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

Archive for the ‘Stadium’ Category

Content at Coventry?

Posted by John Beech on September 7, 2014

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As  the Ricoh electronic sign facing the road running past the stadium puts it, Welcome Home Coventry City.  Undoubtedly it was an emotional moment on Friday evening to see the end of exile in Northampton.  This display of emotion by ACL, the Ricoh company, was lessened to some extent by the fact that that it is one of a series of advertisements that cascade, so not entirely overwhelming.  Among the others is one declaiming ‘NERF WARS Ten players for £99′.  Turf Wars might be nearer the truth.

A return to the Ricoh has been from the very beginning a no brainer.  Everybody lost with the move to Northampton – Sisu, through the boycott by Coventry City fans (although I suspect that the massive drop in gates was not solely out of reasoned protest by ‘real fans’ but also done to inconvenience for the less less-committed, but still important financially, fans.

I suspect that ACL, recognising what a no brainer the return was, always anticipated a return.  The club logo, visible through the left-hand sector of the elliptical frame, never disappeared from the stadium throughout the period of exile, a slightly unnerving take on reality.

The details of the current ceasefire in the war between ACL and Sisu are subject to commercial confidentiality.  The fact that a professional mediator was involved suggests to me that concessions were eventually made by both parties.  Sisu have put on a bold face on and still talk bullishly but vaguely in terms of a new stadium, while ACL have not swung the might of their PR company Weber Shandwick into overdrive.

What little is known as fact is that the new agreement is one for two years with the option of a further two years.  Seven years in and £40m+ sunk into the club by Sisu, SISU are far from OUT.  Dreams of a Pompey-style takeover of the club by the Sky Blue Trust remain just that.

However jubilant fans may feel, there is little at a deeper level to celebrate, and they need to recognise that the ‘war’ is not over.  They may be content to watch football at where they see as the rightful home of the club, but until more fundamental issues are fully resolved, we are now in a clod war scenario, with the prospect that hostilities will resume as we come up to the end of the current two-year ceasefire.  Whatever deal has been reached over rent and matchday revenues is inevitably a compromise.  The depressing reality is that neither Sisu nor ACL cannot afford to compromise as they both need all the monies in question.

One unknown in the equation is how many fans will maintain an anti-Sisu boycott.  It will be interesting to see the level at which attendances settle as the season progresses.

Posted in Assets, Fans, Investors, Matchday revenues, Ownership, Revenues, Stadium, Trusts | 4 Comments »

Moving on from ‘SISU OUT’

Posted by John Beech on August 15, 2014

It was a difficult choice of topic after so many months, but Coventry City is probably the obvious choice for me – I live about a mile from the old Highfield Road ground and could hear the roar on matchdays.

By chance, I was turning out last week and came across a copy of the Coventry Observer from 20 December 2007. My reason for keeping it was apparent on page 3 – two stories which began thus:

  • Last minute deal secures football club’s future
    Coventry City were just half an hour away from going into administration when pen was finally put to paper on a long-awaited takeover deal.
    with the clock ticking towards Friday’s 4pm deadline for a deal to be struck, the Sky Blues confirmed shortly before 3.30pm, the takeover by SISU Capital was going ahead – securing the club’s future and banishing the threat of administration…

  • Arena pledges support for club’s future
    Ricoh Arena chiefs have pledged to support SISU Capital’s efforts to return Coventry City to the Premier League…

Clearly much has changed since December 2007. The club had been through a disastrous period in the years immediately before. Debts had been reported as running as high as £38 million; year after year the club made operating losses; and investing in the new £60m stadium had proved a step too far. Indeed, the stadium, the brainchild of the club’s then Chairman, Bryan Robinson, had only become reality by the club passing the stadium project over to Arena Coventry Ltd (ACL), a joint venture company consisting of Coventry City Council (50%) and the Alan Edward Higgs Charity (50%), a trust set up to help deprived children from Coventry.

The then owners of the club – the major shareholders, owning 90%, were Craigavon (City MP Geoffrey Robinson’s family trust, and Sir Derek Higgs, son of Alan Edward Higgs) – announced their intention of placing the club into Administration. Apart from Sisu, the only potential buyer was ‘Greek billionaire businessman Alki David’, who rapidly backed off when he realised the scale of the debts he would inherit.

The club thus stood, to borrow the recent words of David Conn (or a Guardian sub-editor perhaps) on the edge of an abyss.

Coming in then as saviours of a club in distinct danger of liquidation, how then did we reach today’s situation of repeated legal confrontation and the club’s exile?

Sisu were by their own admission new to the football business. They brought in football business experts such as Ray Ranson and Ken Dulieu. Their judgement proved questionable and both departed. As the performance on the pitch deteriorated and the club suffered a further relegation to League 1, the fans became severely disenchanted, a situation compounded by Sisu’s almost non-existent transparency or engagement with the fans.

Opposition to Sisu became public and organised, and we drifted into phases of protest characterised by a series of slogans.

The first of these was the unequivocal SISU OUT. Understandable though this was, in my eyes it always seemed at best only half a strategy – and what next? The further Sisu sank funds into the club, the less likely it was that anyone else would want to buy the club. In the six and a half years of Sisu’s ownership only the brief appearance of Preston Haskell IV presented any viable alternative to Sisu. It became abundantly clear that a presumption of the SISU OUT slogan – that Sisu were willing to sell – was ill-founded, and even wishful-thinking.

The straw that broke the back of many fans was the decision of Sisu, in an attempt to force ACL’s hand in the increasingly bitter disputes over rent and matchday revenues, to take the club into exile at Northampton. We then entered a phase where the slogan of choice was BRING CITY HOME. A perfectly simple proposition on the face of it, but one which begged the intractable questions of how and under what conditions.

The most recent phase has seen protests with banners saying LET DOWN, which begs the question of by whom. Moz Baker of the Sky Blue Trust when interviewed on local television earlier this week cited Sisu and the Football League, and it’s not hard build an argument for either nomination. I would add to this list ACL and its joint owners, Coventry City Council and the Alan Edward Higgs Trust. I would also add to the list the previous owners of the club, for it was they who precipitated the current situation by deciding to move away from the old stadium at Highfield Road, which resulted in the separation of ownership of the club and its stadium.

From a business perspective, it is perfectly understandable and indeed reasonable that the club owners would want the matchday revenues, particularly with the restraints that Financial Fair Play protocols now place on spending . Equally understandable and indeed reasonable is that the owners of the stadium would also want the matchday revenues, particularly as the football stadium is the core of the revenue generating potential of the infrastructure.

So, we are in the situation where the entrenched positions of the two main proponents are understandable and reasonable from their own perspectives. The only way out of the impasse would be compromise by one or both parties. At present we have a war of attrition. There are unsubstantiated rumours that talks are taking place between Sisu and ACL. If true, we can only hope that ‘jaw jaw’ will stop ‘war war’. The present situation with the club in exile is patently bad for the owners of the club, for the owners of the stadium, and, above all, for the fans, and indeed for the Council Tax payers in Coventry (of which I must put my hand up as being one). The only gainers are the lawyers.

