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

Posts Tagged ‘Chutzpah’

FIFA’s muscle flexing

Posted by John Beech on May 13, 2010

Given that both tax and transparency are very much flavours of the month in football, it’s surprising that an item on England’s bid for the 2018 World Cup should have provoked so little reaction (1).  In a nutshell, FIFA are demanding that the World Cup should be tax exempt in any hosting country:

“Any host country requires a comprehensive tax exemption to be given to Fifa and further parties involved in the hosting and staging of an event,” said a Fifa spokesman.

Apart from the obvious need for this posting to gain a ‘Chutzpah’ tag, one must wonder why FIFA, a registered charity, should see the need to gain exemptions for ‘further parties’, i.e. players.

No doubt FIFA would argue that a) they need to get the best deal they can and b) in some potential host countries (Qatar seems the most obvious example) the personal income tax rates are considerably lower than in England.

True, but it strikes me that FIFA are really rather getting above themselves in dictating tax arrangements in foreign countries.  They bemoan governmental interference in football, as they have recently made clear by threatening to suspend El Salvador (2), yet apparently feel it perfectly acceptable to interfere with the running of sovereign states.

As if this in itself is not shocking enough, FIFA also insist that such interference remain confidential!

Do they involve relieving the players, possibly even those already resident in the UK, from paying tax on their incomes?

“I’m not able to tell you,” said a spokesman for the England 2018 bid team. “Fifa requires it [the technical bid document] to remain confidential.”

But he stressed that this applied to all conditions, including those applying to visas, work permits, travel, security, banking and foreign currency, commercial rights and broadcasting.

“It is not a selective confidentiality,” he said.

A spokesman for the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) said: “I can’t go into detail of any of that because Fifa have very strict confidentiality clauses – but there is always room for manoeuvre.”

It will be interesting to see how our new government addresses this issue as it begins to tackle the budget deficit.  Time for change I would have thought. 😉

The practical problem in all of this is that, if the UK and other governments with conventional income tax regimes dig their heels in, FIFA may choose just to place the World Cup in oil rich nations in air-conditioned stadiums (see More stadium madness), which would be another step down the road of the Harlem Globetrotterisation of football.

[For an interesting personal view of the way FIFA operates, those who haven’t seen it may find Andrew Jennings’ Transparency in Football website of interest (now added to my LINKS page.]

UPDATE – 14 May 2010

Cameron has phoned Blatter and said the new government will do “everything in our power” to help the England 2018 bid (A), presumably including facilitating tax avoidance.  HMRC will be pleased.

Posted in 2018, Chutzpah, Ethics, FIFA, Governance, HMRC | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

The curious case of Cardiff

Posted by John Beech on May 7, 2010

So, Cardiff City have not finally settled their tax bill with HMRC and thus have not yet avoided the possibility at least of being wound up (1).  Everything is not yet rosy in spite of the wonder Malaysian cash injection, which presumably is still in the post.  At the previous court appearance the club was given 56 days and told that it was their ‘last chance’.  This time the adjournment is being marked as ‘final’ apparently.  How we debase our language.  It would seem that HMRC were convinced that this time the investment is indeed imminent, and for once they did not oppose an extension.

There is good news nonetheless –  the Spinmeister Peter Ridsdale is to go on May 31st., reportedly as a condition for the injection of £6m by Malaysians Datuk Chan Tien Ghee (TG) and Tan Sri Dato Seri Vincent Tan Chee Yioun (Vincent Tan) (2).

Ridsdale’s reaction, surprisingly muted by his normal standards, has been pretty predictable -“My time in Cardiff has been an enormous challenge, but one that we have successfully risen to and one that leaves the infrastructure in place to continue with forward momentum. It is with sadness, but great pride, I hand over to a fresh management team.

The club assesses Ridsdale against his initial brief thus: “Firstly, to assist in the construction of the new stadium, secondly to establish the Football Club within the Football League Championship, and thirdly to seek new funding. All three of these will have been completed by the shareholder meeting” (4).

Well, the stadium has indeed been built, but at what price?  That of a crippling debt to Langston which has the club has only lately started playing off.  As for the new funding, TG was drawn to Cardiff because his son was offered a trial there (5), and it was only at a later stage that Cardiff director Alan Whiteley introduced TG to Ridsdale.

