Posted by John Beech on March 14, 2010
The big court appearances of the last week are beginning to reveal their implications.
It seems that I am not alone in having concerns about the way Peter Ridsdale has been operating the club. A detailed report on WalesOnline (1) highlights the problems with the club’s claims that its players are an asset worth £30 million and that its net assets, i.e. the new stadium, are worth £36 million.
There may be better times ahead. The long vaunted investment by Malaysian businessman Dato Chan Tien Ghee is reported by the News of the World (2) as on the verge of finally materialising. A condition would be the departure of the Spinmeister, with a club source quoted as saying “Ridsdale must be removed from the helm for there to be a hefty investment. He’s living on borrowed time“. So, hopefully two celebrations are imminent.
Cheshire West and Chester Council are moving to secure the Deva Stadium (3) for future football use, and City Fans United have been holding talks with local businessmen with a view to progressing the emergence of a successor club (4).
In a blatant attempt to stop the fan-backed bid however, Fodboldselskabet af 06-03-2010 Holding A/S (The Football Company) or Chester Projekt are reported as persisting with their unhelpful and misguided attempt to create their bizarre form of a resurrected club (5). Let’s hope the Projekt Brønby website (6) will show those thinking of participating just how misguided the plans are.
Unsurprisingly belts are being tightened by the Administrator, and their have been severe cuts among the non-playing staff (7) with 85 jobs lost, and two club shops closed (8). Peter Storrie, the former Chief Executive, has also gone (9), the Administrator preferring a 100% pay-cut rather than the 40% cut Storrie had offered.
The plight of the ‘Pompey 85’, or at least up to eight of the training ground staff, has been taken up by David James (10), who is seeking a way that is legal and acceptable to the Administrator for their wages to be paid by the players. He is also reported as being willing to take a pay cut to help the club (11).
James follows, as it happens, on the heels of Shaka Hislop, also a fighter for the rights of, in his case, his fellow Trinidad & Tobago players. I had the pleasure of meeting Hislop a couple of years ago and was struck by his sincerity and integrity.
Between them James and Hislop offer an image of goalkeepers not as the eccentrics of the football scene, but as men of integrity in the game.
Chairman Ron has responded to the club’s latest appearance in court. In an official statement on the club’s website he says of the club’s court appearance “From what I have read so far I must have been in a different place” (12). That would be Planet Martin I guess.
Consider this part of his statement: “In November I jumped through hoops in a very short timeframe to put a further investment of £2.35million in the Club (£2.15 to HMRC and a further £200,000 of working capital requirement). It wasn’t put in by some fairy godmother. Sainsbury’s may have written the cheque but ONLY against significant tangible security that I was able to put in place… They are not a charity. This was part of a wider transaction to deliver the Club’s Stadium and Sainsbury’s new store – a “partnership” that is well advanced.“
Very short timeframe? Presumably he hadn’t been reading the demand letters from HMRC.
Further investment of £2.35 million? There was me thinking it was a loan, not an investment, the security for which is reported as being £304,000 worth of shares in the club (13).
To deliver the Club’s Stadium and Sainsbury’s new store – a “partnership” that is well advanced? So how exactly has it advanced in the last ten years?
He continues: “My message to supporters of the Club is that I have a clear line of sight to deliver our mutual objectives and that is a new Stadium with increased income, capital investment and the ability to maintain a position in the Championship by fulfilling Southend United’s potential.”
With the club in real danger of dropping into League 2 next season, his rhetoric is sounding more and more out of touch with reality, a reality which reportedly includes late payment of players on more than one occasion this season.
On he presses: “I accept it’s been a difficult season so far but – hey – it could have been a great deal worse … Crystal Palace and Portsmouth. Remember your Club does not have an overdraft and is only indebted to its parent company, i.e. me.”
The point is that it could – hey – have been a great deal better if he hadn’t continued with his obsessive pursuit of the new stadium, of which he has admitted “The beneficial owners of the Fossetts Farm development are me and my immediate family” (14).