Football Management

Commentary on the management of over 160 English football clubs by Dr John Beech, winner of the FSF Writer of the Year Award 2009/10 Twitter: @JohnBeech Curator of Scoop.it! Football Finance

Just how slow can a car crash be?

Posted by John Beech on July 3, 2011

On Tuesday we were told that the long-running Plymouth Argyle saga was on the verge of taking a significant turn according to Administrator Brendan Guilfoyle: “at a meeting with the preferred bidder held today, Tuesday, June 21, 2011, the terms of a formal sale and purchase agreement were agreed by both parties” (1).  These terms of course include the separation of ownership of the stadium and the club, invariably bad news for a club.

On Wednesday Peter Ridsdale, as ever the Spinmeister, announced “Our objective is to have [the deal] go through by the end of this week” (2), which, in my book at least, promptly increased the odds on this actually happening.

Sure enough, as I write, no deal has yet been announced.  Nor will any imminent deal have any significant impact on the longer term stability of the club.  There is still the issue of the club’s Golden Share to be resolved, and the potential fly in the ointment is Kevin Heaney, owner of Truro City Football Club and not entirely successful property developer (3).  Ridsdale happily purrs “Mr Heaney would only be the landlord of the [Home Park ground] and would have nothing to do with Plymouth Argyle Football Club. As long as the club is independently owned and financed, there is no reason why the Football League should complain.”  Predictably the Football  League’s chairman has promised that “the governing body will “rigorously enforce” its regulations before giving the takeover the green light” (4).  This is the Football League that rigorously enforced its regulations with respect to the anticipated removal of West Ham to Leyton Orient’s doorstep (5), so perhaps the Spinmeister has reason to be optimistic.  I doubt it however.

There is too the small matter of Ridsdale’s impending court case, which continues to cast a shadow over any new dawn in Argyle’s fortunes (details of the charges here).

As a Pompey fan, I am only too familiar with false dawns.  At present, the consensus among Portsmouth fans seems to be to give the new owners, Vladimir Antonov and Convers Sports Initiatives, a ‘fair chance’.  The Football League apparently have by sanctioning the takeover (6).  The Financial Services Authority were, against their general flow of approval, less inclined to allow another Vladimir Antonov business, the Lithuanian Bankas Snoras, to operate in the UK (7), the problem being a failure to provide all the required information to the regulator.  Another Antonov deal, the purchase of Spyker Cars from Saab attracted attention when there were allegations, strongly denied, that Antonov had links with the Russian mafia (8).

To me, it seems that, not only do we suffer from ineffective ‘Fit and Proper Person’ Tests in English football, we suffer from the lack of any Fit and Proper Governance Test.  While we are quick to (rightly) condemn what has been going on in FIFA of late, perhaps some mote-casting would be in order at the same time.

UPDATE – 5 July 2011

Apparently the deal is “all on track“, although presumably that’s the track with leaves on it.

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5 Responses to “Just how slow can a car crash be?”

  1. Rob said

    Another excellent article.

    The problem with the Fit & Proper Persons Test is that it boils down to what you have done in the past, with no real sanction unless you take clubs into administration twice in five years, or the law catches up with you first (and even then as we saw with Stephen Vaughan and Chester City, if a businessman is unscrupulous enough to rack up debts and not pay the bills, little things like the FAPPT and being disqualified as a director aren’t going to get in their way wither). The FAPPT needs to come with some sort of financial bond/deposit that’s only returned in the event that the club is in a solvent position when the director/owner leaves. I’d also not make the FAPPT apply for Trust director, as Trusts have their own mechanisms for removing their appointed board representatives.

    • John Beech said

      I’m with you Rob, but would probably go even further. To me, FAPPT + bond = licencing clubs.

  2. [...] Just how slow can a car crash be? (footballmanagement.wordpress.com) [...]

  3. “As long as the club is independently owned and financed, there is no reason why the Football League should complain,” says Ridsdale above.
    “Its going to take 12 months before we can get the club breaking even and as part of the initial purchase I want to make sure we can get enough money up to that point,” says Ridsdale to the BBC last month.
    “As part of that initial purchase”? So this “enough money” is coming from the preferred bidders, then? Not “independently financed”, then? The Football League should complain, then?
    Unless Ridsdale is funding things himself, even though he’s been working unpaid for Plymouth all year. He says.
    Right-o…

  4. [...] How slow can a car crash be? John Beech – Football Management [...]

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