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Month: August 2007

You Can Probably Guess Who Blinked First

So, it looks like he (and, by extension, they) have got away with it. The HMRC have dropped their court case against Leeds United, and Ken Bates has, as a result, got himself a bargain. A debt-free football club with a massive stadium, some very valuable real estate (in the name of a conveniently anonymous sounding holding company based in the British Virgin Islands) and the potential to get into the Champions League, for a low, low price. Quite what the reasoning behind the HMRC’s decision was is open to question. It’s entirely possible that they looked at the status of Ken Bates and thought that pursuing a tax exile would be a fruitless task, but equally possible that they concluded that he has played a very clever game, and beaten them. So, how galling is this, then? I’m still hearing continuing bleating from West Yorkshire about the injustice of their fifteen point deduction by the Football League, so let us just remind ourselves of how this deduction came about. Leeds’ original CVA was failed after HMRC challenged the feeble offer that was made by all creditors. The administrators, KPMG, proposed a sale of the club rather than entering into a new CVA, and Bates was the winner (although whether any of the rival bids actually stood a chance is open to question). Leeds United, therefore, exited administration without...

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Football Is Not More Important Than Life & Death

I have often been irked by the following quotation: “Some people believe football is a matter of life and death. I’m very disappointed with that attitude. I can assure you it is much, much more important than that”. It came, of course, from the great Bill Shankly, and it troubles me that his name should be associated with a comment that can so often be sharply thrown into a focus that is unpleasant and unwanted. It is, of course, highly unusual for a footballer – as a young, healthy man – to die, and still less so that this should happen during the course of a match. We should, I guess, be relieved that this is the case. However, we should also be aware that it can happen, and the fact of the matter is that medical technology is imperfect, and that some congenital conditions cannot be easily detected. To bring you up to speed, over the last ten days or so, Anton Reid, a 16 year-old Walsall trainee died after a training session with the West Midlands club, Chaswe Nsofwa, a Zambian player playing in Israel for Hapoel Beersheva died during a training session for his club and Antonio Puerta of Sevilla died three days after collapsing during their match against Getafe on Sunday. On top of this, Leicester City midfielder Clive Clarke collapsed on the pitch at...

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For Fax Sake

It’s been a pretty bad last few months for football in Yorkshire, to varying degrees. In May, Sheffield United were relegated from the Premier League and, since then, Leeds United have sailed close to extinction (and we haven’t heard the last of that yet) and Scarborough went into liquidation and were reformed as Scarborough Athletic. Since the start of this season, Sheffield Wednesday and York City, two teams that looked to be going in the right direction, have had appalling starts, and now Conference club Halifax Town have been landed with a winding up order by the Inland Revenue over an outstanding debt to them of £100,000. Since first dropping out of the Football League in 1993, Halifax have had, it’s fair to say, “mixed fortunes”. After a couple of difficult seasons they were unexpectedly promoted back up in 1998, but found life back in the League to be too much of a struggle and were relegated again in 2002. As recently as 2006 they made the Conference play-off final, but struggled last season and only narrowly avoided relegation. Off the pitch, though, their problems have been mounting up. They entered into a CVA in September 2003 which requires them to pay £4,000 per month to their creditors on top of their normal running costs, but their long-term future was thrown into doubt when chairman Geoff Ralph resigned and...

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A Right To Free Speech

For as long as football has been played, the running of clubs has been a political issue. Right the way back to the nineteenth century and the division of the game into amateurs and professionals, via Billy Meredith and “The Outcasts FC”, Jimmy Hill and the abolition of the maximum wage, right the way up to the Glazer take-over of Manchester United and Michel Platini’s attempts the liberalise the Champions League, football runs hand in hand with political machinations, and one of the ways that this manifests itself is through freedom of speech and manipulation of the media. At the top level, this can be seen in the behaviour of the G14, whose marketing talk of being for the good of the game is in sharp contrast with the reality of their raison d’etre. Lower down the game, though, it is such things as freedom of speech over the internet that vex club owners, and this week has seen another club take ludicrously draconian measures in order to ensure that dissenting views are kept to an absolute minimum. I don’t think that there’s any argument that Martin Watson is a genuine supporter of League Two club Hereford United. He lives yards from their Edgar Street stadium, and is currently the administrator of a Hereford United independent supporters forum. He was, I think it’s fair to say, somewhat surprised to...

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Radio Free Europe

I know that I’ve been neglecting you all over the last few days, so here’s a bit more Baker & Kelly, from the start of the 1998 World Cup. Plenty more of these to follow. 13th June 1998 – 17.30 Also, while I think of it, I’ll be going on my summer holidays for just over a week from the 9th of September. I’ll be handing over the running of this blog to somebody while I’m away and if you’d like to contribute, feel free to email me here. It would be lovely if you joined...

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