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What to make, then, of Keith Van Hooghaslam, the Scumbag Millionaire landlord of Mansfield, and his most recent round of pantomime villainy? Anybody turning up at Mansfield Town’s Field Mill ground this morning will have been met by a stark message pinned to the entrance. Haslam has evicted the club from the ground that he owns for non-payment of rent, an irony that is almost unbelievable when we consider the manner in which Haslam came to own it in the first place.
Haslam’s tenure at Field Mill was characterised by a tendency for him to look after number one. Mansfield Town’s accounts to June of 2003, published in September of that year, confirmed that a loan of £239,297 made by the club to Haslam, had been written off. The following year, the club’s accounts confirmed that the club had loaned him a further £90,000, in apparent breach of an agreement reached between Haslam and TEAM Mansfield, a supporters group that had bought shares in the club. In total, over £1m found its way out of Mansfield – £585,142 in “interest-free loans”, along with £583,449 to his holding company, Stags Limited, to buy land for an academy which wasn’t built and, in addition to this, he was also paying himself a salary of £60,000 per year. Keith Haslam, we should remind ourselves, bought Mansfield Town for £1 in 1993.
This, however, was small beer in comparison with the move that he pulled off in December of 2008 when, with some sleight of hand of almost staggering audacity, a final dividend of £2,442,488 was paid to STAGS Ltd, £1.9m of which was used to buy Field Mill from the club, who have had to pay him rent to use it ever since. It is understood that it is because these rent payments have stopped (or, rather, that they have been missed) that the club, now under the ownership of millionaire John Radford, has now been evicted, even though Haslam used the club’s money to purchase the ground for his own holding company.
If you’re scratching your heads and wondering how this could possibly legal, there is an answer: it probably isn’t. Section 330 of the Companies Act 1985 prevents companies from loaning more than £5,000 to their directors, and The Companies Act 2006 states that a company may only pay a cash dividend “out of profits available for the purpose”, which seems unlikely, given everything that we intuitively know about the finances of lower division football as well as the plight of Mansfield Town in recent years. In addition to this, as far back as 2005 the FA’s Compliance Unit was said to be investigating Haslam’s behaviour at Mansfield. It is perhaps unsurprising, considering the lack of official or legal sanction that he has ever faced, that his asset-stripping has become greater and greater over the years.
Today’s events, however, do mark a new low. They may have come about in part because of the non-payment of the Field Mill rent, or perhaps because of Radford’s interest in the £2,442,488 paid to STAGS Limited in December 2008. Since taking the club over, Radford has had to put in half a million pounds in order to ensure that the club can see its way through to the end of the season, so he could certainly be forgiven for being extremely troubled over why he was paying rent to someone that had acquired Field Mill in the manner that Haslam had. He had instructed Pinsent Masons, an international law firm, to investigate this further and, so far as we are aware, this investigation remains ongoing.
There seems no point in trying to appeal to the better nature of an individual who doesn’t seem to possess any moral compass other than one with a needle pointing towards the bank accounts of him and his various companies. The only language that he could possibly understand is that of the law. Indeed, the standard eviction notice used was full of such jargon and a later public statement by the bailiffs concerned, Burlington Enforcement of London, stated that, “Stags Ltd remain willing to engage in a constructive dialogue with the club regarding the future of the stadium”. Well, we shall see, and we will also be interested to see if they issue another statement should Haslam’s initial acquisition of Field Mill turn out to be unlawful or illegal.
Considering the lack of action by anybody in relation to Haslam’s actions over the year, it is both ironic and arguably unsurprising that such a move as that made this morning should occur on a good day to bury bad news. While the rest of the world will be fretting over the eventual destination of two World Cups, the first of which will not see a ball kicked for seven and a half years, Keith Haslam has been busy today, apparently doing his utmost to bang nails into a coffin in which may lay the body of Mansfield Town Football Club. We may well wonder whether anybody at the Football Association, David Beckham, David Cameron or Prince William are even aware of this and whether they would care if they were. Civil laws can be enforced and the laws surrounding the governance of the game can tightened to ensure that people like Haslam are summarily drummed out of football for good, if the will is there. Supporters of Mansfield Town Football Club, watching the great and good in Zurich this afternoon, could well be forgiven for believing that it isn’t.
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Ian began writing Twohundredpercent in May 2006. He lives in Brighton. He has also written for, amongst others, Pitch Invasion, FC Business Magazine, The Score, When Saturday Comes, Stand Against Modern Football and The Football Supporter. Ian was the first winner of the Socrates Award For Not Being Dead Yet at the 2010 NOPA awards for football bloggers.
