Carlisle United’s chiefs have given the strongest suggestion yet that Edinburgh Woollen Mill will be involved in the future ownership of the club.

Co-owner John Nixon told a fans’ forum at Brunton Park that the hope was Philip Day’s city-headquartered business ‘will take a share and a chunk of the club’.

Nixon said he was sure that was ‘on their radar’ and that ‘succession’ talks at the Blues were now down to EFL “mechanics”.

Nixon said the club’s relationship with Edinburgh Woollen Mill (EWM) has been ‘good, honest and above board’ since they were first involved with sponsorship in the 2005/6 period – leading to their establishment of a loan facility to the club in 2017 which has seen the Blues borrow a seven-figure sum.

Nixon said: “It is our hope and belief we can turn that into a much more lasting relationship.”

He said EWM had ‘gradually’ built up their relationship with United, ‘not just lending money but lending support’.

“The next step we hope will happen is they will take a share and a chunk of the club…we're sure that's on their radar,” continued Mr Nixon.

“They don't like investing in things that aren't very good. It will make it easier if we have success on the field.”

Nixon admitted that he and his fellow owners, who have been at the helm since 2008, have ‘run out of cash’ to keep the club running.

He said to supporters who gathered for the forum: “You've been extremely patient with us. We've run out of cash. We don't have any more to spend. I can't put my family into debt just because I need to spend more on Carlisle United.

“You've got to believe me, we're trying to get there. I believe EWM are of the same mind and we will get there. But it will take time.”

Nixon referred to the EFL ‘having their fingers burned’ with other clubs going into crisis, so they now ask for evidence of two years’ worth of ‘source and sufficiency of funds’.

He said: “Clearly EWM have that; we just need it linked together. That's the route we want to take.”

Nixon added that fans’ trust CUOSC and supporters groups are behind the move, adding that the relevant parties ‘only have to go through the damned awkward mechanics to make it happen’.

"I can assure you we're trying," he added.

CUOSC’s Billy Atkinson said that discussions with EWM had shown that they see Carlisle United as an important part of the community.

Chief executive Nigel Clibbens, meanwhile, said the club had ‘made it clear’ to EWM – who have said very little about their role with the Blues – that fans want to hear more from them.

“But that's the way they want to play it,” he said. 

“We want to encourage them to get more involved. That means in the short term, doing it how they want to do it.

“We have to be open minded. You can be sceptical, but everything they've done in supporting the club has been positive. Until something different happens, we'll manage the club, be thankful for their support and hope it turns into something better.”

Clibbens added that there was ‘no deadline’ on anything with EWM coming to a head, adding: “That’s how it's always been. 

“Things are under review, we do what we can to push them along. We'll talk to them about the fan feeling in this meeting. They're as much a part of the community as Carlisle United.”

Earlier, co-owner Steven Pattison talked about others who had approached the club to take it over down the years.

He said: “We talk about this at every one of these meetings. Succession will only come when someone comes along who wants to buy the club.

“Every club is for sale. I personally would love to hand over the club to a billionaire or millionaire. To my knowledge, everybody that comes forward, they're chancers. They talk the talk..."

Pattison and Nixon both said a new owner would need to put in about £500,000 a season in an attempt to get out of League Two, that figure rising to £1 million in League One, and ‘telephone numbers’ in the Championship.

Nixon also said he and his co-owners, plus director Lord Clark, would be prepared to give their shares away for nothing in a takeover deal that could take the club forward. 

Nixon, Andrew Jenkins and Lord Clark have recently converted loans into non-voting B shares in the club, Clibbens saying all shareholder debt has now been ‘eliminated’.

Atkinson said this was also a way of ensuring the club did not incur ‘a load of tax’, adding that CUOSC's voting share of 25.4 per cent in United's holding company had been unaffected.

Clibbens said the club had been working hard behind the scenes to make the club more attractive for ‘succession’.

He said they had done a number of things. "One, stop losing hundreds of thousands of pounds. We had to fix that, it takes time, but we've sorted a lot of it.

"David [Holdsworth, director of football] is playing his part by getting better football deals.

"On the other side of the club, there's a lot we need to do.

"We've sorted the debt out [through owners converting debt to shares].

"With the shareholding and perception of CUOSC as a block - the relationship is good, so that won't be a blocker."

He also said the club's co-owners deserved credit for the personal guarantees they had provided for EWM's loans.

Clibbens said: "They deserve some respect for that. It is a commitment to the club."

Chairman Jenkins and EWM's club director John Jackson were not on the forum panel, which included Nixon, Pattison, Clibbens, Atkinson and director of football David Holdsworth.

EWM declined to comment when approached by in-Cumbria sister title the News & Star.

The EFL would not comment on the specifics of the situation at Carlisle. A spokesman said any talks over change of ownership at clubs is ‘solely a matter for the clubs’.