I just wonder which of the following recent incidents alone give Ridsdale his great pride:

  • March 2008: Langston take the club to court over lack of any repayments on the loan.  The court finds for the club, but the pressure is now on to actually repay some money.  It has cost the club £500,000 to fight the case.
  • July 2008: The club announces losses for 2006/07 of almost £5m (6)
  • May 2009: Losses for 2007/08 are £1.5m (7).  Attendances were down by 8%.  Ridsdale took a pay cut as the income paid to WH Sport – his consultancy firm – fell from just over £1m in the previous year to £325,000.
  • June 2009: Ridsdale rejects claims that WH Sport are going bust.  The company had “merely stopped trading because he is now on the payroll at Cardiff City and the outstanding monies [nearly £374,000 to the Inland Revenue and £36,000 to other creditors]are in the process of being paid” (8).
  • August 2009: Ridsdale vows to “pay more than £370,000 he personally owes to the tax authorities by the end of this year” (9).  In 2006/07 WH Sports was paid £1,034,490 for Ridsdale’s services to the club. That included a bonus of £500,000, paid to him for saving the club from liquidation.
  • September 2009: A club sponsorship deal for £250,000 is signed with (10).  Less than aweek later’s logo is withdrawn from the club’s shirts as the sponsor does not have authorisation to advertise in Europe (11).
  • October 2009: Ridsdale announces a five-year freeze on season ticket prices for 10,000 people (12).
  • November 2009: The club is given a 70-day adjournment of a winding-up petition brought by HMRC (13).  The club website insists “Today’s court order had the effect of withdrawing the threat of a winding-up order rather than imposing it… Cardiff City Football Club have every confidence in their future financial stability and fully expect to be in a position to make further investment in its playing squad in the January transfer window” (14).
  • December 2009:  The winding-up petition is formally dismissed as a repayment schedule has been agreed with HMRC (15).  According to Ridsdale, “this puts any doubts that anybody had about the future of the club behind us” (16).
  • January 2010: The News of the World reports that the club has failed to make the first payment to HMRC as agreed, and faces a new winding-up petition (17).  The club’s response is that “We are happy that Cardiff City Football Club’s relationships with its creditors including HMRC are such that we will not have any financial issues that will affect the ability of the club to continue to trade as normal in all aspects of its business.” (18).  A week later it is revealed that a second winding-up petition had been issued before Christmas (19).  Ridsdale now insists “We have every confidence that all monies owing to HMRC will have been repaid by the end of January” (20).
    £3m raised from the sale of future season tickets will not now be spent on bolstering the squad as previously indicated; it will used to reduce debts.  Those who bought the season tickets are not amused.
  • February 2010: With only £1m of the £2.7m tax bill paid, a further adjournment is granted, this time for 28 days (21).
    The season ticket debacle is raised in the Welsh Assembly (22).
    It emerges that the club’s stadium subsidiary faces a winding-up petition over a £700,000 debt in connection with catering equipment (23).
  • March 2010: The Football Association of Wales complain that Cardiff City have not paid them money for a friendly international played at the club’s stadium in November.  A club spokesman is “surprised” (24).  Ridsdale explains to WalesOnlineIf you are asking whether we still owe money to the FAW from the Scotland match then yes, we do. But that is only because we have not done the reconciliation [on the gate receipts]” (25).
    The club launches another drive to sell season tickets (26).
    The club faces HMRC in court again and are given a 56-day adjournment.  HMRC’s barrister describes Cardiff City as “plainly insolvent” (27).

Which brings us back to the current (fourth) adjournment.  In case you had forgotten, I was wondering what it was that gave Ridsdale his great pride.

It would seem that for once the adjournment actually is a technicality.  The Malaysian investment has come in the nick of time.  However, £6m is only just beginning to look at the club’s debts, and it remains to be seen whether the future level of investment will prove adequate.  Let us hope so for the long-suffering fans’ sake.

For other clubs, there is a warning – Watch out! There’s a Ridsdale about!  He might want to spend five years ending in great pride at a club near you.