A return to the Ricoh is a no brainer. There must surely be some way forward through compromise.

 

[A reminder – this is a personal blog which is moderated.  Abusive comments will not be posted; counter-views are not considered inherently abusive.]

 

Posted in Assets, Cashflow, Debts, Football League, Governance, Insolvency, Ownership, Revenues, Stadium, Strategy | 4 Comments »

Opening a can of worms?

Posted by John Beech on March 27, 2013

The varying relationship between football clubs and their local councils I have, in a previous posting, described as a postcode lottery.  It is often a vital one, especially when the stadium sits at the heart of an issue.  I am of course particularly aware of this as a resident of Coventry, where a protracted dispute lingers on with ever more serious potential consequences, as those who follow my news tweets (@JohnBeech) will be aware.  (Even after the High Court hearing yesterday there are unanswered questions, so I’m going to pass on commenting until things are clearer.)

The European Commission is not a body which ever normally prompts me to write about football, but a recent news item had set me thinking.  The report (1) referred to an in-depth investigation by the European Commission into the relationships between five Dutch councils and their local football clubs.  The concern was with whether there had been any breaches of EU law in the way that the councils may possibly have given illegal state aid to the clubs.

The full official report on the EC’s investigation so far can be found here.  The specific findings to date on the five clubs under investigation are given below:

Name of club

Year of measure

Description

NEC (1st league) 2010 Municipality of Nijmegen bought off a claim made by NEC for €2.2 million.
MVV (2nd league) 2010 Municipality of Maastricht waived a claim of € 1.7 million on MVV and bought the stadium for €1.85 million.
Willem II (1st league) 2010 Municipality of Tilburg lowered rent of stadium with retroactive effect, total advantage €2.4 million.
PSV (1st league) 2011 Municipality of Eindhoven bought land from PSV for €48.385 million and leased it back to this club.
FC Den Bosch (2nd league) 2011 Municipality of Den Bosch waived a claim of €1.65 million on FC Den Bosch and bought training facilities for €1.4 million.

It is not the enormity of the potential crimes that set me thinking, rather their almost mundane nature.  In England, were there clubs who would find themselves in similar, if not identical circumstances, inadvertently being guilty of receiving illegal state aid?  On the face of it, the answer is surely ‘yes’.

Certainly there are English clubs which rent their stadiums from the local council as the owner of the stadium.  There are equally certainly others who have received financial support in building new stadiums.

What really set me thinking about all of this was the accidental discovery of a report that Spanish clubs may also be under investigation.  This I came across in the 7th March issue the print edition of the English language version of the respected newspaper El Pais (not, I have to be honest, part of my regular reading material – it was a freebie on a flight from Madrid to Munich).  I’ve been unable to find the report in English on the newspaper’s website (but the original Spanish is here).

The report implied that the Spanish investigation was not taking place in a pubic way – there was an inferred secrecy surrounding it.  Could it be that the football clubs of yet other nations were under investigation?

If such an investigation were (and you’ll note my cautionary use of the subjunctive) to take place with respect to English clubs, which might have cause for concern?

Given my clear admission that I am not a legal expert, for once I would positively encourage readers’ comments.  I would particularly like to hear the views of legal academics who specialise in football clubs (and even post-games Olympic stadiums, and post-Commonwealth-games stadiums!).

Posted in Stadium | Tagged: | 6 Comments »

The stadium curse

Posted by John Beech on December 3, 2012

The topics of the stadium which has become separated from its club in ownership terms, and the mixed blessing that a new stadium can bring, are ones that I have covered in previous postings (see postings passim).

The battle over Fratton Park is shortly to be resolved in court (1).  The twisted history of Portsmouth’s financial ills and, indeed, its ownership ills seem to be moving towards a denouement.  Certainly as a member of the Pompey Supporters Trust, and a strong advocate of fan ownership, I want the Trust to ‘win’ the case (they are not a directly participating party, hence the quotation marks).  The case for a much lower valuation is a strong one, and for once I’m optimistic that the result will, for once, go the right way.  If it doesn’t, it will almost certainly mean the liquidation of the club, and the fight to establish a resurrection club will begin in earnest no doubt.

Nearer to home, literally, as I live and work in Coventry, if not metaphorically, the issue of the ownership of the Ricoh is almost as prominent on my radar.

Its origins go back to the heady days when Coventry was enjoying a notably long and unbroken run in the top flight, dating back to 1967 and the managership of Jimmy Hill.  Its then stadium at Highfield Road dated from 1899, and, with a post-Taylor capacity of approximately 23,500, it lacked any of the facilities that a Premier League stadium needed to compete from a business point of view.  It was not a million miles from Fratton Park to be honest.

In 1997, under the Chairmanship of Bryan Richardson, grand plans were announced for an ultra-modern stadium to be built on a brown-field site on the northern edge of the city, close by Junction 3 of the M6 (and adjacent to the Coventry-Nuneaton railway line).  Arena 2000, as it was originally to be called, was to be the envy of many a self-respecting Premier League, with a retractable roof and a removable pitch, making it ideal for other revenue-generating activities such as pop concerts.  What could possibly go wrong?

Well, just about everything:

  • The brown-field site, which had been the site of Foleshill Gasworks, proved problematic.  Contamination of the site required two years of remedial work to make it reusable (2).
  • The club was being operated unsustainably.  By 2003 debts were at a level of £20 million (3) and continued to rise (4) and rise (5).
  • On the pitch, Gordon Strachan failed in the battle to keep the club up in 2001.
  • In 2002 it was only possible for the building project to continue with the formation of a new joint company, Arena Coventry Limited (6), 50% owned by Coventry City Council and 50% by the Alan Edward Higgs Charity, a wealthy local charity for children which has a strong sports interest.
  • Sponsorship of the stadium by local car manufacturer Jaguar, itself under financial pressure, fell through as production of their cars in Coventry ceased (7).

To cut a long and tortuous story short, the stadium was built, but to a significantly lower specification than originally planned (capacity was reduced to 32,500), Ricoh took on the sponsorship, and Championship Coventry played their first game there in 2005.  Not that this proved a particular turning point for the club.  In 2007 a potentially club-saving takeover by American consortium Manhattan Sports Capital Partners fell through (8).  Then, having come within twenty-five minutes of going into Administration, the club was acquired by venture capitalists SISU (9).

Although SISU planned to buy at least the 50% of the shares owned by the Alan Edward Higgs Charity, this has not happened, and the club continues to rent the stadium from Arena Coventry Limited.  From the club’s financial perspective, the stadium is thus a monthly liability rather than the major asset and revenue generator originally envisaged.

