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! Football Finance

Archive for July, 2010

HMRC v. Bradford Park Avenue

Posted by John Beech on July 5, 2010

Latest club (joining Grays Athletic, Ilkeston Town, Preston North End and Southend United) to receiving a winding-up petition from HMRC is Northern Premier League club Bradford Park Avenue (1).  The club is a resurrection club, having been formed in 1977 following the demise of the eponymous erstwhile Football League club in 1974.  At the time of writing, there has been no acknowledgement, let alone comment, on the club website (2).

I have to admit that my file on ‘The Avenue’ is a pretty thin one.  Certainly over recent years they have had a distinct lack of continuity in their managers, which suggests at least some tensions.  In 2008 Chief Executive announced plans for a new stadium with a capacity of 20,000 (see The trouble with new stadiums – recent attendances have generally been below the 500 mark [3] although the Horsfall stadium has 1800 seats and a capacity of 5,000).

Any informed insight from readers would be much appreciated.


The debt in question is a four-figure sum (A).  Director Kevin Hainsworth says “Somebody told [HMRC] in all good faith that the tax bill would be paid by a certain date and it went beyond that.  Even though I had spoken to HMRC and told them it would be delayed by a couple of weeks, they just went ahead with this petition.”  Whatever next! 😉


Posted in Debts, HMRC, Insolvency, Stadium | Tagged: , , , | 3 Comments »

FIFA and political interference

Posted by John Beech on July 2, 2010

I’ve posted previously on the potential mess for France in the aftermath of their poor performance in the World Cup – with various threats emanating from not only Sports Minister Rosalyne Bachelot but also President Sarkozy coming dangerously close to the kind of interference that FIFA will not tolerate apparently.  In Italy too there has been criticism, but not as yet any that could be considered interference (1). Now Nigeria are in trouble (2).  President Goodluck [now there’s irony] Jonathan has banned the national team from participating in international football for two years to give them time to get their act together.  FIFA’s reaction has been to threaten to suspend Nigeria unless the ban is withdrawn, which is not quite as Pythonesque as it first appears, as the real threat is that FIFA will withdraw funding.  Mind you, I can’t quite free myself from the Python analogy.  FIFA issuing threats to governments has got to be at least a bit Pythonesque – could this all lead to FIFA dispatching a gunboat if Nigeria doesn’t back down?  (And where does FIFA base its gunboats anyway, given that it is based in land-locked Switzerland? ;-)). We’ve come quite close to political interference in England.  There were not only the various manifestoes at the last election (see here) – insisting that clubs sell 25% of their shares can hardly be considered anything other than interference whether you think it sensible or not.  Now we have David Amess MP weighing in with an Early Day Motion (3) calling for an urgent enquiry into the state of the English game – one which, if it ever happened, would be taken notice of as much as the Burns Report.  Personally, I think he might more usefully devote his time to sorting out football problems rather nearer to home – he is MP for Southend West. The notion that governments should not interfere with sport is of course absolutely ‘right on’, at least from a Western liberal perspective.  FIFA is, being a global organisation, obliged to see things from a variety of cultural perspectives.  The relevant FIFA Statute is 13.1., which states that members are obliged “to manage their affairs independently and ensure that their own affairs are not influenced by any third parties” (4).  So how exactly does that apply to North Korea for example?  Do the North Koreans simply brazen it out and argue that in North Korea there are no third parties, and that government and Football Association are one and the same?  While I mayseem to make light of the issues, there is a serious point – that FIFA should not bend its statutes to meet the varying situations in different member countries.  There should not be one interpretation of the statutes for countries that are dictatorships, left or right, and another for democracies.


Stories centred on FIFA and possible confrontation with national governments seem to be like buses at the moment.

The Irish Football Association President and Vice President are reported as being on the verge of enforced resignation (A), having just been re-elected unopposed, with the Northern Ireland government using funding for a new stadium as leverage.  In Russia, FIFA Executive Committee member and Minister for Sport is coming under pressure, at least in part because of his alledged excesses with expenses (B). Meanwhile, back in England, The Daily Mail (no, I don’t read it by choice, but it does pop up in Google News alerts) is reporting that Minister of Sport Hugh Robertson “will be demanding [sic] that the dysfunctional Football Association gets its house in order after the World Cup 2018 vote in December” (C). He is also reported as having “pledged to ensure the recommendations of the 2005 Burns report are properly implemented — especially the independent representation on the FA board“.  So no government nominees then.  As if.  England isn’t North Korea after all. Oh, and great comment from Allan Brown below.

UPDATE – 11 August 2010

FIFA have finally taken action over North Korea (D), to investigate allegations of player mistreatment after the team’s return from the World Cup (E).  Well, when I say ‘action’, I mean that they have just asked for information, so don’t hold your breath.

UPDATE – 4 October 2010

FIFA has now suspended Nigeria (full FIFA statement here). This is, FIFA says, for a number of reasons including “court actions against elected members of the NFF Executive Committee preventing them from exercising their functions and duties“.

