The FA’s strange sense of priorities
Posted by John Beech on July 2, 2009
If you were trying to choose the most troubled club of 2008/09, Halesowen Town (aka The Yeltz) of the Southern League Premier Division would be up there among the hot favourites.
Back in August 2007 the entire board stood down, with out-going Chairman Nigel Pitt agreeing to fund the club until the following May (1). At a Special Meeting in May 2007 it was stated that on the one hand the club was in a relatively stable financial station (only one debt, for the floodlights), but, on the other, the operational budget was running at a deficit, something clearly unsustainable in the long term (2).
In September it was announced that Morrell Maison had been appointed manager (3) and a few weeks later that new owners had bought the club (4). Since then I have been unable to trace any formal announcement of who the new owners were or are. The local press has slowly but surely begun to describe Morrell Maison as the club owner however.
As part of the ill-defined, at least publicly, takeover, Ron Atkinson was brought in as Director of Football (5) and Maison promised a major shake-up at the club (6). Big Ron decided to move rapidly on however in February 2008 (7).
At the end of May 2008 a strategy for the future is set out (8). Two of the guiding principles are declared as “to exercise business transparency and practise an appropriate level of corporate governance” and “to successfully balance sporting success and ambition with prudent financial management”.
Things start to go wrong early in the new season however, and the police say they will be investigating an alleged assault after the game at Chippenham (11).
“JANUARY: Angry parents lash out after the club breaks a promise to provide more than 100 junior football kits. Yeltz revealed to be at least £15,000 in debt. FA impose a transfer embargo after contract dispute with defender Tom Bryant.
MARCH: Maison banned from football for 12 months after being found guilty fo violent conduct in relation to altercation with striker Dean Brennan after league game at Chippenham. Ban later reduced to three months on appeal.
APRIL: Yeltz briefly suspended from football for failure to pay contracted monies to players and other clubs. Finish 10th in Southern Premier and are docked three points for fielding an ineligible player.
MAY: Barred from next season’s FA Cup and FA Trophy for failing to pay gate receipts to last season’s opponents Maidstone United and Durham City.
JUNE: FA impose registration restriction for failing to pay football creditors, while threat of complete ban also resurfaces. ” (14)
Now the total suspension of the club by the FA may or not have been deserved, and the same can be said of this threat of a second ban for failing “to pay off football creditors, believed to be a former player and two clubs” (15). You or may not see this ultimate sanction as draconian in the light of what could hardly be described as best practice in football management.
What strikes me as downright wrong though is that the sanction is considered appropriate when it comes to football creditors, but when a club owes HMRC hundreds of thousands of pounds for National Insurance payments for their staff, and VAT, money which is collected by the club on behalf of HMRC, no such sanction is imposed, or any action taken until the club enters Administration.
Does this bring the game into good repute? Rather the opposite, I would suggest.