Relegation from the Championship to League 1 in 2011 exacerbated an already difficult situation.  Attendances and revenues were hit.  The agreed rent, reported to be £100,000 per month, became significantly unrealistic for a League 1 club to sustain.  Again cutting a long story short, the owners and club have been unable to agree a compromise rent that is realistic, and the club, SISU that is, started a ‘rent strike’ in March last year (10).  Obviously this is a situation that cannot run on indefinitely, and in the last few weeks matters have come to a head, with both sides apparently digging their heels in and maintaining collision course.  On the one hand, Deputy Conservative leader John Blundell says that ACL may have to seek a winding-up order over the unpaid arrears (11), while on the other Coventry City Chief Executive Tim Fisher accuses Arena Coventry Limited of pulling out of talks (12).  Whatever the rights and wrongs of the respective protagonists, some compromise needs to be reached, and rapidly.

As well as the two confrontational tales of Fratton Park and the Ricoh, there is a crumb of comfort on the stadium front at Stockport County’s Edgeley Park (13) where a deal has been announced that will see the club running the stadium at a reduced rent and retaining the revenues from it.  Let’s hope there will positive news to report shortly from both Coventry and Portsmouth.

Posted in Assets, Investors, Ownership, Stadium, Trusts | Tagged: , , , , | 7 Comments »

Pompey – the turning point?

Posted by John Beech on November 20, 2012

I’ve not blogged recently on the Pompey basket case.  Not because there wasn’t much happening, but rather because there has been almost too much happening to stop and take a coherent view.  In fact, the last time I posted was back in March 2011, when I commented “Portsmouth City Football Club Ltd. is dead – long live Portsmouth Football Club (2010) Ltd.!” (1), and it reads today like some historical piece, and at least a tad ironic to boot – the tagline was “Onward and upward at Portsmouth?

The announcement that a conditional sale to the Pompey Supporters Trust has been agreed (2) brings at least some sort of turning point.

That the alternative bid from Balram Chainrai was turned down by the Administrator can only be good news – just how many times can the same person ‘save’ a club?  Trevor Birch’s choice may or may not have been influenced by the blogs of Micah Hall (3), but certainly the lack of response to the questions Micah posed to Tavistock Communications, Portpin’s PR company, spoke volumes.  Micah’s digging deserves an award, and shows how far a fan can go in the bigger picture of financial decision-making.

The fly in the ointment of the sale is, of course, the issue of the value that Chainrai is trying to place on Fratton Park.  Unless he finally decides to bow out gracefully, accepting that he made a very bad business call, the matter will go to court.  With independent valuations at a much lower level, the Trust stands a very good chance of getting the desired result.

There is also the matter of a potential further ten points deduction on coming out of Administration.  Here I am less optimistic.  I fear it will be yet more evidence that the deduction of points is an entirely dysfunctional sanction, but let’s not burn our bridges before we come to them.

All-in-all, there does finally seem to be a light at the end of the tunnel, and this hopefully will prove a turning point in the club’s miserable fortunes.

In the bigger picture, it may well prove to be a turning point in the road to fan ownership of clubs.  It does need to be seen though as one of many turning points, as I’m sure Brentford. Chester, Exeter Wrexham, and Wimbledon fans, and that’s not a definitive list, would be quick to point out.  It’s significance will depend on how well the hybrid model involving High Net Worth Individuals will work in practice.  If it does work, it will doubtless encourage the Supporters Trusts at bigger clubs such as Liverpool, Manchester United and Newcastle.

As a member of the Pompey Supporters Trust, I feel considerably more confident regarding the future than I have for a very long time.  I’ve even put a bottle of bubbly in the fridge, but I’ll not actually open it though until Fratton Park is in the fans’ hands.  The only certainty is the debt of gratitude Pompey fans owe to the PST Board.  Let’s show our gratitude by uniting behind them.

Posted in Community, Fans, Insolvency, Ownership, Points deduction, Sanctions, Stadium, Trusts | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

So, is it really ‘goodbye Bluebirds, hello Red Dragons’?

Posted by John Beech on June 7, 2012

Like the old joke about anti-social behaviour in a lift, what is happening at Cardiff City is just plain wrong at so many levels.

The root causes of the problem lie in Sam Hammam’s decision to build a new stadium, the resulting deep financial difficulty that Cardiff got themselves into with Langston and the Damoclean debt hanging over the club as a result, and Peter Ridsdale’s decision to involve the club in what was, from the first, described as a ‘strategic marketing alliance’ with Malaysian investors (1).  As he said at the time, “It will be a long-term alliance.  It will include youth development, it will include the opportunity to explore the whole fan base.  It will certainly include sponsorship.  We are already talking to them about shirt sponsorship and stadium naming rights without any definite conclusions at this stage.  We are also talking about their assistance in trying to put this club on the sort of financial footing that we would have liked to dream of when I first arrived at this football club.

Needless to say, there was no public talk of the shirt sponsorship involving what has just been announced.

Indeed, as recently as 10 May Dato Chan Tien Ghee said, in an open letter to fans, wrote:

The new club crest and home colours which were being discussed were intended to demonstrate the symbolic fusion of Welsh and Asian cultures through the use of the colour red and the predominant featuring of a historical Welsh dragon under the Cardiff City FC name. This would have been a springboard for the successful commercialisation and promotion of the club and its brand, driving international revenues and allowing us to fund transfers and success locally, thereby giving the club the best chance of competing at the higher reaches of competition.

This was not meant as a slight in any way shape or form on the club’s traditions or history which we recognise are the lifeblood of any club. It was intended as a positive change to allow us to adapt and embrace the future. Notwithstanding a number of rumours there were no further plans to turn the stadium red or make other radical changes. ” (2)

His use of “were being discussed” and “would have been” must have suggested to many, including myself, that the rebranding of club with a change in shirt colour and change in logo were now a dead duck, a not unreasonable understanding as he continued In the light of the vociferous opposition by a number of the fans to the proposals being considered as expressed directly to our local management and through various media and other outlets, we will not proceed with the proposed change of colour and logo and the team will continue to play in blue at home for the next season with the current badge.

He kept his word for less than a month.

In his open letter he also alluded to the current instability in the club’s business model thus: “It is clear to all concerned that the club simply cannot continue to function and exist in its current state, effectively losing large amounts of money each month, while acquiring more and more debt.”  No one can reasonably disagree with view.

