Coming up in court, with HMRC
Posted by John Beech on January 23, 2010
The current HMRC surge of legal action (see HMRC on the warpath big time) hits the courts in the coming few weeks.
First up, on Wednesday 27th January, are Notts County, with a tax bill of £600,000 and total debts of £1.5 million (1) and Chester City. In the case of Notts County it all depends on whether the various investors which Peter Trembling and Sven-Goran Eriksson have been courting while happily clocking the Air Miles actually materialise. Personally I wouldn’t be too optimistic – do they really have an attractive offer to pitch? Chester City are, in my opinion, the most vulnerable of the clubs currently facing HMRC. Stephen Vaughan has brought the club to a situation which is worse than unsustainable, and it is hard to see how they will avoid Administration just before the court appearance. There is talk of a Morell Maison fronted consortium taking over and the possible involvement of Frank Warren (2), but it is hard to imagine how he would see buying the existing company as a sensible investment. As for Morell Maison exercising his option to purchase the Vaughan family’s shareholding of the football club, well, ask any Halesowen Town fan if this is the way to go (see postings passim) . Before the court hearing the club must meet with the Conference to explain their current financial position – I’d love to be a fly on the wall (3)!
On 3rd February it’s the turn of Accrington Stanley. The situation at Stanley is confusing – the debt of £308,000 was supposedly accounted for in the drama of Stanley’s last court appearance, is reported as paid (4), but a second petition has been served over a debt of around £70,000 (5). Certainly the club is in a healthier financial position following their cup run (sadly now finished), and the chances are that the club will settle the bill before the court date (although time is running out fast).
Last up it’s Cardiff City and Portsmouth on 10th February. With his usual spin, Peter Ridsdale purred assurance on 9th January that this is merely a backstop date, saying “We have every confidence that all monies owing to HMRC will have been repaid by the end of January” (6). So far there has been no announcement that the money has been paid though, although business moguls from all over the globe are of course queueing up to invest. Hasn’t this ever been so though? As for Portsmouth, well…. This is just one of their many woes of course, and the proceeds of a cup run are just a drop in the ocean. Some debts have been paid off, but they are still deep in trouble. Let’s say I’m cautiously pessimistic.
There is also a familiar name in the frame – Southend United. Having cleared their major debt with HMRC, a further winding-up petition was served over a debt of £205,000, which the club is disputing (7). The two parties are due to meet this week, and “Mr Martin hopes to resolve the issue without the need to go to court“. Well, he would wouldn’t he. We shall see.
[Because of a hardware failure, I don’t currently have access to my ‘Winding Up’ file, and have compiled this from memory – apologies if I have omitted any club. I should be able to check, and amend if necessary, on Monday.]