Steve Tucker of the South Wales Echo summed up Ridsdale’s impact on Cardiff City rather neatly: “In the end Ridsdale’s tenure was a rollercoaster ride for supporters. But, like any rollercoaster, it is one many people will get off nauseous and relieved … and probably reflecting that the lows in many ways out-weighed the highs” (28).

There is one bit of bad news for Cardiff however.  Having announced his departure, within a matter of days it is announced that he will continue to be involved with the club, offering free advice on transfer activity (29).  Just how much free Ridsdale advice can a club afford?

CARDIFF UPDATE – 11 June 2010

The club is now reported as having settled its £1.9m debt to HMRC (A).  It strikes me as at least slightly curious that it has taken so long.

The new regime seem set to continue the tradition of spinning so strongly established over the last few years.  New Chief Executive Officer Gethin Jenkins told an EGM on May 27: “Going into last weekend the level of enthusiasm for the club was clear as we broke season ticket records, coming close to 16,000 sold excluding corporate sales. This enthusiasm has been matched by increased commercial interest from businesses across South Wales” (B).  Nothing to do with Peter Ridsdale misleading fans on how the income would be spent then.

CARDIFF UPDATE – 16 June 2010

At the High Court today HMRC officially withdrew their winding-up petition over the £1.9m tax bill, this being the club’s fifth appearance in court (C). The club will however have to pay legal costs.

Further update same day:

This has been announced on the club website (D), although no mention of the order for costs. The statement speaks of “look[ing] forward to the season and to develop our ongoing recruitment plans“. If I were a Cardiff fan I think I would have be hoping for a statement that included something along the lines of “We now have a sustainable business plan that will ensure we pay off our debt to Langston on schedule, and that we will avoid any winding-up petitions in the future“.

Posted in Chutzpah, Debts, HMRC, Insolvency | Tagged: , , , | 4 Comments »

A touch of the surreal

Posted by John Beech on February 12, 2010

I blogged recently on Portsmouth’s sense of humour in now offering financial services on its website (1).  This touch of the surreal has started to spread to their fellow clubs who face adjournments in their winding-up petitions from HMRC and are due back in court shortly, and therefore the continued existence of each of whom is under threat .

Southend United “deserve special mention” for six nominations for the Football League Awards 2010 (2).  I’m sure they are worthy of some of them, but amazingly these include one for the Best Marketing Campaign.  Would that be the celebrated Confetti PR campaign slagging off HMRC? Let’s hope for the club’s sake HMRC have no input to the judges.

Cardiff City have even more amazingly been nominated for Best Marketing Campaign too.  Well, there was that cracking season ticket campaign, the one where they forgot that they had promised to spend money on players as the incentive.  According to WalesOnline however, “A club official yesterday insisted they had won the nomination for the “originality” of sending Christmas cards with fans’ names on the front and gifts to all Platinum Ambassadors – and not the controversial Golden Ticket pledge to spend the money on new players.” It does make more sense, doesn’t it? Christmas cards with names on; simply brilliant.

Let’s hope both Chairmen are still around to pick up any actual awards.

Portsmouth are so far bereft of any prize nominations in the Premier League or elsewhere.  Can we expect to see their name put forward for the Nobel Prize in Economics perhaps?

Posted in Chutzpah | Tagged: | 1 Comment »

More turmoil at Notts County

Posted by John Beech on February 11, 2010

With the kind of spin which even Peter Ridsdale would be proud, Chairman Peter Trembling has issued the following statement on the Notts County website (1) which begins:

I am delighted to announce that the search for investment into this football club has concluded and last night I signed over my 90% shareholding in the club and hence the ownership to a new consortium. This consortium will reveal themselves and their plans for the Club at a press conference on Monday.

We have been on a relentless search over the last couple of months for parties intent on and able of investing £25m – £50m into Notts County. I have said all along that for relatively little investment and the capability to build thereafter, this opportunity represents one of the best, pound for pound in football. Proposed investors have concurred with that statement and have shown intent and proof of funds in their respective quests for getting involved with Notts County.

It all sounds so wonderful that one wonders why both he and Eriksson (2) are bailing out, and especially why he sold for £1 (a price not actually mentioned in the announcement), putting the club at the same value as Salisbury City.