More details of the underlying issues here.

Posted in FIFA, Governance | Tagged: , | 3 Comments »

HMRC’s latest activity and other traumas

Posted by John Beech on July 1, 2010

You keep off the internet for the best part of ten days, come home, and, bingo!  HMRC have been at it again.

First they’ve been revisiting some familiar league faces:

  • Grays Athletic
    The club has been given a stay of execution of 98 (yes, that’s right, 98) days over the undisclosed debt to HMRC debt (1).
    The even more pressing issue for the club is where they are going to be playing next season.  The local Council is showing some positive signs (2) of being prepared to help, but time is running out.
  • Preston North End
    Having just fought off one winding-up petition from HMRC, a new one has been served (3), for an only slightly lower sum of £435,000 (4).
    The closing date for the Deepdale PNE Holdings offer to shareholders is July 7th (5).
  • Southend United
    An annual loss of £2m, and total debts of £7.7m, (in a club now in League 2) reported in May had prompted the club to announce that “the club is confident it has solid building blocks in place for future success and these will improve the performance of the club in the coming years” (6).  Whether one of these blocks was a loan from the Shrimpers Trust for £60,000, now overdue for repayment, is not clear.  Meanwhile players were repeatedly paid late, and key players were departing as a result.
    Yesterday the club was hit with a double whammy – winding-up petitions from HMRC and from loan company Charterhouse Commercial Finance (7).
    Not that Chairman Ron is in any way worried.  According to the club website, he said “HMRC were quick off the mark as they are with football clubs and of course entitled to be.  Nevertheless I will ensure that the entire sum is settled before the hearing and will continue to ensure that the necessary finances are in place in order to steer this ship into calmer waters” (8).
    A summary of a Southend Echo 4-page report on the ShrimperZone website (9) suggests that any such necessary finance will likely have to come Sainsbury’s rather than the indebted Martin Empire.
    LATE EXTRA: Chairman Ron speaks to the nation here (managing to avoid the use of the word ‘stadium’).

Meanwhile one of the usual suspects has been across my radar screen for other reasons:

  • Cardiff City
    Just when their troubles seemed to be over, who should pop again but Sam Hammam.  First there was a report that players’ wages for June had been paid late (10).  Then there was a very worrying report that Sam Hammam was eying a return (11), and, even more bizarrely, that a TG/Hammam partnership would be a ‘dream team’ (12) – more the stuff of nightmares I would have thought.  The club promptly confirmed that “there are no plans to have Mr Hammam return to the Club in any capacity” (13).  Well, perhaps they don’t have such plans, but Sam apparently does (14).  I fear this one may have legs.

In the non-League world, a couple of clubs are facing problems:

  • Ashford Town (Kent)
    A long-running boardroom feud and mounting debts (15) came in front of the High Court last week, only to result in an adjournment.  As if this weren’t traumatic enough, in an apparently unrelated move, the FA has banned the club from all football activity because of the non-payment of £2,000 to Ebbsfleet (16).
  • Ilkeston Town
    At the end of March the club was rescued by a new ‘benefactor’, Gary Hodder, following the departure of beleaguered Chek Whyte (17).
    The club faced a winding-up petition from HMRC yesterday over PAYE and VAT from 2008 (18).

Rather worryingly, it doesn’t seem to have been a particularly untypical ten days.

CARDIFF UPDATE – 2 July 2010

If you were a Cardiff City fan, what would your worst nightmare be?  Well, it’s just happened (A) – Spinmeister Ridsdale has been asked to act as an intermediary between the new Malaysian owners and Sam Hammam!  If I were Hammam, I’d be minded of the time when Maggie Thatcher announced she was going to Scotland to campaign in an election, and Alex Salmond promptly quipped, in a staggeringly accurate prediction, ‘We’ve won!’.

Ridsdale says “I don’t want to be involved on the financial side – that’s where I made my mistakes” although it’s not clear which club he is referring to.  He adds “There is no chance I will be returning to Cardiff City FC in the future… I have moved on.”  I’m not sure who should be more afraid: Cardiff City fans because this may be Ridsdale double-speak, or fans everywhere else – could he actually have moved on, to your club?


There is increasing speculation on the ShrimperZone website (B) that a consortium possibly involving the Rubin family – Mark Rubin is a former Chairman – is being formed with a view to attempting a takeover, or at least standing by in case the club goes into Administration.

And now: Much more on this here.


From the club website: “Cardiff City Football Club can confirm that we have paid month one of our HMRC tax bill” (C). The fact that this has been announced says it all.  It shouldn’t really be news, now should it?

The transfer embargo however remains, the stumbling block to lifting it being that the club accounts for May 2009 have yet to be filed.  Do you know, I’m beginning to miss the Spinmeister – I’d love to hear his explanation for this.

Posted in Benefactors, Debts, HMRC, Insolvency | Tagged: , , , | 12 Comments »

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