Fisher Athletic and the Brothers Muduroglu
Posted by John Beech on May 13, 2009
Brothers and football club ownership have, for reasons I readily admit that I cannot fathom, had a poor track record in English football. In the early eighties the publicity-shy Bhatti brothers led recent FA Cup semi-finalists and League Cup winners Wolves from the old Division 1 to Division 4 with three consecutive relegations, not to mention insolvency. In the three years from 1989 the Kumar brothers took Birmingham City into insolvency with the collapse of their other business interests.
More recently Crawley Town went into Administration in 2006 with debts of £1.1m under the guidance of the Majeed brothers. This particular saga hit the news again earlier last month when Azwar Majeed was jailed for three and a half years for cheating the revenue, contrary to common law, failure to keep sufficient accounting records and concealing criminal property, contrary to the Proceeds of Crime Act (1).
Latest manifestation of this ‘brothers phenomenon’ is at the Champion Hill stadium in East Dulwich. The stadium is home not only to Dulwich Hamlet FC of the Isthmian League Division 1 South but is also temporary home to Fisher Athletic, who are just about to depart the Football Conference South after a disastrous season on the pitch – their goal difference ending up at -78.
Fisher have been owned by the Muduroglu family since 2004 (2). Brother Eren is Chairman but plays a rather hands-off role as he is normally resident in Turin (3) and brother Sami is Eren’s spokesperson and club manager, although you would not know this from the club’s website, as there are ‘currently no staff profiles in our database’ (4). Sami was disqualified from acting as a company director for a period of 5 years in February 2005 (5).
At first all went well for Fisher under the Murduroglu family. In consecutive seasons they rose from the Southern league Eastern Division through the the Isthmian League Premier League to the Conference South.
Things started to go wrong for the club when the Muduoglus produced plans for a new stadium (6), with three possible options, the most expensive with a cost of £35m. This £35m option would have resulted in a 10,000 seater stadium with expressed hopes of it being used in London 2012. Well and good, except that the average home gate for Fisher this season has been 240, and that wouild only fall as Fisher were relegated. Very nearby Millwall, in League 1, have averaged 8461, for the record.
In November 2008 Eren Muduroglu suspended his financial backing, players started to leave, and player payments stopped (7). There followed a brief transfer embargo. As if these weren’t problems enough, in January HMRC started to seek a winding-up order over unpaid taxes, reported to be for £250k although the Muduroglus dispute the amount (8). Fisher earned a little breathing space at the end of April (9), but what was looking increasingly inevitable finally happened at the High Court today – Fisher were wound up (10).
What will become of the club remains unclear (although a resurrectionist ‘AFC’ has been mooted ), and equally uncertain is the future of the club’s now abandoned Surrey Docks Stadium, which is located not a million miles from the Surrey Quays Shopping Centre, part of a major regeneration project by the London Docklands Development Corporation.