Might it just possibly be to do with the club’s debts, which the new owner has to take on.  There’s the £325,000 bill from HMRC, currently the subject of a court adjournment until 24 February.  And the bill of £95,000 due to Marstons the brewers (3).  Oh, and unpaid players recently (4).  Total debts are reported as being £1.5 million.

It’s worth recalling that the disastrous state of the club’s finances have emerged during a period of sheer hyperbole about heading for the Premier League under the regimes of mysterious benefactors/investors who turned out to be rather short in the green-and-readies department.  This period started with the Supporters Trust selling their shares to Munto Finance.  For one pound as it happens.  So ‘added value’ will presumably not be a phrase to be heard from the departing owner.

The incoming owner is Ray Trew, late of Lincoln City.  Having left their board over strategic differences, he was then involved with three companies who cancelled their sponsorship contracts with the club – Contract Solutions, Sports TV and Castlemaine Accountancy (5). A campaign to lower fans’ expectations has already begun (6).

Posted in Chutzpah, Insolvency, Ownership | Tagged: , , | 2 Comments »

Pompey still has sense of humour

Posted by John Beech on February 2, 2010

With my dry, academic sense of humour, over the last few weeks the transfer embargo at Portsmouth has given me a few lighter moments with the thought that the club shirt sponsor is Jobsite, strapline ‘Our job is searching for your job’.  Is David James on their books I wonder?

Pompey have excelled themselves though with a new service.  From the top of the club website (1), a new tab ‘PFC Finance‘ takes you to the announcement: “Welcome to PFC Financial services. This is a new arm to the club where our aim is to bring you some everyday financial products and solutions that our supporters and their families have need for.”  Presumably that advice includes how to pay your tax bill late, how to live with massive debt, how to survive when your salary payment is late, and, for the wealthier client, how to make use of a tax haven such as Monaco, this from a club which employs Daniel Azougy as a financial adviser, he who has convictions for four counts of fraud and obstructing the course of justice in 2002 (2), and whose Chief Executive Peter Storrie is on bail on a count of cheating the public revenue (3) .

Thanks guys, but I think I’ll be taking a rain check on this particular offer.

Posted in Chutzpah, Ethics | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

The Southend Stadium Saga continues

Posted by John Beech on January 1, 2010

First of all, a very Happy New Year to all readers, although I would have to point out that to fans of most clubs I wish this more in hope than expectation.

Regular readers will know that Southend has appeared in these postings before (see postings passim) and, in particular, I referred to Chairman Ron’s Little Blue Blog.

Southend United Chairman Ron Martin, following the brinkmanship over an HMRC winding-up petition, had, on 20th November, announced:

…please accept my apologies for not keeping you in the loop which I plan to rectify over the next few days [sic] now that I am able to turn my attention to other Club matters.

I shall, next week, be issuing a series of blogs to cover such subjects as:
• HMRC – how did the position arise
• How was the debt paid
• The “consortium”
• My thoughts about the current squad size
• The future

The first of this series actually appeared on 26th November (1), giving his views on ‘how the position arose’, and making the interesting claim that ‘Some could argue that Southend could easily have escaped the £2m owed to the Revenue but that is not my way…’ Exactly who the ‘some’ are was not made clear, nor was what he meant by the word ‘escape’.

His next ‘blog’ did not appear until 23rd December (2), when he did make some attempt to address the issues he himself had defined.  The debt was paid by “Roots Hall Ltd which was one of my Group companies I set up at the time of acquiring Delancey’s 50% shareholding in March 2006 and is the UK company managing and undertaking the relocation plans“.

A further ‘blog’ appeared on 30th December (3) in which he said “in preparation for the new Stadium and general advancement I have suggested the Trust’s Football Board representation becomes effective at the end of the next financial year“.  Before rushing to accept this offer, the Shrimpers Trust might want to contact the Bedford Eagles Supporters Trust (B.E.S.T.), who earlier this month expressed their concerns about their similar Football Management Committee – a question of responsibility without authority having arisen (4).

As I write, Southend United’s website’s Press Talk (5) has yet to mention an article by John Geoghegan in yesterday’s Echo (6 to see the article), which casts a different light on the payment of the HMRC debt. He reveals that the day before the court hearing Sainsbury’s, who plan to redevelop the club’s current Roots Hall site, made a substantial loan, the security for which is £304,000 worth of shares in the club.  Should the loan not be repaid, there would be the interesting prospect of a supermarket actually owning a substantial slice of a club whose stadium they were actively seeking to redevelop.

