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 ‘Sanctions’

Pompey – the turning point?

Posted by John Beech on November 20, 2012

I’ve not blogged recently on the Pompey basket case.  Not because there wasn’t much happening, but rather because there has been almost too much happening to stop and take a coherent view.  In fact, the last time I posted was back in March 2011, when I commented “Portsmouth City Football Club Ltd. is dead – long live Portsmouth Football Club (2010) Ltd.!” (1), and it reads today like some historical piece, and at least a tad ironic to boot – the tagline was “Onward and upward at Portsmouth?

The announcement that a conditional sale to the Pompey Supporters Trust has been agreed (2) brings at least some sort of turning point.

That the alternative bid from Balram Chainrai was turned down by the Administrator can only be good news – just how many times can the same person ‘save’ a club?  Trevor Birch’s choice may or may not have been influenced by the blogs of Micah Hall (3), but certainly the lack of response to the questions Micah posed to Tavistock Communications, Portpin’s PR company, spoke volumes.  Micah’s digging deserves an award, and shows how far a fan can go in the bigger picture of financial decision-making.

The fly in the ointment of the sale is, of course, the issue of the value that Chainrai is trying to place on Fratton Park.  Unless he finally decides to bow out gracefully, accepting that he made a very bad business call, the matter will go to court.  With independent valuations at a much lower level, the Trust stands a very good chance of getting the desired result.

There is also the matter of a potential further ten points deduction on coming out of Administration.  Here I am less optimistic.  I fear it will be yet more evidence that the deduction of points is an entirely dysfunctional sanction, but let’s not burn our bridges before we come to them.

All-in-all, there does finally seem to be a light at the end of the tunnel, and this hopefully will prove a turning point in the club’s miserable fortunes.

In the bigger picture, it may well prove to be a turning point in the road to fan ownership of clubs.  It does need to be seen though as one of many turning points, as I’m sure Brentford. Chester, Exeter Wrexham, and Wimbledon fans, and that’s not a definitive list, would be quick to point out.  It’s significance will depend on how well the hybrid model involving High Net Worth Individuals will work in practice.  If it does work, it will doubtless encourage the Supporters Trusts at bigger clubs such as Liverpool, Manchester United and Newcastle.

As a member of the Pompey Supporters Trust, I feel considerably more confident regarding the future than I have for a very long time.  I’ve even put a bottle of bubbly in the fridge, but I’ll not actually open it though until Fratton Park is in the fans’ hands.  The only certainty is the debt of gratitude Pompey fans owe to the PST Board.  Let’s show our gratitude by uniting behind them.

Posted in Community, Fans, Insolvency, Ownership, Points deduction, Sanctions, Stadium, Trusts | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

The points deduction lottery

Posted by John Beech on May 13, 2011

As we move towards the end of the season and the state of ‘ups’ and ‘downs’ begins to harden, I am, as usual (here are my earlier findings on this topic), looking more closely at how the deduction of points impacts on the particular clubs who are promoted or, more typically, relegated.

The impact (or lack of it) can be five-fold:

  • No impact even to a club at the top of the table.  A classic example is that of Arsenal who were still Champions of the old Division 1 in 1990 in spite of having three points deducted.
  • Points deduction results in a club failing to be promoted, as happened to Leeds United in 2008, when a 15 points deduction moved from a guaranteed promotion spot into the play-offs (where they failed to gain promotion).
  • The position of the club is so ‘mid-table’ that the deduction of points is irrelevant other than to their final position.
  • A club is forced into relegation because of the points deduction.
  • The deduction of points is irrelevant because the club was going to be relegated anyway, as was the case when Portsmouth were ‘punished’ with a ten points deduction last year.

You can see where I’m going with the reference to ‘lottery’.

It’s too early yet for a systematic survey, but some examples are all too apparent already.  Plymouth Argyle have been relegated because of their ten points deduction (1), and St Albans have been relegated anyway (2), although by a narrow margin.  Their fans must look enviously north of the border to Dundee, where, in spite of a massive 25 points deduction (3), the club has managed to escape relegation.  Their fans may not necessarily see this as ‘a lucky escape’ however, as, without the deduction, Dundee would have finished a single point behind champions (and automatically promoted) Dunfermline.

