Meanwhile, back at Bournemouth…
Posted by John Beech on March 18, 2010
Yet another winding-up petition from HMRC is reported as being about to hit the club (1). They are in arrears to the tune of £314,000, and had total debts earlier this month of £846,924 (2). Shockingly, this is actually an improvement on earlier debt levels, not a new low.
Chairman Eddie Mitchell’s solution is to get the fans to bail the club out, or to be more precise to bail his company out. Regular readers may recall a similar situation recently at Accrington Stanley (3), with the completely misleadingly named ‘Save our Stanley’ campaign – it should have been called ‘Save Stanley’s Board’.
Mitchell has called his scheme for dipping into fans’ pockets the ‘AFC Bournemouth Dedication Scheme’ a phrase that he might have borrowed from Spinmeister Ridsdale. Do the fans get anything in return for donating? Apart from a vague promise that the Bournemouth Echo describes thus ‘Should that debt be wiped out with the help of this scheme and through other revenue streams, donors would then have the potential incentive of receiving a possible return on their money if the club sells any of its assets, although there is no guarantee of receiving any cash back‘, no they don’t. In particular what might, and in my opinion should, be offered is shares. To put it another way, Mitchell expects the fans to help out but is completely unwilling to cede any control in the club in return.
Having visited Dean Court midweek last summer, I was taken by the enthusiasm of the fans I saw and commented “There was an air of activity to the stadium, perhaps reflecting the arrival of incoming Chairman Eddie Mitchell, and it was the only one of the three [I visited Southampton and Portsmouth on the same day] where there was a strong sense of involvement with the local community” (4).
Mitchell’s view is “What really made us think was after the fans’ forum, where I was approached by two people. One chap offered to donate £2,000 and another, a pensioner, offered to donate £1,000. We opened the post the following Monday and we had received a £25 cheque from a Fulham supporter and we received £125 from somebody else who donated. It led me to believe that there were a great deal of people out there that would like to join me and help get the club back to where it should be, with no or very little debts. I don’t feel it is prudent for us to actually ask for money, but if we pledge to return the money from selling of our assets, however long it takes, then people are perhaps not donating, but they are more helping the club.”
It’s the last word of that quote that I take exception to. They are being expected to help the company and its board rather than the club. A share issue would allow fans to help the club. Come on Eddie, let’s see fans getting involved rather than just subbing the owners. When you took over the club, you were asked whether the club was actively seeking investment. You replied: “We’d be very foolish not to” (5). Well, here’s a golden opportunity to demonstrate that you are not very foolish. Let fans invest rather than probably donate.