Adding further risk to the already thin ice on which one is skating does not strike me a particularly desirable strategy for a club to pursue.

Posted in Assets, Benefactors, Chutzpah, Debts, HMRC, Insolvency, Stadium, Trusts | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

The Spinmeister unspun? ;-)

Posted by John Beech on December 12, 2009

A new message has come through from Planet Ridsdale (1). It reads:

Cardiff City are delighted to announce that they have signed a settlement agreement with the Langston Corporation regarding the loan notes that were taken out in 2004.

This agreement, signed by both parties, therefore removes the threat of any further legal proceedings in the foreseeable future.

Cardiff City chairman and chief executive Peter Ridsdale said: “On behalf of Cardiff City Football Club, I would like to thank the Langston Corporation for their co-operation in this matter and Mr Sam Hammam for helping to facilitate this agreement.”

What could a ‘settlement agreement’ mean?  Was it the debt or the dispute that had been settled?  How come Sam Hammam, previously the arch-villain, was suddenly Peter’s new friend?

Even Auntie seemed puzzled when reporting this on her website.  With the judicious use of a pair of single quotes, she went with ‘Cardiff City ‘settle’ with creditors Langston‘ (2). The interview with Peter there gave some glimpses of what was actually meant though.

A crack team of lexicographers, grammarians, syntaxologists and even former NASA employees (decoding Peter Ridsdale is rocket science!) have managed to remove the spin and come up with the following translation. I can’t vouch for its accuracy, but, for what it’s worth, here it is:

‘Langston could have dragged us back to court again if we didn’t start paying them back some of the money they lent us five years ago.  We might have lost, and been forced to actually start paying them their money back, plus we could have been lumbered with more legal costs.

‘Now this would prove a tad, shall we say, inconvenient, especially as we’ve lost money every year bar one since 1999, and just had an embarrassing little disagreement with the tax man (and please don’t mention 777).  We came up with this cunning plan to get our new chum, Mr Munto TG, to sub us.  Problem was, he wasn’t very happy with us still hanging around with Big Sam.

‘So, we gave in and said we’d start paying Big Sam back so we could get TG to start paying us to pay Big Sam back.  Brilliant or what!

‘Unfortunately our solicitors said we’d have to sign the agreement with Big Sam and his mates as well as get them to sign it. Still, January’s another year.’

Posted in Chutzpah, Debts, Insolvency, Public relations | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

The Madness of Munto

Posted by John Beech on December 10, 2009

Few episodes in the modern game can match the bizarre mixture of inanity and insanity which have characterised Munto’s involvement with Notts County. Less than two month’s since their takeover was approved (1) we are greeted with one of those irritating pronouncements that over-use and abuse the word ‘fact’:

There are four facts: Notts County is on the market, Munto Finance are seeking to dispose of the club, Munto are in contact with some potential buyers and fact number four, it is an option for Munto to consider that Eriksson and Trembling are in talks about a possible management buyout.” (2)

It doesn’t take a logician or a linguist to deconstruct ‘fact number four’ as neither a fact nor meaningful English.

Of all the nonsense peddled by and about Munto over the last few months, perhaps the epitome is this particular gem: “They have an overall commitment to the community and fans alike – ensuring a solid and long future to enable the club to steadily rise through the tables, eventually depending on their own resources.” (3)  In spite of the use of the third person, this quote comes from a statement by Munto about their plans to the Supporters Trust.

Munto have shown complete contempt to the community and fans rather committment.  The shadowy men behind Munto/Qadbak should be held accountable for the mess they have created at this venerable club and their failure to deliver.  Will they do the decent thing and ensure that the club is returned to the Supporters Trust who they so outrageously misled with promises that have simply evaporated?  I think we can all guess the answer to that one. Staggeringly, the early runner appears to be none other than ‘one of Munto’s own’, Executive Chairman Peter Trembling!

This must not be allowed to happen.

Posted in Chutzpah, Ethics, Governance, Ownership, Trusts | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

Of windings-up and windings up

Posted by John Beech on December 1, 2009

This last week has not been the best week to choose for some leave, but then when is!  Certainly there has been plenty of action off the pitch, and here is a summary of the ‘clubs in flux’.