The most interesting case is one in which no points have been deducted – that of QPR.  A disgracefully slow investigation finally concluded with a massive fine but no points deducted for 7 alledged breaches of FA financial regulations (4), five of which were found ‘not proven’.  As QPR finished the season as Champions, and 8 points clear of the play-off places, any points deduction would have proved highly contentious to whichever set of fans affected.  The saga may yet continue, as Swansea, who would have been automatically promoted had QPR been deducted nine or more points, are, at the time of writing, undecided as to whether to mount a legal challenge (5), preferring to wait until the full judgement is published.

The use of points deduction as a sanction is unarguably dysfunctional.  The real question is whether it is the ‘least bad’ alternative.  Certainly alternatives need to be explored, and thought given to whether it is possible to distinguish between offences that affect performance on the pitch and more technical financial or administrative offences which have no impact on sporting performance.

Posted in Ethics, Governance, Points deduction, Sanctions | Tagged: , , , | 6 Comments »

On the embargo front

Posted by John Beech on August 8, 2010

A quick look at clubs and embargoes, not exhaustive, and needing qualification for the particular circumstances of each club, and obviously subject to changing reactions to the lifting of an embargo.  It does however suggest that the impact of a transfer embargo varies enormously, making it a rather blunt instrument as a sanction.

Accrington Stanley
The club has finally lodged its accounts for 2008/09, showing a loss of £300,000 and debts of just over £1m (1).  The embargo, which had been reimposed at the end of June (2) has been lifted, and two defenders have been signed (3).

Cardiff City
The embargo has just been lifted (4) and manager Dave Jones has two signings lined up (5).  He obviously hopes for a ‘flurry of signings’ but it seems unlikely that the club’s finances will allow a great deal of activity.

The for yesterday’s match against Coventry City gave the squad thus [click on image to enlarge]:

By the time of kick-off there had been some updates.  Ashdown had been cleared to re-sign, and the actual bench had but four possible substitutes.  Boateng, who did not appear at the Ricoh, is up for sale, as is Utaka, but on yesterday’s performance it is hard to see the latter fetching a decent figure. Kanu is yet to agree new terms.  Don’t hold your breath for a ‘flurry of activity.  It’s still very much a case of ‘Pray Up Pompey:

Pray Up Pompey

Preston North End
The transfer embargo was lifted at the end of June (6).  Trading has been constrained.

Sheffield Wednesday
The embargo has just been lifted (7), but again a ‘flurry of activity’ is not expected.

Southend United
The embargo has just been lifted (8).  Seventeen (yes, that’s seventeen) players have been signed by the newly-relegated club, which was repeatedly in court last season regarding HMRC debts, and which struggled to pay its players on time.  Double Nectar points all round then.

Posted in Sanctions, Transfer embargo, Transfers | Tagged: , , | 2 Comments »

An Austrian digression…

Posted by John Beech on January 3, 2010

… which I would justify in a blog on English football management on two grounds.  First it makes an interesting contrast with my recent posting on what the future might hold for Portsmouth (see How much more benefaction can Pompey take? and its comments), and secondly it provides supporting evidence for my mantric moan about points deduction being dysfunctional as a sanction (1).

News reaches me from an old friend in Vienna regarding Liebherr Grazer Athletik-Sport Klub (more commonly known as GAK), and familiar to fans of Liverpool, Rangers, and Middlesbrough back in 2004/05.  GAK went into Administration during 2006/07.  A second bankruptcy followed shortly afterwards – as a result GAK were penalised with a 28 points deduction and demoted from the top flight to the third tier in the Austrian pyramid, a bit of a come-down for a club which had done the double as recently as 2004.

Did these sanctions get the club back on the right tracks?  Well, they have just filed for bankruptcy for the third time in three years (2 [in German]).

As my friend wryly commented, ‘Considering how hard it is to achieve consistency in the world of sports these days, that’s quite an accomplishment.

Posted in Insolvency, Points deduction, Sanctions | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Call me Stanley Cynical, but…

Posted by John Beech on December 13, 2009

There is nothing that quite winds up [oops!  better change that that to ‘rattles the cage of’ to avoid ambiguity in the current financial low] club owners and directors than the thought that a rival club is being inadequately punished.  Witness for example the stone throwing from a glass house of Hereford United’s Graham Turner at Stockport County when the latter ‘only’ received the standard punishment for going into Administration (see postings passim).

