Puppets On A String: The Wrexham Board Responds

By on Feb 14, 2011 in Finance, Latest | 5 comments

It has been another eventful week at Wrexham, as the fog that had shrouded the attempt to take over the club by Van Morton Investments began to lift, while a bizarre and faintly ridiculous statement from Wrexham FC appeared on the club’s website last Friday. Through fifteen seperate points, the club’s owners (or someone speaking for them) managed to dismantle whatever was left of any credibility that they had amongst the club’s support. The full list is here but, in amongst the usual guff about “people doing due diligence on a business would wish to remain anonymous”, there were some statements that raised the eyebrows, to say the least.

7. The Club was offered for sale to the WST for £1 with an option to buy the ground, a preliminary meeting took place but there has been no further response.

The Wrexham Supporters Trust (WST) has already issued a furious denial of this allegation, stating that they have made several attempts to meet with the owners of the club which have not been responded to and that, furthermore, that the club has reneged on an agreement to “agreed to share the clubs financial information with our advisors”. One side of this particular tête á tête is lying. We know which we believe.

8. We consider that some statements made on behalf of the WST regarding current issues to be completely inaccurate.

This is an intriguing statement, considering that all of the WST statements regarding the club’s recent position are still on the public record. Which one could they be referring to? You can see all of them here, and WST has already requested that the club clarifies which of these recent statements is “completely inaccurate”. A quick flick through them shows one expressing concern that The Racecourse Ground is likely to be taken from the club’s ownership and put into the ownership of a holding company owned by Moss and Roberts and one expressing concerns at rumours of Stephen Vaughan being one of the investors behind Van Morton Investments.

9. Most people doing due diligence on a business would wish to remain anonymous. We are currently talking to 2 other prospective investors, who now, quite rightly, have made us sign a confidentiality agreement.

10. Stephen Vaughan, as reported in The Leader, has contacted us regarding investing in the Club.

Ah. It’s difficult to know whether the owners of the club are being deliberately duplicitous at this point or just plain obtuse. Interviewed by the BBC’s Non-League radio show on the first of February, the public face of the Van Morton takeover, Rob Bickerton, stated that, “Stephen Vaughan is not involved in the running of Wrexham Football Club”. We noted at the time that “the question of whether he is an investor in Van Morton or not, however, is a slightly different one, which wasn’t asked and… wasn’t answered either”, but at least now we have an answer. Vaughan was involved all along and Bickerton, when asked about his involvement, either side-stepped the question with what could perhaps best be described as a round of verbal gymnastics or genuinely didn’t know who was putting the money into his consortium’s take-over of the club.

Vaughan himself is not a man known for being backwards in coming forwards, and he filled in a few of the blanks today in an interview with the local newspaper, The Leader. He claimed that Bickerton “has been criticised by some people for saying he didn’t know who we were, but he was telling the truth”, which seems extraordinary, when we consider that by the time of the BBC Non-League Show interview, that several links between the group and Van Morton Investments had already been confirmed and that the reason for the show questioning Bickerton about Vaughan were on the basis of concerns raised by supporters based upon these links.

Secondly, Vaughan stated that, “I have had enough of running a football club and the headaches that come with it”, which raises a couple of questions in itself. Firstly, if he really has “had enough of running a football club”, why, of all the things in the world that an investor could invest in, would he invest another football club? It’s not even as if anyone ever gets rich from putting money into clubs the size of Wrexham. For a cynic, the more obvious conclusion to come to would be that Vaughan is seeking to take the ownership of a football club whilst circumventing the eleven year ban that is currently in place against him acting as a company director for a carousel (VAT) fraud during his time at Widnes Vikings RLFC, and that this might been a more convincing explanation for “going the overseas route with the company and retaining anonymity” than that “they didn’t want their business interests revealed”. We would also be intrigued to know who the “former Premier League footballers and a cosmetics retail magnate” that he refers to are, but the chances of this happening are slim to none. They value their anonymity, after all.

The Daily Post hit the nail on the head with this article on the subject of the bizarre statement made by the club at the end of last week, and the BBC London Non-League Show’s interview (which you can listen to here) with Robert Bickerton ended with Dave Anderson, a regular guest on the show, giving a damning verdict on Bickerton’s performance:

I don’t believe him. How can you not want to know who is investing in your club until they’ve invested? I just don’t believe it. That’s it. I want to know who’s going to invest in my club before they get out of their car and walk up the drive. I want know as much as I can about them. I want to know what their interest is. So, what he’s basically saying is that he’s not actually going to find out until the point of, ‘Here’s the money, I’m going to take the mask off’. What is it? A game-show? It’s only my opinion, but don’t believe him. I think he has to know and I think he did know… He didn’t speak with any authority. He’s a puppet on a string, from the way the whole interview came across.

And so say all of us. Are we supposed to believe that the man behind the take-over of the club didn’t know who was investing in it? The Football Conference has already taken a keen interest in the goings-on at Wrexham, and it would be a fairly safe assumption that both they and the Football League – because, in spite of Saturday’s defeat at Crawley, Wrexham could yet be a Football League club again by the summer – will be taking a keener than ever interest on whatever the hell actually is going on at The Racecourse Ground at the moment.

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    5 Comments

  1. Another Outstanding article-you’ve hit many nails on the head

    Griff92

    February 15, 2011

  2. Thank-you so much, without your website I would know barely anything about Wrexham and other non-league clubs.

    Nick

    February 15, 2011

  3. Stephen Vaughan cannot serve as a director for anther ten or so years following his admission of carousel fraud. However, having therefore handed over his shares in Chester City to his son, he then announced “I will still support the club… There will still be money available.” One to be watched…

    John Beech

    February 15, 2011

  4. Why do our timid media only call Vaughan “controversial” when he is banned from being a company director and has just pleaded guilty of GBH purely to reduce his inevitable prisonal sentence?

    Martin

    February 15, 2011

  5. Re: Martin

    Vaughan has pleaded guilty & will be sentenced in a community court so it is unlikely he will face prison.

    More likely a community service order & a fan.

    Stu Nicholson

    February 15, 2011

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