In the debate that has broken out in the last couple of days since the announcement of the decision to do a U-turn (3), or to use the language you might expect from someone engaged in a ‘strategic marketing alliance’ – “Following a comprehensive review of wider supporter feedback via email, letters, media coverage and polls run via the official Supporters Club and Media Wales and as a consequence of the above commitment, Cardiff City Football Club will also reactivate rebranding proposals with a view to exploiting and maximising its brand and commercial revenues in international markets” – attitudes seem to have become polarised into two camps.  On the one hand, what is happening is a Faustian pact which involves selling the soul of the club.  On the other, the club’s survival depends on a business plan that will result in untold wealth pouring in from new fans in the Far East.  As is so often the case, it is difficult to engage in debate regarding the relative merits of these two views because they are based on different meanings of the word ‘club’ (4).  The present attempt at debate assumes that these are two mutually exclusive and opposed views, and that there are no other possibilities, no room for overlap, and no possibility of compromise.  That certainly seems to be the view of the Malaysian investors.  Which raises a number of issues in itself.

It suggests that the future of the club hangs on the fickleness of future supporters in the Far East who a) would support a club in a red shirt but not one in a blue shirt, and that b) providing the club’s shirt is red and has a dragon on it they will support in sufficient numbers to pay off the rest of the ‘Langston debt’, reinvigorate the club’s fortunes (in both senses of the word), and allow the investors to see a return on their investment.  As to a), I think this is simplistic and over-stated.  As to b), I can understand the Malaysian investors looking to the marketing success of Manchester United, but they might better have a word with Balram Chainrai, or those behind the K&K Shonan Management Corporation (5), erstwhile ‘saviours’ of Plymouth Argyle.

What is happening at Cardiff is little short of seeing owners who view a club as a commodity which can have some brand value spray-painted onto it to make it stand out from the rest.  A simple question to Dato Chan Tien Ghee – if the key to your success lies in owning a red club, why didn’t you buy a red one?  If the answer is simply ‘Well, Peter hadn’t got a red one in his briefcase to show us’, God preserve us.

Others have tried this drastic rebranding, with some commercial success.  An obvious example is that of SV Austria Salzburg, which Red Bull bought and rebranded as FC Red Bull Salzburg in 2005, complete with change in club colours and logo.  The new club has enjoyed considerable success since the takeover, but the old club had also, and that is where the comparison begins to break down.  Red Bull bought an already successful club and turned it into an even more successful one.  But in doing so they alienated fans to such an extent they started a new club, which they called SV Austria Salzburg, and which has already climbed, Wimbledon and FC United of Manchester style, from the seventh tier of the Austrian football pyramid to the third tier.

I’ll leave my final thought to the SV Austria Salzburg fans who are reported as having raised this banner in the past few days.

Posted in Cashflow, Debts, Fans, Investors, Marketing, Merchandising, Ownership, Stadium, Strategy | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

Round the Lower Levels Part 2

Posted by John Beech on December 21, 2011

At last, Part 2 of my overview of what is happening from a broad financial perspective.  Part 1 ran alphabetically up to Prescot Cables, and is available here.  With a slight jump backwards, we pick it up with:

  • Port Vale
    An interesting case of ‘fan ownership’.  Valiant 2001 bought the club from the Administrators in 2003 (1) – the club had debts of £2.4m and was said to be losing £500,000 a year (2) – and in doing so avoided the real threat that football might have disappeared from Vale Park (3).
    Survival has been a battle, with the problem of sponsors not paying and a threatened takeover (4), and the need for a loan from Stoke City Council (5).  Nevertheless the club managed to complete its CVA in May 2005 and to come out of Administration in October 2006.  Meanwhile local boy Robbie Williams had bought shares for an undisclosed sum (6).  However Chairman Bill Bratt had “taken the club as far as I can” by September 2008 (7), but was denying takeover rumours the following month (8).
    Into the New Year and a row was brewing over the apparently different involvement with local rivals Stoke City by the council (9).  Bratt attempted to clarify the club’s difficulties here, and pointed out his already considerable commitment to the club (10).
    Fan opposition to the way the board was running the club mounted, and Bratt pointed out the obvious:

    Supporters have protested against the board in recent weeks, and Bratt said it could be potentially destructive.
    “If we go, what happens? We fold immediately. If that’s what they want, they could take the club down, not the board,” said Bratt.
    He added: “I’m quite happy to walk away from this club right now, but the banks and creditors would come in straight away, and there’s no Plan B in place. (11)

    Plans B, C and D have however emerged in recent years – the failed attempts by various parties to invest in the club (Harlequin Properties (12); Mike Newton (13); Mo Chaudry (14); and most recently Blue Sky International (15)), although there has been investment by Peter Miller (16).
    All the uncertainty has prompted an attempt by fans to oust the board (17).
    All very sad.  The days of fan-benefactors like Jack Hayward, Jack Walker and Steve Gibson seem to have gone, and fans need to be clear in discriminating between ‘fan-owned’ and ‘Supporters Trust owned’.

  • Portsmouth
    I’d planned to avoid blogging about Pompey until the situation became clearer, but it hardly seems reasonable not to comment in this context.
    The immediate situation sounds reasonable, with the immediate possibility of points deduction probably not on the Football League’s agenda (see previous posting).  The issue is just how long the ‘immediate’ will last – current indications are that it will all too brief, with time and money running out sometime next month.  Whether Keith Harris will have been able to weave his magic in finding a buyer before then (18) seems unlikely – Pompey are hardly the most attractive of clubs to buy in their present mess (19).  I have it on good authority that even the liquidation of the ‘oldco’ is proving to be contentious.
    Administration for the club (as opposed to the existing Administration of CSI) looks increasingly likely, with its inevitable 10 points deduction, threat to keeping up the CVA payments (and further points deduction).
    Increasingly liquidation and resurrection by the Pompey Supporters Trust looks the only viable longer-term scenario.
  • Rossendale United
    The club did not reapply for membership of the North West Counties Football League at the start of this season (20), and a new club is being resurrected (21).  News is scant, any local informed input would be appreciated.  See also my posting in March where I argued that the club was a classic case of Benefactor Withdrawal Syndrome (BWS).
  • Rothwell Town
    In October the Rowellian Football Social Club (trading as Rothwell Town Football Club) did go into Administration (22).  Again, any local informed input would be appreciated.
  • Rushden & Diamonds
    Following their expulsion from the Conference (23), the club tried but failed to get into the Southern Premier League (24), and went into Administration (25).  That appears to be the end of the club in this manifestation, but an AFC Rushden is being formed (26).
    This seems to be another case BWS, although perhaps with twists yet to emerge…
  • Southend United
    In November the club announced “Roots Hall Development Moves Closer” (27).  So, nothing new there then.  Meanwhile, the Fossetts Fantasy Farm project has been “has been removed from the [Council’s] capital programme until the certainty of developer contribution can be ascertained” (28).
  • Truro City
    The club owned by Kevin Heaney, wannabe owner of Plymouth Argyle, is in deep, deep trouble.  Wages have been unpaid (29) and the ‘Stadium for Cornwall’ project now has a big question mark hanging over it (30).
    HMRC are chasing tax debts of over £100.000, and the club has until January 16 to come up with the money or face a winding-up order (31).
  • Wakefield
    A not entirely unfamiliar story here too (32), with unpaid wages and money owed by a sponsor (33).