There must have been some spluttering of cornflakes yesterday over the breakfast tables, at least for those directors who read the Lancashire Telegraph. A report announced that Ilyas Khan, Accrington Stanley’s latest acquisition as ‘benefactor’, was minded “against lifting a transfer embargo during the January transfer window” (1).  The rationale for this?  “Because 20 is a reasonable squad size in any caseAs long as our injuries aren’t too bad then perhaps 20 is quite a good number to have

Should this be viewed as a welcome, and long overdue, realism creeping into Stanley’s financial management? If so, then only for the briefest of moments.  The key point here is that the embargo was imposed as a sanction – Stanley owe money to a football creditor, the PFA, who had stepped in to stop the previous regime crumbling, and to ensure that players received their wages.

If a cavalier attitude is taken to the repayment of football creditors, the whole transfer system is severely undermined, and the PFA may be reluctant in future to intervene in helping clubs pay their wages (not that in a properly run club they would ever have to).

The ‘sanction’ is no longer that – the transfer embargo is no longer either a punishment, or an incentive to behave ethically.  In short, it has become dysfunctional as a means of disciplining clubs, in much the same way that, as I have repeatedly argued on the basis of my research , deducting points is dysfunctional as a sanction.  We are moving to a situation where sanctions are dysfunctionally farcical. In the case of the transfer embargo, the effect or otherwise of a transfer embargo comes down to the luck or lack of it that a club has with player injuries.

The Accrington action should be seen as a clarion call to sort out the sanctions system, and rid it of its increasing dysfunctionality. Given the number of Premier League clubs currently with financial issues, now is not exactly the best time to have dysfunctional sanctions for financial mismanagement.

Posted in Ethics, Insolvency, Sanctions, Transfer embargo | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

Three cheers for the Premier League!

Posted by John Beech on September 21, 2009

Mind you, that is three out of a possible six, for two recent developments…

Certainly two cheers are deserved for the PL’s decision to make a one-off payment to the Conference of £1 million, this being in the context of the Conference’s loss of their Setanta contract for broadcasting rights (1). As the PL’s Richard Scudamore  put it “The Conference is an integral part of the football pyramid. It was absolutely the right thing to do.”  Spot on!  So why my reluctance to give this noble attempt to reduce this financial disparity up and down the pyramid a full-blown three cheers?  Well, it represents £50,000 from each of the twenty Premier League clubs – less than one weeks wages for a star striker.  I don’t feel then that I am being curmudgeonly in holding back that third cheer – a curmudgeonly approach would be to point out they are collectively in debt to the sum of over £3 million, and shouldn’t sensibly be giving any money away.  Perhaps two and a half cheers might be fairer.

Debt, of course, brings me to the even bigger news that the PL is finally taking action to stop their members living on Debt Mountain (2).  Last Monday Scudamore announced new financial measures to restrain the wilder excesses of member clubs, the day before UEFA announced action.  These PL measures are rather light on detail regarding sanctions, and fail to re-establish HMRC as preferred creditors.  Still the PL ‘vows to fight’ UEFA’s curbs on spending powers (3).

I’m afraid I can only raise half a cheer for half-hearted measures introduced unwillingly.  In any case, they lock in the inequalities that have grown rapidly since the PL’s formation.

Posted in Broadcasting rights, Debts, Football Conference, Premier League, Sanctions | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Vodkat vexation

Posted by John Beech on May 9, 2009

Sometimes things need no commentary, especially when you couldn’t make them up.

The following is taken verbatim from the Vodkat League website (1) where it was posted yesterday:


    Earlier in the season, Flixton had four points deducted for fielding an ineligible player, three points for the offence and one for the point they collected from the game in question. This decision was made in accordance with a rule passed by clubs at the League AGM four years ago.
    However, it has been brought to the League’s attention that the referee for the game in question has now admitted that he failed to report an alteration to the team sheet, and has confirmed that the player in question did not participate in the game.
    The FA has also informed the League that FA rules state that additional points should not be deducted from clubs when an offence of this nature takes place. The FA’s rules state that only points gained from a game in which an ineligible player took part may be deducted. The FA has therefore instructed the League to reinstate the four points deducted from Flixton, as no offence took place.
    As a result, Flixton now move out of one of the relegation places at the bottom of the Premier Division.
    However, on a separate issue, the FA Technical Panel have informed the League Management Committee that Flixton have not obtained Ground Grading F standard to enable them to compete at Step 5 in the National League System. The League has therefore been instructed by the FA that Flixton should be relegated to the Vodkat League Division One for season 2009-10.

    John Deal, Secretary, The Vodkat League

  • Posted in Points deduction, Stadium | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

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