  • Cardiff City (see postings passim)
    HMRC have been making winding-up moves which even spinmeister Peter Ridsdale is having problems in explaining. Walesonline (1), eurosport (2) and the BBC (3) all carried the story on 25 November that a winding-up order sought by HMRC had been adjourned for 70 days. Ridsdale gushed to BBC Wales I’m delighted. It’s confirmation from the Inland Revenue that we’ve now reached an agreement on any monies that were outstanding from the past. We’ve started paying it back, we have an agreed payment plan and they confirmed to us that they would go to court and withdraw any likely action and I’m told today they suspended that action exactly as agreed.” – presumably forgetting that there should have been an agreement, being kept to, in the first place.
    Walesonline subsequently reported the HMRC debt as being ‘around the £1.2m mark’, small beer compared with the club’s debt to Langston.
    Ridsdale dismissed the HMRC court move as “nothing more than an attempt by the authorities “to rattle our cage“. His cage had obviously been rattled by Walesonline as he is now refusing to speak to them.
    He is meantime trumpeting the appointment of Malaysian property developer to the board of Cardiff City, although there is a marked reluctance for any specific figure to be stated regarding investment beyond ‘millions’ (4), which may be nothing like enough to cover the millions and millions Cardiff owes. The little disagreement with HMRC was, according to Ridsdale, ‘linked to unexpected extra costs for fixtures and fittings at the club’s new stadium‘. My, those solid gold pie holders can be expensive. Of his £350,000 annual salary and a £500,000 bonus when the stadium was completed, Ridsdale commented “I make no apology and believe I am worth it“. Perhaps someone has been watching too many L’Oréal advertisements – I would suspect that increasingly the problem for Ridsdale will be that not so many share that belief.
    If we stay with the Edward Gibbon reference, images of Nero and a burning Rome spring to mind.

  • Chester City (see postings passim)
    I’m beginning to think that, when the time finally comes for it to be written, The Decline and Fall of Chester City will rival for length even Edward Gibbon’s classic The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, which runs to 1088 pages in the compressed paperback edition.  Even Ian King at 200% has reached Part 6 of Chester City Football Club: The Death Rattle.
    The Chester City version has all the makings of a classic soap, especially the cliff-hanger at the end of every episode. Lately though the script-writers have begun to run out of ideas as every time the cliff-hanger is ‘Will this deadline actually be a deadline?’ and we know the answer will be ‘No’.Due to be expelled from the Conference for failing to pay football creditors, the deadline has once again been extended (5). Just how much longer can this saga continue?
    There is vague talk of new owners (6) but Vaughan says, with an interesting use of the word ‘still’, “I will still support the club. There will still be money available. All I’ve ever done is put money into Chester and that will still be the case” (7). A threat, a promise, or a wind up?
  • Farsley Celtic (see postings passim)
    Better news for a club that teetered worryingly on the precipice all too recently. Planning permission for 14 houses on land that the club owns has been granted (8). There is still no CVA, HMRC being the obstacle, but at least there is pale glow on the horizon now.
  • King’s Lynn (see postings passim)
    The club lost in court against HMRC, who won a winding-up order on 25 November (9). The present regime is still supping up in the back room of the last chance saloon as there is a seven-day period in which to mount an appeal. Erstwhile benefactor, and still a director, Michael Chinn has spoken of a mystery benefactor coming to the rescue (10).  Time is running out fast, and AFC King’s Lynn is still running favourite in my book.
  • Southend United (see postings passim)
    Chairman Ron Martin who said on 20 November (11) “I shall, next week, be issuing a series of blogs to cover such subjects as:
    • HMRC – how did the position arise
    • How was the debt paid
    • The “consortium”
    • My thoughts about the current squad size
    • The future

    has so far failed to ‘issue a single fatwa blog’.  It’s worth recalling how he began his statement on 20 November: “A few – not many in truth – have commented that I have “gone quiet” over the past two or three weeks whereas supporters would have expected me to add clarity to recent events “as you always do“.  No doubt they still do.
  • Weymouth (see postings passim)
    Pulled back from the edge at the last minute by new owner George Rolls. the latest figure on the club’s debts is £700,000, a deeply worrying level of debt for a club at this level (12).
    My concern if I were a Weymouth fan would be his track record at Cambridge United – appointed Chairman in January this year (13), preaching continuity and stability (luxuries that Weymouth have not enjoyed in a long time), he saw two managers leave in quick succession, and himself resigned at the beginning of August (14).

