Wrexhams Ownership: Peering Through The Smoke And Mirrors
It has been another week of spin, mixed messages and division at Wrexham FC, but by the time of the kick-off in their match against Forest Green Rovers this afternoon their supporters may have a better idea of who the new owners of and investors their club are. It is important to differentiate between “having a better idea of” and actually knowing, because we know no more about who the investors behind the Booth bid are than we did at the very beginning. Meanwhile, the club may be left a laughing stock by the public nature of the divisions within the club’s support and the peculiar way in which the decision over who the preferred bidder for the club will be made.
Being Wrexham, this isn’t a decision that could merely made by the means of a press statement or even a press conference. A club with an apparently natural flair for making a drama out of a crisis, the preferred bidder was due to be announced with the opening of an envelope before today’s match. It’s uncertain whether this is still to go ahead, but the whole process has taken on the air of a badly-produced episode of The X-Factor, with much of the thin veneer of democracy that this programme provides. The only problem with this is that, in any meaningful sense, it isn’t a democracy. There is no “vote” that can be taken on the matter. Wrexham supporters can only keep their fingers crossed and hope for the best.
Booth’s intransigence towards the Wrexham Supporters Trust may have been knocked slightly by the resignation of board member Lindsay Jones at the start of the week. In an open letter, Jones stated that was under “intolerable pressure” and he feared he was being set up as the “fall guy” if attempts to buy the club failed. This shifted the focus of the matter of Booth’s relationship with WST. Was it a clash of personalities that was the reason behind her refusal to deal with them, or was there something more fundamental at play?
On Wednesday, the local council finally knocked some heads together with the announcement that there would be aa meeting between Booth and the WST. We can only speculate as to the reason behind why Booth, having previously stated that she wouldn’t work with the Trust, so why the change of mind? Work being carried out around The Racecourse Ground isn’t complete and still needs the council’s support to be finished. Were the council using this leverage? Does Booth feel (or perhaps even know) that her bid is already home and dry and that throwing one or two platitudes in the direction of the Trust may smooth things over for her further down the line? We can only speculate.
After the meeting, a statement was issued confirming that an announcement would be made at 2.50 this afternoon. The feeling that this is already a done deal, however, has grown throughout the week and this intensified with the appearance of a banner supporting the Booth bid attached to the back of one of the stands at The Racecourse Ground itself. This could only, presumably, have been done with the permission of the club (or, at the very least, somebody within the club with the authority to grant permission for it to be done). It is this sort of behaviour that could lead us to conclude that the Booth bid is already the preferred bidder in this process and such actions are only likely to make some believe that WST are being led a merry dance by everybody at the moment. It has since been stated that there have been five bids for the club, but it is almost impossible to differentiate between truth, overstatement and fiction at present. It wouldn’t be unimaginable if there was a nasty sting in the tail for the Trust, or the supporters in a more general sense.
Amid all the smoke and mirrors, however, several questions remain unanswered. It’s not a matter of opinion whether Stephanie Booth fails the FA’s Fit & Proper Persons Test – she does fail it. Unless the FA is prepared to make an exception for her, she will not be able to either take a directorial position within the club or act as if she is (using a shadow directorship) until the end of February next year. What is the ownership of the club going to look like if (or when) her bid is successful, and who will be the directors? Who is funding her bid? Is she intending to put £4m into Wrexham FC out of the goodness of her heart?
Despite the fact that the myth of democracy – the last couple of weeks have been a popularity contest and nothing more – was merely a thin veneer, the last few weeks and possibly the next few weeks will determine the future of Wrexham FC and supporters had their say, even if this say was grossly overstated. The position of WST within the culture of the club feels weaker than it did a month or so ago, and only time will tell whether it will go on to have any meaningful say in the running of the club. The truth of the matter is that, for all the talk of joint bids and pulling together, the divisions between the support at Wrexham FC feel, if anything, greater than ever and we have warned of the dangers of falling prey to divide and conquer tactics on this site before.
If nothing else, Wrexham supporters had better hope that WST isn’t called upon to save the club in a few years’ time. Considering what has been said of them over the last few weeks, they could be forgiven for saying, “no thanks”. Most supporters are still holding out for a joint bid – whether this is feasible or desirable is another question altogether. This is where Wrexham are now. There has been an undercurrent of nastiness about this whole process so far, none of which points towards a community club, which is what many want – albeit arguably by different means – ever being seriously possible. They opportunity was certainly there, but distrust, disinformation and old enmities make it impossible to see the support wanting to all pull in the same direction. It seems unlikely that pulling a name out of an envelope this afternoon will paper over these cracks.
Follow Twohundredpercent on Twitter here.