All too worryingly, I could start going round the alphabet again, with various tales of various woes at Barnet (34), Cheltenham (35), Chorley (36), Coventry (37), Croydon Athletic (38) and Dorchester Town (39), although at least the last of these has a positive side, a possible takeover by Dorchester Town Supporters Trust.

It looks as if the race is definitely on for the club to face the first insolvency event of 2012.  February is the second highest peak for insolvency events (behind may), so it could well be a close run thing.

I’m beginning to wind down (or is it up?) for Christmas, so, in case I don’t post again in the next few days, a very Happy Christmas, or Bah Humbug (delete as you consider appropriate), to all readers.

Posted in Benefactors, Debts, HMRC, Insolvency, Ownership, Stadium | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Round the lower levels Part 1

Posted by John Beech on November 28, 2011

Plenty has been happening once you look down the football pyramid since I last gave a general overview.  The continually flashing lights on my radar screen have of course been Plymouth Argyle and Wrexham, although, for entirely different reasons, I have resisted the very strong temptation to blog on these two clubs.  In the case of Plymouth, I have been put off by the plethora of non-news that has been churned out over the last few months – it seemed as if 90% of this consisted of Peter Ridsdale purring that one of two takeover attempts was due to completed ‘next wekk’.  At Wrexham, in distinct contrast, real news was happening at a staggering rate – I did actually start a posting, but, while, I was writing it, two press releases issued which made my opening paragraph redundant.  In any case, my friends over at Twohundredpercent gave (happenings and non-happenings) at both clubs excellent coverage.

A third nebula seems to heading towards my radar screen – the ever-dependable Portsmouth, but with one Henry James Redknapp due in court shortly, I’ll hold back for the moment at least.

It’s not as if the radar screen has been otherwise blank though.  In alphabetical order of clubs then:

  • Astley Bridge
    (I haven’t managed to identify which league the club plays in – any offers?)
    The club, which has been around since 1892 (1), is under threat thanks to thieves who stole the club’s pitch mower (2).  The club cannot afford the alternative of having the council mow their three pitches at a charge of £1500 for five cuts.
  • Bournemouth
    The club has failed to buy back its Dean Court stadium which it was forced to sell and lease back almost six years ago (3).  Meanwhile, 50% of the club’s shares have been sold to a 41 year-old Russian petrochemicals trader (4), and chairman Eddie Mitchell purred “His arrival brings security to the club”.  Is it just the Pompey fan in me that finds this less than reassuring?  I hope so.
  • Carlisle
    Carlisle have formidable issues with the existing Brunton Park stadium, not least the threat of a repeat of the 2005 flooding (5).  Just over two years ago the club was losing £1.2m a year and facing gates down to just over 6,000 (6).  By March 2010, gates were down to around 5,200 and budget cuts had to be imposed (7).
    Now we have the results of a feasibility study (8) and ‘Project Blue Yonder’, which would see the building of a new 12,000-seater stadium (9).  Certainly this appears more realistic than Plymouth Argyle’s ill-fated plans for a 40,000+ stadium, but not a great deal more so – Plymouth has a population of just over 250,000 whereas Carlisle’s population is just over the 100,000 mark.
    No easy solutions to the club’s dilemma I’m afraid.
  • Dawlish Town
    I’m a bit thin on information here, but a link (10) said that the club had withdrawn from the Western League Premier Division in July.
    The club website (11) is still live, but does not appear to have been updated recently.  With doubtless no intended irony, it still has a link to an item headed “Chairman dreams of promotion and new stadium
    Their Wikipedia entry (12) begins with that damning phrase “Dawlish Town A.F.C. was a football club…
    A Facebook page (13) implies that the club has disappeared, and a new FC Dawlish Town is being formed.
    Can anyone with local knowledge expand on this?
  • Harlow Town
    A winding-up petition from HMRC was dismissed in court o 14 November because the club had paid its tax bill (15).  This followed on entering a CVA in September 2009 (16).
    See also postings passim.
  • Hucknall Town
    After a particularly turbulent period last season (16), the club has new owners (17) who talk of turning into a community club.   There is even talk, perhaps just a tad OTT, of the club as a ‘sleeping giant’ (18).  All in all, things a lot a rosier nonetheless.
  • Kettering Town
    Ah, the inimitably enigmatic Imran Ladak!  See postings passim.
    Having solved the impending problem of the end of their ease, Ladak took the club to Rushden’s Nene Park (19), which everyone hoped would see the start of a new period of stability (for Kettering, at least)
    Ladak is now ‘open to offers’ for the club (20), the entire team is transfer listed (21), players are partly unpaid (22), and as a result it has been transfer embargoed (23)
    Who can guess what Ladak will do next?  This, after all, is the man who brought in Gazza to run the club, sacking him after six games (24).
  • Prescot Cables
    This Community Interest Club has taken the decision to return to being an amateur club, the financial pressure having built up following the lack of a sponsor (25).

Part 2 will be coming to a screen near you shortly.  I’ve now more or less recovered from the failure of my laptop’s CPU and hence its scrapping, so normal service should now be resumed.

Posted in Debts, Insolvency, Ownership, Stadium | Tagged: , , , | 4 Comments »

Stadium developments (and redevelopments)

Posted by John Beech on October 24, 2011

In the last couple of weeks, stadiums, both those which are newly planned and those where there has been or will be redevelopment, have being popping up on my radar screen with surprising regularity.

The saga of what to do with the Olympic stadium shows no signs of reaching resolution.  Sadly we seem to be drifting into an Athens 2004 legacy situation.  When I visited last year, the lady from the company still tasked with the legacy management of the infrastructure told me, with refreshing honesty, “You will have read a lot of bad things in the press about our legacy issues.  All of them are true.  But there also some good things.

Basically the problem had been that everyone was too busy preparing the Games sites to worry about legacy until after the Games had taken place.  No one could accuse LOCOG of not thinking about legacy – it’s just that their thoughts have never quite got round to making decisions.

Two issues trouble me with our stadium:

  • Why is there still any question of any club other than Leyton Orient moving there?  For West Ham or Tottenham to move there would be a clear breach of Premier League or Football League rules (see previous posting).  Simply ignoring this most fundamental point does not in any way legitimise the situation.
  • What of the issue of public money being spent on installing a football club there, and the blatant prejudging of who is to go there by Bojo (1)?  If FIFA were in any way consistent in condemning political interference (and note my use of the subjunctive), we should be seeing the legendary FIFA gunboats heading up the Thames any day now.

Meanwhile, across London, Chelsea are faced with an unusual situation as they plan to move from Stamford Bridge – the way that the Stamford Bridge stadium ownership was tied up Ken Bates to prevent it being sold.  This was undoubtedly his greatest footballing contribution, although pedants might question my use of a superlative that implies he made three good footballing contributions.  This looks to be a saga in the making because of the failure to keep records up to date (2), and the club will face opposition from its fans (3), focused into the Say No CPO group.  The club management must have been off sick when Marketing101 was scheduled.

