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My knowledge of the insolvency practice profession is limited to my football writing experiences, gleaned from research into articles on this and other sites. As a result, I have come to know of ‘gentlemen’ such as Gerald Krasner, Andrew Andronikou and Brendan Guilfoyle. And, as a result of that, my opinion of the insolvency practice profession is not high.The continuing story of the Glasgow Rangers Football Club, and their appointment of administrators ‘known’ to club owner Craig Whyte, was leading me towards a largely, though not entirely, critical piece on administrators in football. However, just like Whyte at Rangers, I have had to “accelerate my plans”, as the issues of racism and financial mismanagement yesterday combined on ‘Twitter’ when Nick Hood of insolvency firm Begbies Traynor accused “the fans” of Isthmian League Kingstonian of racism.
Hood was actually tweeting about Rangers. Although styling himself as “a committed internationalist” at the head of his twitter page – Hood was moved to ask: “what’s an Englishman doing agreeing to be administrator of Rangers?” And he added: “Good luck with Rangers, Mr Clark. Only genuine death threat ever as an IP was on a non-league soccer club.” This brought the curious reply: “A death threat? That’s Premier League!” To which Hood tweeted:
“Very definitely non-league – Kingstonian, in fact. My sin was selling the club to someone the fans didn’t like on racial grounds.”
Begbies Traynor is one of the UK’s highest-profile corporate restructuring specialists. And when insolvency expertise is required to inform news programmes, Hood is often the man with the view, styling himself as a “cynical business pundit” alongside his committed internationalism on his twitter page. He became involved with Ks in October 2001, when he was appointed a joint administrator, and he took the public relations lead (one joint administrator often is the public face – Begbies Traynor appointed Gerald Krasner and Julie Palmer as Bournemouth ‘joint’ administrators in 2008 but, as I wrote at the time, “Palmer could have conducted business semi-naked – not topless, either – and still been the low-profile one”).
Ks were bought out of administration in April 2002, in circumstances which appeared controversial from both a lay perspective and that of a football fan. The regime which led Ks into the financial mire attempted to buy it back, while a businessman from Goa, Rajesh Khosla offered less money overall, but more of it to secured creditors, Barclays Bank. Hood, appointed by the bank to secure a solution in their financial interests, sold to Khosla. The old regime whinged, but some fans understood Hood’s remit. And initially, most were supportive of change for its own sake.
The club had been financially mismanaged in a temporarily-successful bid for Conference football under famous non-league manager Geoff Chapple. Chapple’s four-year spell at the club brought an Isthmian League title, and the resultant promotion to the Conference, consecutive FA Trophy wins at Wembley and a run to the fifth round draw for the FA Cup, denied a fifth-round place outright by some liberal interpretation of ‘stoppage time’ by a rookie referee called (round these parts) Graham Bloody Poll. But it also brought over-ambition from the board, which sanctioned Chapple’s expensive tastes in player contracts and, more damagingly, plans to develop the club’s 12-year-young Kingsmeadow home to football league standard.
Six months after Ks were drawn at Leicester City in the fifth round of the FA Cup (which would have pitted one Roberto Mancini against our lumbering back four), Ks were losing to Wessex League Brockenhurst in the competition’s second qualifying round. And a week later, they were in administration. Ks Chief Executive, “Leatherhead Lip” Chris Kelly, undoubtedly had the clichéd ‘best interests of the club’ at heart but didn’t remotely have the business head to go with it. Khosla had a business head but didn’t know one end of a football from the other, and didn’t care.
He was, in effect, an asset-stripper, though only a few fans – not including me, I admit – realised from the start. And as Ks fortunes deteriorated, so the opposition to Khosla grew, into a campaign which eventually forced him to sell to someone who did care. Given this background, it is difficult for me to know where to start with Hood’s racism accusations. There is no reason to doubt that Hood received death threats from some end of a knob, posting on a minor Ks fans forum. “There’s always one,” is one of the truer clichés. But organised protests against Khosla had nothing to do with these idiots or their agenda.
I should know because, eventually, I became one of the instigators of those protests. In fact, Khosla viewed me as the instigator, which was a touch unfair on the considerable collective effort put in by the Ks fanbase, banning me from the club. These protests focused on Khosla’s asset-stripping, demonstrable dishonest, with supporters and local press, and his business history and apparent aversion to paying VAT and filing company accounts. Race never mattered at all at any stage. So it is no surprise that Ks fans have called on Hood to “withdraw his racism slur and apologise.”
