The news that Plymouth Argyle’s players and administrative staff are still failing to get their full pay (1) is not, of course, really news at all. This situation has been going on for roughly a year. It’s a message of despair that has become as familiar as Peter Ridsdale cooing that he expects a deal to be finalised very shortly.
There are still those who do not break out in sympathy with the players at least – you know the sort of stuff: “Overpaid prima donnas. Serves then right. No sympathy whatsoever.“ This is of course nonsense. Plymouth Argyle is not a Premier League club, and the majority of players are on salaries that do not even begin to approach the telephone numbers that Premier League players command. They do have the professional Footballers Association supporting them though. Still, it’s hardly easy to adjust to dramatic changes in family income whatever your salary is. I should know: I once had no choice but to make the first Mrs. Beech redundant from our shared workplace.
The administrative staff will undoubtedly be on generally lower salaries, and I have even more sympathy for them. Apart from being worse off financially, they didn’t sign up to a profession where a transfer to somewhere else in the country was going to be an industry norm. I’m sure most of them are local folk, who have more than demonstrated their loyalty to a club which is not just their employer but a club that they care about. They are the real unsung heroes.
In a different news story today, another super-loyal administrator (in the non-insolvency sense of the word) has left his club/employer after an amazing 38 years – now there’s loyalty. This is the case of Portsmouth’s Club Secretary, Paul Weld (2) . As the club website points out: “Paul has worked through nine changes of ownership, 19 different managers (22 if you include Frank Burrows, Alan Ball and Harry Redknapp, all of whom managed Pompey twice), encompassing two periods of administration, four relegations, four promotions, one FA Cup final triumph, one FA Cup final defeat and a season in Europe!“ No doubt it was the two periods of Administration that must have caused the greatest stress in the Weld household. Why did he remain so loyal when there must have been more secure job opportunities open to him over the years? Well, “A Pompey fan, Paul was an active member of the London Supporters’ Club before arriving at Fratton Park from the Football Association as assistant to the then secretary Jimmy Dickinson, before taking over as club secretary.“ So, someone to whom it was clearly more than ‘just a job’. And here’s a hint, Paul – yours is an autobiography that I can’t wait to read.
I’m sure there are similar stories to be told at a myriad of clubs. Let’s not forget these unsung heroes, especially in the troubling circumstances of the current Plymouth Argyle administrative staff. A club is much more than just the team who turn on Saturdays. Let’s hope that those directly involved in the takeover negotiations can bring a rapid close to the brinkmanship and haggling, and show a little humanity to their loyal staff and their families.