Close by, Fulham have announced plans to redevelop part of Craven Cottage (4).  This pursuit of the ‘Molineux model’ rather than following a high risk ‘new stadium’ strategy is to be commended.  The alternative is the infinitely depressing ‘Fossetts Farm model’ (see postings passim or Southend United’s own New Stadium webpage).

When planning turns to stadium development or redevelopment, much depends on the attitude of the local council.  Three current cases are:

  • Plymouth Argyle, where the local council has agreed to pay £1.6m for Home Park and rent it back to the club for £135,000 a year.  This will hopefully facilitate a last-ditch rescue, but it should be remembered that the club had bought the ground from the council for £2.7m in 2006 (5).
  • Swansea City, where the council-owned Liberty Stadium is rented to Swansea City and the Ospreys, and continues to be run at a loss (6).  Can any reader with a deeper local knowledge explain this unlikely scenario?
  • Doncaster, where the council-owned Keepmoat Stadium seems to be creating a worrying financial burden for Doncaster council tax payers (7).  Again, any deeper local insight would be appreciated.

What is disturbing in all of this is the reliance on the public purse.  Any talk of ‘rich clubs’ is a joke in the broader footballing context.  Mind you, mention of ‘rich clubs’ and the public purse must raise a reminder of the shockingly bad deal (from the perspective of Manchester council tax payers) struck between the local council and Manchester City.

Posted in Assets, Stadium | Tagged: , | 5 Comments »

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.

Posted in Fit and Proper Person tests, Football League, Governance, Ownership, Stadium | Tagged: , , , , | 5 Comments »

Of (dream) stadiums at Plymouth and Southend

Posted by John Beech on May 29, 2011

While the insolvency process has many shortcomings when it comes to football clubs, one good thing it does do is shake some of the skeletons out of the cupboard.  As a Pompey fan, I’m expecting some pretty shocking data, and, who knows, even legal proceedings, to emerge as forensic accountants work on the liquidation of the old company (1).

At Plymouth Argyle a bit of a shocker has emerged (2) – the sum spent on the ill-considered attempt tp get a new stadium on the back of England’s inglorious 2018 World Cup bid.  If you haven’t already seen it, sit down, because it was an eye-watering figure of up to £1.2m.  It doesn’t take the 20/20 vision of hindsight to see that this was plan that didn’t make sense for Argyle – see my posting Are we going stark stadium bonkers? from April last year.

Argyle fans might spare a thought for the fans of Southend United (see postings passim), where £1.2m had been spent over a year ago on the as yet unstarted Fossetts Farm new stadium, of which club Chairman Ron Martin’s family will be the financial beneficiaries.  A year on and this figure has certainly gone up.  Last February the club requested Southend Council’s Development Control committee to confirm the development of the new stadium as two components (3), which required the preparation of two new detailed plans for the submission.  This request has been approved by the Council (4).  Meanwhile there is the matter of getting shop owners out so that the Roots Hall redevelopment by Sainsburys can be given a clear run (5), doubtless with the lawyers adding to the overall final bill.

The Roots Hall redevelopment by Sainsburys cannot begin until the first part of the Fossetts Farm development is completed.  I just wonder how long Sainsburys will tolerate the delays  as this whole saga of a move to Fossetts Farm has been dragging on for over ten years.  Perhaps I should be more understanding – Pompey have been talking of a new stadium since the 1970s, but then they haven’t pursued the idea as relentlessly, and I suspect at a rather lower cost to the club.  Who knows, perhaps the investigations surrounding the liquidation of the old company may reveal a secound bout of absurd 2018 profligacy on the South coast (6).

Posted in 2018, Insolvency, Stadium | Tagged: , , | 2 Comments »

Some stadium snippets

Posted by John Beech on April 22, 2011

Mainly, but not exclusively, bad news from various clubs at various levels in the pyramid:

Bradford City  (L2; population 294,000; nearest higher Level club Leeds United 10 miles [city centre to city centre, not stadium to stadium])

Younger readers may be forgiven for not knowing that Bradford City was home to Premier League football, albeit briefly, ten years ago.  In what was later described by their Chairman as ‘six weeks of financial madness’ (1), the club spent wildly in a failed attempt to stay up, and have been paying the price ever since.  Stadium issues are complex, with an alternative under review as a possibility (see 2), and have been so since the club was forced to sell and lease it back in 2003 (3) in the wake of Administration – new owner: the then Chairman’s pension fund.  At the time it was said “The aim is for the properties to return to the club’s ownership at the earliest opportunity when the financial strength allows.
That has not happened, and the Yorkshire Telegraph has recently reported that the club cannot continue to spend on rent at the current rate (4).  They are currently having to pay £370,000 a year in stadium rental, and a similar figure on office rental, which together with other overheads brings their costs of simply existing to £1.25m a year.

Brighton and Hove Albion  (About to rise to the Championship; 256,000; Fulham 52 miles)

The only positive snippet. At long last, exile at the inappropriate Withdean Stadium is to finish and the brand new Falmer Stadium is virtually finished.  This will bring to an end one of English football’s longest exiles.  (Ian King has good coverage on this situation here)

Darlington  (Conference; 98,000; Middlesbrough 16 miles)

Hopefully not the template for Brighton’s future.  The saga of the Arena is well known enough to not need repetition in detail hereWith areas of the stadium closed off on Health & Safety grounds and dwindling crowds, the club teeters on another financial precipice.  Creditors are pushing for the sale of the stadium (5) and Raj Singh’s attempts to revive the club are in jeopardy.

Eastwood Town  (Conference North; 18,000; Nottingham Forest/Notts County 10 miles)

Perhaps not the most familiar of clubs, but one that caught my eye some time back. The club joined the Midland League in 1971 and had progressed via the Northern League East to the Northern Premier League.  It was the arrival of local entrepreneur Rob Yong as Chairman that prompted me to add the club to my list of those to track.  He announced “Our target is simple, two promotions in the next four seasons including 2007/08. This will clearly mean additional investment in the team but we will not waste money by paying over the odds for players or being held to ransom.” (6)  Yong held back from projecting Eastwood’s future into Europe, which is just as well as he clearly had no intention of pursuing a policy involving Financial Fair Play.  So naked was his intent to engage in financial doping, he openly boasted “I personally pay the players’ wages and any other money that comes in from the fans through gate money and the like goes straight into the club.  I’m very conscious that I don’t want to leave the club in any debt at any point – that’s the way it has been structured.  There is no restriction on [the manager's] player budget but we must always be getting value for money.” (7)
Just over a year ago Yong was pledging his commitment to the club until 2017 (8).  He had already clearly identified the need to upgrade the ground to Conference National standards.
The club is currently in the play-off places for promotion from the Conference North.  Earlier this month however the Conference ruled that Eastwood could not participate in the play-offs, which the club attributed to “a difference of opinion in the interpretation of one of the play-off rules” (9).  The FA rejected the club’s appeal (10).  Yong has shown his commitment to the club when it faces some problems by putting it up for sale for £1 (11).  Reading the statement, it is easy to sympathise with his frustration, but rather less so with his decision to walk, leaving the club debt free but paying wages that are not budgeted against revenues.

