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This is not a transaction that I sought or contemplated but, if it is the only route to guarantee a future for Plymouth Argyle Football Club, it is a route that I am prepared to take.
After seven months of claiming that he was a mere consultant to Plymouth Argyle Football Club, of claiming that he was talking to (you guessed it) anonymous wealthy businessmen that were interested in pouring money into a League One (now League Two) club, then, a property company has been announced as the preferred bidder for the assets of the administration-struck Plymouth Argyle and that they, of all of the 6.2 billion people on this planet that they could have considered in such circumstances, have given the opportunity and, by all accounts, the funding to Peter Ridsdale to take over the football aspect of the business on their behalf.
In January of 2010, on this very site, Mark Murphy wrote that, “Ridsdale had, of course, personified everything that was wrong with the football boom which straddled the millennia on the back of various club share flotations and exponentially increasing broadcast deals”. This is a man whose previous involvement at three different clubs – Leeds United, Barnsley and Cardiff City – saw all three clubs tottering on the brink of insolvency (although, in the interests of fairness, there have been plenty that have said that the situation at Barnsley was well beyond his control). He is the personification of the serial chairman, the man that seems to have made the running of a football club – any football club – into a career choice for which the only qualification, a qualification that out-strips any other, is to have done it before. It doesn’t matter whether the serial chairman has carried out duties at his previous appointment well, merely competentlyhat he has been in the same position before. Perhaps, we might consider, it is time for the game to introduce an addendum to the Fit & Proper Persons Test which states that an individual may only be a director or shareholder of one club, in their lifetime.
The whole issue of Ridsdale’s ownership of the club may prove to be a temporary matter anyway. He appeared in court in Cardiff two weeks ago charged with three counts of unfair trading and conspiracy to defraud under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 and one under the Fraud Act 2006. It is alleged that, whilst at Cardiff City, the club sold season tickets for the 2010/11 season in 2009 on the promise that the money raised would be spent on players during the January 2010 transfer window when, in fact, the club spent the money paying a tax bill and was under a transfer embargo that would have prevented it from spending the money on players. If found guilty of this, Ridsdale could be imprisoned and, even if he wasn’t to be and was only fined instead, he would still fail the Fit & Proper Persons Test. The Test itself states that an individual shall not be allowed to act as a director if, “He is convicted on indictment of an offence set out in the Appendix 12 Schedule of Offences or he is convicted of a like offence by a competent court having jurisdiction outside England and Wales”, and conspiracy to defraud is one of those offences.
This, however, should not be our main concern in looking in on events from the outside. He remains innocent until proven guilty and should be treated as such. There is, however, a certain low comedy to be found in somebody in the circumstances in which Ridsdale currently finds himself being considered the ideal man to take a troubled football club forward. When he blustered into Home Park during the second half of last year carrying the hint of a white knight on a charger about him – to anybody that hadn’t been paying much attention to his past – he went out of his way, initially, to describe himself only as a consultant. Six months later, the club is either his or owned by people that he is working on behalf of.
The biggest question is – or should be, since the likelihood of us getting an answer to it remains slim – who is funding Ridsdale, and why do they crave their anonymity so much? It is far from an unreasonable question to ask. Time and time again, events elsewhere have shown that anonymity can be a corrosive currency. We were recently forced to endure the absurd spectacle of Ken Bates buying Leeds United from an organisation that he had previously claimed not to know the identity of. At Notts County, anonymity was the cover a for group of people that had something to hide, and it almost led to the extinction of the oldest professional football club in the world. Anonymity, in dealings of the custodianship of a football club, isn’t something that should be “respected”. It is something that we should collectively be concerned about and wary of.
There have been some Plymouth Argyle supporters who, over the last couple of days or so have made the point that at least their club may be fighting its way out of its darkest times and that supporters should be thankful for this. It’s an understandable viewpoint to take, but it doesn’t seem to take into account the fact that, of all the possibilities that may have come from a spell in administration and a fresh start to follow, there is little but blind optimism to suggest that what they may end up with is anything like the best of all possible worlds. If Ridsdale succeeds – and he will be running a club with potential that obviously far outstrips its anticipated for next season placing in League Two – it will be fourth time lucky, although this will likely be forgotten in the bluster of him being talked of as a “football man” and a “saviour”. For now, though, there are still hoops that Ridsdale and his backers need to jump through, and even when he has completed that supporters need to keep pushing, keep probing and keep asking questions. They owe it to the very fabric and history of Plymouth Argyle to do so.
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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.
Who is funding Ridsdale? I thought you couldn’t be an anonymous owner of a club as happened at Leeds?
Your comments regarding my tenure in football is interesting if ill informed. I was a non executive director at Leeds United for ten years and then Chairman for five years. In five years as Chairman, Leeds United were never outside of the top five in the Premier League. We also achieved the semi final of the the UEFA Cup and The Champions League.The debt that Leeds had when I stepped down was not only manageable whilst Leeds remained in the Premier League but also not significant by comparison to debt levels at many Premier League Clubs today. Only the failure of the management after I left to keep Leeds in the Premier League saw the debt becoming a problem as it did at many established Premier League Clubs who were relegated eg Southampton, Sheffield Wednesday, Charlton etc.