That’s a great article. Haslam is a thief, and has attempted repeatedly to strangle the life out of MY club. He’s going to get his comeuppance though. He WILL lose the long game.
Great article, and I’m sure you’re right when you say that the timing of this was unsurprising. Sadly, even if this had occurred on any other day then I’m sure that most people outside Mansfield, including the relevant authorities, wouldn’t bat an eyelid.
For those of us who can remember his dad, it’s difficult to believe what a total arse Keith Haslam is.
That ridiculous dividend will be proved to be illegal (as it was made from an obviously insolvent company for the obvious reason).
I hope Mansfield’s new owners have deep enough pockets to pursue such justice through our civil courts.
NB. I believe Cambridge United (or was it City?) won through via the courts in similar circumstances (i.e. someone blatantly asset-stripping their ground by transferring it from under their noses at far less than its market value).
Back in May 2002 Beckham’s dodgy toe before the World Cup in Japan/South Korea was used to bury the news of our club and its League place being franchise to MK just to build a supermarket in the same way.
It was Cambridge City. We (Wrexham) also won a similar legal battle against property developer Alex Hamilton.
To me this is bigger news than the FA/Premiershite not winning the WC.
The FA’s inaction to doing anything about Haslam is indicative of their priorities
permiershite=money permiershite=money permiershite=money permiershite=money
Hopefully Radford will succeed in the law courts and get the what is rightfully the clubs money back.
Good luck Staggs
Cheers Ian. I was going to put Wrexham but couldn’t remember the details.
Hamilton just transferred the ground for far less that its market value too and got pulled up for it.
If only more of these shysters did.
Don’t Cambridge United still have BideAWhile (or whatever) still hanging over their ground?
Please make sure every club in the country is aware of this. If everybody stands shoulder to shoulder, we can hound this bxstard out! A Cheltenham supporter.
Good luck, I’m sure all at Wrexham fc will help in any way possible
Where are all the Mansfield comments here?
Surely their supporters are mobilising?
I’m sure all Brighton fans are behind Mansfield Town, here. What a total and utter @@ this man is. Think he’s worse than Bill Archer, the man we spent years battling against. Good luck with the continued fight.
Alex Hamilton still to this day is paying for trying to screw us (Wrexham FC) over. The man is a quivering wreck, a recluse and eats microwave meals for one.
Our local MP (Ian Lucas) also instigated a DTI investigation against him which found him guilty and banned him from being a company director for the next seven years.
re: Cambridge United. Bideawhile sold the stadium last season to Grovesnor Estates. Fortunately the Stadium came with the remainder of a 50 year lease (around 45 years left) so the club have some safety.
This is the most clear example of asset stripping I have seen at football clubs. He owsn the club so chose not to pay rent to himself
Oxford fan in Melbourne here i.e. nothing specially to do with the Stags – but I haven’t lost sight of the fact that it could always so easily be my own club being ridden in this manner – and it makes me feel quite quite ill. I wish all the loyal Stags the very best and hope that you are rid of this self-serving criminal with no interest in the great game as soon as humanly possible.
Workington fan in China wishing you all the best we had a criminal chairman a few years ago who nearly broght us to our knees. So all the best from Workington and Shanghai.
Mr Haslam has had a few meetings with the law over the years.
Drink driving charge (twice), insurance claim for a stolen car that he forgot he parked in his friends garage.
Alan Meale (Mansfield MP) a long standing supporter of Haslam should go too!
Back in the mid 1990’s Keith Haslam tried to buy Luton Town from then owner David Kohler. Mr Kohler had many faults but I’m forever grateful that he refused to sell the club to Haslam.
Wolves fan in Poland here. Stories like this (and its clear they are far more commonplace than generally perceived) really beg the question what the f**k the F.A. are doing. Are they not supposed to be the guardians of the sport at all of its different levels ? Theyappear to have their snouts so far into the Premiership money-machine that they don’t even care about the rest of the professional game in England, let alone the lower levels. They are a disgrace and, to a man, should be sacked.
[…] Originally Posted by wilbobisback Jake, Take this article as a starting point! Chris seems to have got things a little muddled! Wrexham Supporters Prepare To Man The Barricades Again Twohundredpercent Very interesting, the same guy did something on us after we were locked out of our ground. Haslam Evicts Mansfield: Will Football Look The Other Way? Twohundredpercent […]