Farnborough  (Conference South; 57,000; Aldershot 4 miles)

Farnborough is a resurrection of Farnborough Town, who went into liquidation in 2007, and has already managed to climb back to the Conference South.
In February 2009, the club signed a contract to develop a new South Stand (12), the club itself being committed to half of the £500k costs.
In March last year the club managed to beat a winding up petition brought by a coach company over an unpaid bill (13)In September it received funding of £30,000 from the local council for ground improvements, in spite of the fact that it was in debt to the council to the tune of £18,000 (14).  As recently as December a transfer embargo was lifted after the club settled its debt to HMRC (15).  Still the stadium improvement marches on – earlier this month the purchase of the East Stand from Darlington’s old Feethams ground was agreed in principle (16).
(Accrington Stanley fans will no doubt recall what happened when their club bought a second-hand stand from Aldershot, especially as there is talk currently of buying one from Blackpool or Morecambe (17).)

Fleetwood Town  (Conference; 27,000; Blackpool 9 miles)

Fleetwood also have a bit of a stadium development fixation.  A 1997 resurrection, the club is bankrolled by controversial (18) local businessman Andy Pilley
Last week the new East Stand was opened at a cost of £4.5m (19)

Poole Town  (Wessex League Premier Division; 138,000; Bournemouth 6 miles)

Yet another club suffering from ‘stadium envy’, although, it must be said, with good reason – they are ‘unable to get promoted with their present (temporary home) stadium (20).  The fight to get planning permission for their new £2m stadium is edging ever nearer success, which would mean their first permanent home since 1994 (21).

Worcester City  (Conference North; 94,000; Birmingham City/Aston Villa 30 miles)

Another club suffering from the result of over-ambitious stadium plans, albeit put in place by a previous regime.  Their dreams of moving to a new stadium at Nunnery Way in a scheme with developers St Modwen having become increasingly unlikely to succeed (22), and even a scaled-down plan carries some very worrying costs (23).  A good summary of the current situation is here.

Far too many instances of unrealistic over-ambition, and there are bound to be tears before bedtime somewhere.  That said, I wish Brighton, the exception in this round-up, well in their new stadium – it’s been a long and painful saga since leaving the Goldstone so inauspiciously almost two decades ago, and they deserve a good break after all that has happened.

I’ve been trying to find out what is or isn’t happening with the redevelopment of Stoke’s old Victoria ground over a decade on.  Does any reader have any insight?

Posted in Stadium | Tagged: | 4 Comments »

On Hillsborough and other football tragedies

Posted by John Beech on April 15, 2011

Today has rightly been a day of remembrance for the victims of what can only be described as the Hillsborough tragedy.  Part of the reason for the scale of remembrance and the depth of emotion today is the continuing unanswered questions, well posed by David Conn in The Guardian (1).

I suspect that at least part of the reason is also the power of social media such as Twitter (2, and also 3).  Of course, it’s the fact that it’s the anniversary of Hillsborough that determines the poignancy and scale of remembrance.

It often strikes me though that we are actually not very good at remembering the tragedies that have befallen football, except perhaps when we are reminded by an anniversary.  Perhaps we should be more mindful of the scale of previous football tragedies:

  • 1902 Ibrox – 25 fans died
  • 1946 Bolton – 33 fans died
  • 1971 Ibrox – 66 fans died
  • 1985 Bradford – 56 fans died
  • 1985 Heysel – 39 people died
  • 1988 Kathmandu – 93 people died
  • 1989 Hillsborough – 96 fans died
  • 1992 Bastia – 18 fans died
  • 2001 Johannesburg – 43 fans died
  • 2001 Accra – 127 people died
  • 2010 Kampala – over 70 people died in two bombing attacks on cafés where fans were watching the World Cup on television

And of course that is nothing like a definitive list.  But I wonder how well we remember all of those events, let alone show our respects to the victims.  Similarly, the Munich Air Disaster of 1955, when 23 people were killed, is very much in our collective memory, but the Turin Air Disaster, where 31 people died, is rarely recalled in the UK.

All I’m saying really is let’s try and be better at remembering on days which are not anniversaries, and let’s not all but forget some simply because they did not happen in this country.  (I’m thinking particularly of Kampala – only last year, and the victims were not accidental deaths; they were murdered.)

To borrow from John Donne, the death of any fan watching a game or any player travelling to do their job diminishes us.

Posted in Health & Safety, Stadium | Tagged: , | 1 Comment »

Crisis and confusion at Coventry City

Posted by John Beech on April 6, 2011

Since the end of January there have been various changes in the membership of the Coventry City Board, then we saw the sacking of Aidy Boothroyd, the tenth sacking of a Coventry City manager in the last decade (1).  Saturday’s three points against Watford brought at least some cheer to City’s fans, and the fear of relegation is receding.

With a certain irony, what has emerged at board level is a split into a new ‘old guard’ (Ray Ranson and Gary Hoffman) and a new ‘new guard’ (new Chief Executive Ken Dulieu, thrusting Canadian internet entrepreneur Leonard Brody and others parachuted in by SISU).

Brody is “a respected international entrepreneur with a strong track record in business, finance and online media.  He is President of Clarity Digital which is a subsidiary of the Anschutz Corporation, a large US-based sport and entertainment group and is also a two-time Emmy nominee” (2). Quite.

Brody offered an interesting explanation, as part of a new improved communications strategy, of what had been happening:

“What you were witnessing was three years of a dispute between shareholders, people who had different visions and different ideas about where the club was and what they wanted to do.  The key difference here is unity.  You now have the shareholders dispute resolved and a new board that is committed not only to the team but also to the community.” (3)

He paints an intriguing picture of a three-year battle between shareholders.  I have to say that I find this an unlikely picture.  The parent company, Sky Blue Sports & Leisure Ltd had six shareholders: SISU Capital Private Equity Fund A, SISU Capital Private Equity Fund B, SISU Capital Private Equity Fund C, SISU Capital Private Equity Fund D, and SISU Capital Private Equity Fund E, who together held 84% of the shares, the remaining 16% being held by R2 Sports Group plc, a Ray Ranson company.  So it’s the battle between the five SISU Fund Managers that has been holding the club back, is it??

He also says he is “saddened to hear fans think we’ve lost the brand“.  I would have to say that ‘losing the brand’ is not a phrase particularly featuring in conversations I have with City fans.  They are more concerned about survival, in the Championship, and simply surviving as a club.

