It had been hoped that, when Halesowen Town of the Zamaretto League Premier Division entered into administration in September of 2009 that their problems might finally be starting to come to an end. The club exited administration after having been bought by the brothers Graham and Godfrey Ingram (Godfrey was a former player with Luton Town, just in case the name is ringing any bells) and the Supporters Trust, which had been boycotting thee club on account of the mismanagement of previous owner Morrell Maison, cautiously ended the boycott of the club that had seen crowds slump by 70% to only around the 100 mark.
Perhaps we shouldn’t be too surprised by the fact that it has only taken around fifteen months for Halesowen to find themselves back in a familar position again. The financial crisis of 2009/10 seemed to galvanise the players and the club finished in eighth place in the Zamaretto League Premier Division, having lost just four matches all season. That ten point penalty for entering into administration hit them hard – had they not suffered it, they would have finished the season in third place in the table, comfortably in the play-off places and with eighty points. This season, however, a familiar gloom has descended over The Grove and, at the time of writing, the Yeltz sit at the bottom of the table with just twenty points.
The CVA that the club had agreed with creditors in 2009 offered said creditors a paltry dividend of four pence in the pound. Ownership of it, however, was passed into that of a new company at the time of the sale – the some might say misleadingly-named Halesowen Town FC 1873 Ltd. It is not necessarily uncommon for this to happen in the case of insolvency agreements with low dividends. What seems to have happened is that the “costs” of the sale of the club amount to a greater amount than had been originally esimated, and it will be a standard clause of most CVA agreements that the costs of the administrators (in this case the Gary Pettit of the Wellingborough-based insolvency specialists Marshman Price) are paid before any dividend is paid to unsecured creditors.
The club’s third biggest creditor at the time of their insolvency event, former chairman Nigel Pitt, has threatened to issue a winding up order against the club for breaching the terms of its CVA, but the legal basis for this isn’t something that it would be appropriate to comment upon here. In any case, Halesowen Town have bigger fish to fry, and their current crisis is all about the Ingram brothers. It was confirmed last week that Godfrey Ingram is facing a civil litigation lawsuit in the United States of America which includes claims under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organisations (RICO) Act. It was understood last week that he was being traced in the UK and the USA, having failed to respond to the claim issued against him. Unsurprisingly, this has repercussions in Halesowen. Godfrey isn’t actually a director of the club, but Graham is and he made a public statement on the club’s website which will have sent a chill down the spine of all of the club’s supporters:
Following a recent meeting I confirmed a budget increase to give the football management a fighting chance of keeping the club in the Southern Premier. However following the recent article in the Halesowen News, which was considered by many, including my brother, as a vicious and unnecessary “Personal Attack” by sensationalising a private business matter taking place some 8,000 miles away, the club has now been placed in a very exposed position.
As you are no doubt aware because of the article Godfrey has now withdrawn all his support and associations towards Halesowen Town Football Club. The very real effect of this can only be considered as devastating from a business point of view as the club, with no benefactor and with commercial activity growing but still at a minimum, is commercially unsustainable.
As you may know, as well as Club Chairman I am also the sole director of Halesowen Town Football Club. In my capacity as director, I am bound by the companies act to conduct responsible trading practices. In the absence of new benefactors or commercial sponsors to support the club through this difficult time, I may be left with no alternative other than to cease trading very shortly and effectively wind up the football club.
Graham doesn’t state which newspaper article that it was that was “a vicious and unnecessary “Personal Attack” on his brother (Was it this one, perhaps?), but the threat is pretty clear. The Ingrams will not be putting any more money into Halesowen Town FC and, where the club’s problems in September 2009 failed to kill it off after over one hundred and thirty years of history, this current round of problems might yet prove to be a step too far. We may never find out what the Ingrams actually intended to get out of the club. After all, the club’s ground, The Grove, is owned by “The Grove Trust”, an independent IPS Trust who keep the ground for the sporting benefit of the people of Halesowen, and they lease it to the football club. As such, The Grove is safe and the club’s supporters could be forgiven for wondering whether it will be worth dropping a couple of divisions to rid their club of the likes of the Ingrams once and for all.
Of course, eyebrows may well raise at their connections with Morrell Maison, the club’s former owner, whose behaviour led to the Supporters Trust’s boycott in the first place. The most striking things about this state of affairs, however, is that it only took fifteen months from the club exiting administration to their being open talk of it being wound up again. Based on this, it is surely not reasonable to suggest that this particular take-over, yet another example of the “benevolent and benign dictator” model, has crashed and burned. We do not know at this point whether the club’s supporters trust is either willing or able to take over the running of the club, but the events of the last seven days can only lend grist to the mill of the viewpoint that this particular model of football club ownership is a busted flush. Halesowen’s supporters may find that, if they wish to avoid this perpetual cycle, which always leaves their club dangling over the ledge of a cliff, they need to run it themselves next time. After the events of the last fifteen months, who else could they reasonably trust to do the job?
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