Normal posting has hopefully been resumed (although I’m heading north to a conference tomorrow, so I’m afraid there is a meassure of uncertainty until Friday evening) with upcoming postings on three ‘new to the blog’ clubs.

Posted in Chutzpah, Debts, HMRC, Insolvency, Ownership | Tagged: , , , , | 11 Comments »

Chairman Ron’s Little Blue Blog: Prologue

Posted by John Beech on November 22, 2009

Southend United’s Chairman Ron Martin could never be accused of consistency.  First we were told on the club website on 4 November that a full statement about the recent near melt-down of the club in winding-up proceedings would be forthcoming, but this claim was mysteriously airbrushed out.  Warming to his strategy of non-communication of information, he bluntly stated on 9 November that, the debt to HMRC having been settled, the matter was now closed (1).

In a dramatic and unexpected, but most welcome, U-turn, he has now decided to explain what exactly he meant – “I said at the time of discharging the payment to the “tax man” (on the day of the Gillingham FA Cup game) that I would make a fuller statement the following week. The short comment about the formality of the court hearing on the Monday was not it!” (2)  Actually, Ron, I don’t really think that anyone thought that.

What is that has prompted to come good on his promise of a full statement?  Apparently it’s because “A few – not many in truth – have commented that I have “gone quiet” over the past two or three weeks whereas supporters would have expected me to add clarity to recent events “as you always do“.  Ah yes, clarity.  Personally I had expected a uniquely odd view of things direct from Planet Ron, and I haven’t been disappointed.

We learn that “Like all complex legal/banking matters there are often subsequent conditions which need to be addressed, swept up if you like, and the past two weeks I have largely been engaged in doing just that“. Quite so, sweeping up, not to mention air-brushing.

Now that he’s finished sweeping up, “I shall, next week, be issuing [sic] a series of blogs to cover such subjects as:

  • HMRC – how did the position arise
  • How was the debt paid
  • The “consortium”
  • My thoughts about the current squad size
  • The future”

Probably a series of statements on the club website I would guess, rather than blogs where people can post comments.  To be fair, what with him being so busy, he probably hasn’t quite caught up with the interweb thingee.

I must confess though, ‘How the debt was paid’ is the one I’m really looking forward to.

What are we then to expect?  As a taster, Ron tells us “Recent events did not creep up” unnoticed and whilst the inadvertent “use” of HMRC Bank Plc may not have been well received in all quarters the Club’s approach was one of control and expectation of policy promoted by the Football League in discussion with HMRC. In the event, HMRC had the Government coffers to protect and in doing so had no regard for the screamingly obvious commercial position that would facilitate payment or the delays and circumstances of which they were directly or indirectly responsible.

If this gives the impression that the gods are looking down from Olympus and competing with each other to see who can screw our Club the hardest, then so be it. As football supporters we are all cursed with a genetic propensity for moaning but the tax man’s efforts to unglue all that is good about our wonderful Club was beyond the pale. Not just the passion that is created during 90 minutes on a Saturday, or as with today on a Friday night, but the outstanding contribution the Club makes to the community, social inclusion, charities, civic pride and the children of our Town. Do not tell me this would not have been unravelled if HMRC had “won”.

I guess what we might have expected from Ron Martin – all the fault of ‘HMRC Bank plc’ (well, he is certainly as brazen as he is cynical) and absolutely nothing to do with the esteemed Chairman or the board.  His use of ‘inadvertent‘ as in ‘the inadvertent “use” of HMRC Bank Plc” is interesting – had he not noticed that this is the second year running that HMRC has had to take the club to court to get over £600,000 in unpaid taxes etc.?

Ominously he concludes “I know where I am taking this Club and will not be distracted by the detractors“.  And where exactly would that be?  To Fossetts Farm via Hell in a handcart?  Let’s just hope that the wheels don’t unglue.

Posted in Chutzpah, Debts, HMRC | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

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