Another interesting thread in this saga is the question of buying the stadium.  Al parties seem to agree that the Ricoh is a highly attractive ‘cash cow’, and that acquiring it would be a key to solving the club’s problems.  SISU have undoubtedly put money into the club since taking over, but clearly not enough to buy the stadium.  Either they do not have the funding to do so, or they do not have the inclination to do so.  No evidence points towards the latter.

How then can the exciting new board team move forward in the acquisition of the stadium?  Of course, new investors!

Her I see two major obstacles.  If you, as a potential investor, you were approached by SISU with an offer to invest in a club which could be a goldmine if only it could acquire its stadium and the associated revenue streams, once you had overcome your suspicion (‘if it’s such a great opportunity, why isn’t/hasn’t SISU seized on it in the last three years?’), you may well think ‘a cash cow, well, I want some slice of the action as at least a co-owner’.  Yet SISU insist that the club is not for sale.  We shall see.

The new board has already scored a PR own goal, which is not encouraging.  Ken Duliweu announced at a press conference last week that he was about to hold talks with the local Council about their 50% ownership of the Ricoh, a claim promptly and frostily denied by the Council (4).  As the Council statement out it, “The club has talked about a new era of openness and transparency, which we would welcome as a Council.  But so far, in their dealings with us, they have not shown this and we’re disappointed they’ve now said twice they’re meeting with us when no approach has been made to us.”  If there is to be a new policy of openness in communications, the messages should at the very least be accurate.

The only optimistic sign I can see is the talk of a bid by Gary Hoffmann (5) to buy the club.  But a) it’s supposedly not for sale, and one suspects, in the circumstances of his departure from the board, especially not to him and b) it depends on him finding investors.

The only comforts for fans is that the club is no worse off than it was when SISU took over (but arguably no better off), and that it could be worse for them – they could be Plymouth Argyle fans.

Available online is the full interview I gave Late Kick Off last week, just before the Coventry City press conference.

Posted in Insolvency, Investors, Ownership, Stadium, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , | 2 Comments »

The Olympic stadium, the small matter of distance, and the Premier League

Posted by John Beech on January 21, 2011

By the time you read this, it may well be that the post-2012 fate of the Olympic stadium has been decided, with the decision going to one contentious bid rather than the other (I won’t rehearse the pros and cons of Tottenham and West Ham, taking a detour via Crystal Palace – they have been very well summarised by Paul Kelso in The Daily Telegraph).  What does interest me is how either can in fact move there without breaking Premier League rules.

West Ham are currently the closer of the two to the Olympic Stadium, although not as close as Leyton Orient – see Google Maps and enter ‘football stadium London'; Spurs are pin G and West Ham pin F; Orient are the red dot just above Leyton; a scale of distance is shown at the bottom left).

If West Ham or Spurs are to make the move, it’s worth looking at the Premier League rules (the Premier League handbook 2010/11 is downloadable here) on club moves.  In the section on Ground Criteria on page 152 you will find the following:

Ground Registration

5. Each Club shall register its ground with the Secretary and no Club shall remove to another ground without first obtaining the written consent of the Board, such consent not to be unreasonably withheld.

6. In considering whether to give any such consent, the Board shall have regard to all the circumstances of the case and shall not consent unless reasonably satisfied that such consent:

6.1 would be consistent with the objects of the Company as set out in the Memorandum;

6.2 would be appropriate having in mind the relationship (if any) between the locality with which by its name or otherwise the applicant Club is traditionally associated and that in which such Club proposes to establish its ground;

6.3 would not adversely affect such Club’s Officials, Players, supporters, shareholders,sponsors and others having an interest in its activities;

6.4 would not have an adverse effect on Visiting Clubs;

6.5 would not adversely affect Clubs (or Football League clubs) having their registered grounds in the immediate vicinity of the proposed location; and

6.6 would enhance the reputation of the League and promote the game of association football generally.

(The emboldening of para 6.5 is my own little mischief)

The corresponding Rules of the Football League (thus applicable to Orient, and either currently Premier League club should they be relegated before a move takes place) state:

13.6 Each Club shall register its ground with the Executive and no Club shall remove to another ground without first obtaining the written consent of the Board, such consent not to be unreasonably withheld.

13.7 In considering whether to give any such consent, the Board shall have regard to all the circumstances of the case and shall not grant consent unless it is reasonably satisfied that such consent:

13.7.1 would be consistent with the objects of The League as set out in the Memorandum of Association;

13.7.2 would be appropriate having in mind the relationship (if any) between the locality with which by its name or otherwise the applicant Club is traditionally associated and that in which such Club proposes to establish its ground;

13.7.3 would not adversely affect such Club’s Officials, players, supporters, shareholders, sponsors and others having an interest in its activities;

13.7.4 would not have an adverse effect on visiting Clubs;

13.7.5 would not adversely affect Clubs having their registered grounds in the immediate vicinity of the proposed location; and

13.7.6 would enhance the reputation of The League and promote the game of association football generally.

Virtually the same as it happens.

Now, much would hang on the interpretation of ‘immediate vicinity‘ I grant you, but I would have thought that the average fan on the top of a Clapham, or perhaps even Clapton, omnibus might just see the Olympic stadium as in the immediate vicinity of Brisbane Road.  (Yes, I appreciate they themselves moved from Clapton, but that was in 1937 and I haven’t heard any complaints about this recently).

If either Spurs or West Ham move, it would be a headlong rush towards one another as well as towards Orient.  Currently they are less than seven miles apart as the crow flies.  Orient is just three miles from Upton Park and just under four from White Hart Lane.

Will any of this geography be taken into account?  My guess is that it won’t.  The Premier League will enforce their own rules with their usual opportunistic pragmatism driven by a revenues motive.  Mind you, the same Premier League document states on page 9:

The Chairman’s Charter sets out our commitment to run Premier League football to the highest possible standards and with integrity.

We will ensure that our Clubs:

• Behave with the utmost good faith and honesty to each other, do not unjustly criticise or disparage one another and maintain confidences.
• Will comply with the laws of the game and take all reasonable steps to ensure that the Manager, his staff and Players accept and observe the authority and decisions of Match Officials at all times.
• Follow Premier League and FA Rules not only to the letter but also to their spirit, and will ensure that our Clubs and Officials are fully aware of such rules and that we have effective procedures to implement the same.
• Will respect the contractual obligations and responsibilities of each other’s employees and not seek to breach these or to make illegal approaches.
• Will discharge their financial responsibilities and obligations to each other promptly and fully and not seek to avoid them.
• Will seek to resolve differences between each other without recourse to law.

But of course!


UPDATE 25 January 2012

The Premier League have announced that they would not consider a move by either West Ham or by Tottenham to be a breach of their rules (A).

Posted in Football League, Governance, Premier League, Stadium | Tagged: , , , | 39 Comments »

 
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