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Two clubs are facing deadlines in the near future after months of insecurity, but while Wrexham now seem likely to be headed towards a brighter future, Plymouth Argyle supporters are probably at the point now of not believing anyone until the take-over of their club is ratified by the Football League. Ian King will be looking at Wrexham’s day of destiny, but first here’s Mark Murphy on the continuing uncertainty at Home Park.
If Peter Ridsdale is to be believed – and who could ever doubt him – yesterday in Plymouth was the first day of “absolutely the biggest week in the history of (Plymouth Argyle).” And, in the sense that it could be the last week in the history of the club, Argyle acting chairman and prospective football club owner Ridsdale was – for once – right. After weeks and months of meaningless deadlines, there is a strong sense among Argyle fans, officials, takeover protagonists and observers that this is, in fact, it; that this coming Friday August 26th is a proper deadline. Cross it and Argyle could be shot.
There remain two discrete obstacles in the way of the takeover. Nothing major, mind. Just the legality of the Bishop International Limited (BIL) purchase of Argyle’s ground and surrounding land assets; and the legal issues – football and general – surrounding Ridsdale’s purchase of “the right to play in the Football League,” (lead administrator Brendan Guilfoyle, BBC Radio Devon interview, 13 June). And if August 26th is the deadline of deadlines, Argyle could be in fundamental trouble. Not only is there much to do and precious little time to do it but observers also claim that such a long-delayed final deadline would render it “very doubtful if any other bidder… could complete a deal if the Heaney bid collapses.” (Ian De-Lar, Plymouth Vital Football’ website, yesterday). Yet, if Ridsdale is to be believed, and who could ever doubt him, this Friday is “the back-stop date in the sale and purchase agreement,” (Western Morning News, yesterday). So are we to conclude from this that Guilfoyle actively agreed a “back-stop date” which renders it almost impossible for any other deal to be concluded properly?
Well, if Ridsdale is to be believed, yes. He assured the media yesterday in Plymouth that “to the best of my knowledge, everything is on track,” and that “he (Heaney) says he’s still on track for the middle of the week.” This backs up statements such as: “The representative (of BIL) assured me that as far as he was concerned everything was on track,” (Ridsdale, Plymouth Herald, 4 June), “Nobody has told me anything other than ‘it’s all on track,’” (Ridsdale, Herald, 5 July), “Plymouth Argyle administrator insists deal is on track,” (Herald headline, 20 July), “it’s all on track,” (Ridsdale, Herald, 29 July) and “as far as I’m aware, it’s all on track,” (Ridsdale, Herald, 3 August). So, the takeover deal is “on track.” August 26th is the final deadline date in the sale and purchase agreement, and we are two days away, without a completed deal, and with virtually no prospect of an alternative deal having the time to complete (“If this deal doesn’t go through, there is no more time to do any other deal in time to save this football club,” – Ridsdale, Western Morning News, 13 July). After negotiations which have been “on track” throughout the summer. That was yesterday in Plymouth.
It has been a long time coming, but this evening the Wrexham Supporters Trust will finally meet with a view to voting on whether they should push forward with their bid to club. Such a vote would not, of itself, seal the bid – there are, of course, still formailities to be completed before such a deal is completed, but it would at a massive single step forward in their lengthy bid to take ownership of a club which has, for most of this season, been one of the most visible financial basket-cases in the entirety of British football. The moral case for the supporters taking over the ownership of a football club that has been kicked from pillar to post more than almost all others over the last ten years was put beyond all reasonable doubt with the extraordinary raising of over £100,000 in less than twenty-four hours a couple of weeks ago. Tonight, though, is the chance for the Trust membership to finally signal its intention to leave this disastrous past behind.
The Wrexham Supporters Trust itself has already warned that “tough decisions” will have to be made if a take-over is successful, and what these are should be obvious to all. The losses that the club has been sustaining on an annual basis cannot continue, and if this means that ambitions have to be tempered while the club gets itself on an even keel again, then so be it. The clubs sits in second place in the Blue Square Premier, seperated from the top of the table from the surprise early pace-setters Gateshead on goals scored. Even as much as this, when viewed through the prism of the chaos of the tribulations of the club over the last few months, is a magnificent achievement by manager Dean Saunders, who has blossomed at the club over the last twelve months or so. It is to be hoped that new ownership and the rebirth of Wrexham FC as a club that is at the absolute heart of its community will improve local interest in the club, and that turn-over can increase to cover the losses that the club has been making. At this stage, it seems fair to say that if or when this take-over is completed, it will be down to the people of Wrexham and its environs to prove that it deserves its club by getting down to The Racecourse Ground and putting money into it.
Considering everything, though, perhaps now is the moment to congratulate the supporters of the club, and in particular those members of the Wrexham Supporters Trust who have, with dignity, patience and skill, managed to persuade the majority of their case. A few months ago, it seemed as if Wrexham’s support was so fractured that a day like today would have seemed like a very remote possibility. The light is now clear at the end of the Wrexham tunnel, and with good management the club’s support can now, hopefully, get on with what the supporters of all football clubs, ultimately, want to do – supporting their club. Through their unity has come strength which has the potential to allow this club to blossom again, under the single unifying belief that this must never happen again. It is a sentiment with which all football supporters – perhaps in particular those of Plymouth Argyle, who will be protesting at the club between this evening and Saturday afternoon – can surely agree.
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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.
This may be a daft question, are Plymouth still in administration? If they are, how come (i) they were allowed to start the season and (ii) why have they not suffered any points deduction?
I genuinely don’t want to see them put upon, but compared to the League’s treatment of the likes of Bournemouth, Luton and Rotherham, it would appear that they’re getting away lightly.
Dermot, in answer to your questions and to the best of my knowledge. i) The club can operate in administration so long as it can cover it’s day-to-day running costs. The Argyle players and staff have deferred pay for about 8 months, maybe longer, thus allowing the club to tick over in compliance with football league rules. They have paid tax bills via the sale of assets and with what measly income they have generated. The pot is now empty and once the Administrators become liable for the clubs wage bill they will pull the plug. ii) They have been deducted 10 points which saw them relegated last season.
Did Plymouth have a CVA agreed? If not, there is likely to be a further points deduction when they exit administration.
Tim, thanks for the clarification. The league seem to change the rules on an ad hoc basis, as I’m sure that the three clubs I mentioned were told in no uncertain circumstances that it was mandatory for a club to have exited administration prior to the start of the league season to be allowed to play.
Haywain, now you mention it, I think that was why the three clubs were docked points in the second season.
Subsequent points deductions will hit Argyle if they start NEXT season in administration. However that is an irrelvance as they don’t have the cash to stay in administration that long. A CVA has been agreed with the ‘preferred bidder’ and I also think with the contingency plan so hopefully that shouldn’t be a problem