' there to acknowledge the club from the past.
"I am from Coatbridge originally and I know from growing up there, most football fans went to either Celtic Park or Ibrox.
"The majority went to Celtic Park and on weekends where Celtic weren't playing, if Rovers were being successful or being competitive they would get an overspill of Celtic fans going to Rovers games.
"Albion Rovers' fanbase is minute and the data shows that.
"It has an average gate of 250 fans.
"So this was put to the chairman and the financial director. They were interested, but I could see a squirm on their faces about the name change.
"The club has to have a connection to its fanbase and, growing up in Coatbridge, I would say the population is disconnected from the club itself.
"I would not go and pitch Shamrock Rovers Coatbridge to a football team in Larkhall.
"Let's not beat around the bush here. We live in the West of Scotland.
"We are not trying to make it about religion or anything like that but you have to cater for your customer base.
"Coatbridge is very much, historically, a town of Irish culture and demographic.
"We have taken soundings from many groups and an idea like this has been floated for decades, but nobody has ever come up with a plan. We have a rock solid proposal and a plan.
"Rovers did not need to be relegated this season. They were given a proposal last year that would have increased the revenue of the club instantly, but I believe this wasn't even put to shareholders by the board.
"We could have put a fund in place within weeks that would have boosted funding for a new team and a team that would have sustained them within the league.
"We also told them our proposal was a modern one based on an American multi-revenue business model.
"A football club or sports brand can no longer be sustained by gate receipts.
"There has to be more and we have that model.
"We would look to increase the capacity at the stadium because we anticipated that we could have got crowds in the region of 2,000 purely by rebranding the club and making it a much more modern and digitally-focused football club, and entertainment business."
The consortium believes they have the backing from the local community for their proposals.
And it is Mr Reilly's understanding that some fans are planning protests against the current board.
He added: "We have spoken to groups in Coatbridge in the past year or two and we have a lot of support for this idea.
"A lot of the fans and some of the shareholders are actually behind us.
"But there is no point in us acquiring five to 10 per cent of the club. It has to be a complete takeover for the proposals to be implemented.
"As far as I am concerned the whole board is culpable for the current situation.
"I have spoken to fans and there are going to be protests next season because the board is killing the club."
Albion Rovers were approached for comment and they issued a short statement, which read: "The board at the time considered this proposal in good faith and genuinely felt it was not in the best interests of Albion Rovers Football Club."
A website has been set up at www.shamrockroverscoatbridge.com for those interested in Project Phoenix to register for updates on their plans.
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