Barnsley were in Administration when I bought it, sorted out its historic football debt, built a team for little money that achieved promotion within sixteen months and I then sold it on for no profit to its current owner. It was in good financial health on my disposing of the Club rather than the situation it was in when I acquired it.
Cardiff City were on the brink of relegation and administration when I joined and had in excess of £30m of debt. In five years the debt was slashed, a new stadium built and became a balance sheet asset, a new training ground built,an FA Cup Final(first time since 1927) and a play off final reached. As Chairman I took them to 11th place, 7th place and 4th place in the Championship. As I had been asked to do, I then found new investors who acquired the Club in the summer of 2010. Cardiff City were never in danger of administration during that period as they had tax debts of less than £2m and playing squad assets in excess of £20m. In the five years that I was at Cardiff we brought in net transfer fees of £22m. As for Plymouth, I have no personal desire to own the Club and i don’t have mysterious backers. The Club is in administration and will close if someone doesn’t save it. If the Irish Consortium who are currently preferred bidders do complete they have said that they don’t initially want the football club. Under those circumstances I have offered to help.
I am prepared to put my individual track record in football management up to any scrutiny, particularly against inaccurate and biased commentary that is often peddled. Plymouth may not end up with me helping solve their problems. Unless they find a viable alternative however they may just be a Club that disappears out of the Football League.
I accept that football critique and banter is part and parcel of the game but lenghty commentary that is without factual accuracy continues to disappoint.
Good comment from 200%. Peter Ridsdale must be practising his ‘best form of defence is attack’ routine.
As an Argyle fan, I don’t know enough about his time at Leeds to comment, but I am horrified how things are unfolding down here … it’s a disgrace and a sliding agenda worthy of the worst sort of business practice.
Cardiff Council are taking this guy to court under fraud caharges … they don’t do that lightly with a well known person. This guy represents everything I detest about football business. I have no idea what went on at leeds, and Bates was on the ‘other side’, but I found his treatment of Cardiff season ticket fans unbelievable. He will not have my attendance at Home park. I’ll be boycotting until he holidays somewhere else.
I am of the opinion that if Mr Ridsdale had not done what he has done at Plymouth Argyle, we would probably not be in business at this time. He came to the club when it was pretty much on its knees, although nobody seemed to realise how bad things were (certainly none of the board at the time). When he looked deeper, he found out just how bad it was. he could have walked away. he didnt. Instead he stayed and put us in a position where we might, just might, be in a position to retain our place in the football league.
The path ahead under the tenure of Mr Ridsdale (if that is indeed the outcome) may be a rocky one but without him thus far, we simply would have no club. It is for that reason that I am prepared remain cautiously optimistic for the future. Indeed, given all the allegations against him, he more than anyone is aware that this is his last chance.
he has said that he is very confident regarding the court case (my one big worry) and given that he, like anyone else, is innocent until proven otherwise, we (PAFC) have little choice as I see it but to get behind the club and hope that he is able to turn our fortunes around. As is stands, he deserves that for what he has done at Argyle thus far.
Jack – you may like to learn more about the events at Leeds at this link to a radio interview with Peter.
There are good reviews of the book United We Fall on Amazon as well. This may help to provide greater insight into Peter’s career.
Please don’t forget that Peter was asked to get involved with Argyle. As Jim Westlake points out the club is in grave danger so at this stage in proceedings it would be great to learn more about any suggested ways to improve the Club’s lot rather than to learn that you are thinking of withdrawing your support.
Hoping you survive! Peter U.
Having met with Peter, and having no connection with any of the clubs he has been involved with, I can testify that he is a real football man. He has the game, the supporters and any club he has been involved with at heart. I would say Plymouth are getting a passionate and experienced football administrator to help them out of the mess others have created.
I understand that he has a good relationship with the current manager, Peter Reid and that is important for any club trying to progress, and probably even more so for one burdened with other problems.
Give the two Peters a chance.
Sounds like a huge job he has on his hands down at Plymouth but I’m certain he has proved his authority and success in British football enough to turn things around at Plymouth Argyle.
I think what Peter Ridsdale did at Plymouth was rather clever, if perhaps a bit cute.
The club was seriously in debt to HMRC and under the threat of a winding up petition. He managed to get them pay off a huge chunk of the HMRC debt while saddling the PFA with the responsibility of paying the players (albeit by loans) and not paying the off-field staff either. Once HMRC owned less than 25% of the debt they could no longer veto the CVA.
Under the CVA the major creditors were therefore football creditors, including of course the PFA, the players and the other employees of the club, who would get 100% of their debt repaid (or else Plymouth would face FA sanctions) and would not vote against the CVA even though it means that once again a debtor has screwed local businesses and volunteers such as St John Ambulance. The moral of this story is, if you deal with Plymouth Argyle and are not a football creditor, demand your money up front or present a winding up petition at the earliest opportunity.
So Ridsdale got all that out of the way in time to fight his fraud case.