In responding, Hood revealed the precise nature of the “genuine death threat”, citing “two posts on fans website during Admin, threatening my life in racial terms linked to prospective buyer.” He admitted he was “very happy to accept (this was) not necessarily representative of all fans,” while asking fans to “appreciate the distress caused to my family then.” But that was as close to an apology as we were going to get, although Begbies Traynor have “advised Mr Hood to retract his comments” while emphasising, with a vigour only lawyers can induce, that the views expressed” were his and not the firms. And, having dived headfirst into a pool of irony with “seems best if something from a past era is laid to rest,” Hood exposed his true and continuing suspicions by adding that there was “only one post back then rebutting these claims.”
On this basis, remember, Hood felt able to declare on a worldwide forum that “the fans” of Kingstonian “didn’t like” Indian businessman Rajesh Khosla “on racial grounds.” That someone like Hood felt able to do this is indicative of the superior attitude that more than one football club administrator has taken towards supporters. The afore-mentioned Andronikou was so successful at finding a long-term buyer to secure Portsmouth’s future two years ago that he…has to do it again now. But he still felt able to demand “£100m in proof of funds” from the Pompey Supporters Trust, before he would even speak to them about their club’s future.
As for Brendan Guilfoyle at Plymouth… well, I won’t get started on him again. Suffice to say that supporters consistently seemed to know much more about what was really going on than he would dare give them credit for. When it comes to football supporters, administrators default position is the patronising sneer. Don’t bother us, small working-class people; you have no idea how complex our job is. How can we ever be wrong when we have all these letters after our name? They are so far up their own backsides that they fail to understand anything which doesn’t show up on a balance sheet – commitment, passion, loyalty – and simply refuse to acknowledge that the great unwashed have valid opinions on businesses they know, love and fund to a very large extent.
As such, the profession becomes rude, disrespectful, pompous, arrogant and snobbish, while being overpaid to an almost sarcastic extent (complaining about players’ wages while taking in £600 per hour). You may think this grossly unfair and hurtful, possibly even verging on defamatory if I were to name the P&A Partnership and UHY Hacker Young. You may believe that I have no right to make these claims, given what little I admit to knowing about the insolvency practice profession. And you would be right. They are sweeping, ill-informed generalisations. They contain slurs on the characters of people I simply do not know. They are lazily made, with no thought for the hurt they may cause and no indication that I actually care whether they are hurtful or not. They are offensive, potentially actionable remarks which really should not be posted or allowed on a public forum. And they are remarks for which I should apologise but won’t.
I am sure Nick Hood would recognise that.
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I agree that what Hood said was well out of order and should be retracted. As a football fan and someone who worked in the insolvency industry for a decade, I can agree with much of the above. Whilst we can’t tar all Insolvency Practitioners with the same brush (I worked for two decent ones, and one arsehole), the higher up the profession you go the more self-righteous and pompous they get. Regretfully, with football Administrations being so high profile, the IP(s) appointed do tend to be of the high-end, well-known, variety.
Playing devils advocate – IPs are obliged by law to act in the interests of creditors – and that is so very rarely the fans. The only real interest an Administrator has in keeping a club running is that it is worth a lot more that way; what the fans think/want doesn’t matter, unless one of them (or a collective of them) has £100m. That’s just the way it is. Oh – and the £600 an hour is what the firm charges, not what the guy gets paid – as a rough guide, you want to divide that by about 8.
Sadly, no surprises and completely par the the course – the one thing above all others I’ve learnt from the involvement I’ve had in supporter activism is that those involved in running football (whether leagues, clubs, finances, whatever …) will always – ALWAYS, WITHOUT FAIL – completely under-estimate the calibre and motivation of supporters and what the supporters will prove themselves to be capable of.
The sad thing is that Nick Hood did nothing for the long-term future of Kingstonian by selling off the ground and the club as separate entities. Separating an organisation from its prime asset seems barmy even from a purely business point of view, yet it’s a route that administrators continue to follow. Ever since, Ks have been tenants in their own ground, first to Khosla and now to my own club, Wimbledon. Let’s hope it’s not too long till Wimbledon are back in Wimbledon and the damage that Nick Hood did is undone.
In regard to the arrogance administrators show towards we ‘great unwashed’ football fans, a small chink of light has emerged. Andrew Andronikou was ousted from his expected role as Pompey’s administrator in court last Friday. It gives me great pleasure to be able to say that I have been made aware of the fact that the Pompey Supporters’ Trust was instrumental in aiding those who objected to his role. This after he told me that there would be ‘no conflict of interests’ in his role as administrator for both club and parent company. It seems the judge did not agree.
£100m, mush, you’re ‘avin’ a larf!
Brendan Guilfoyle made himself a tidy sum out of Luton Town as well.
It took him 8 months to pass the reins to our current owners and was well known for his silence, his slow progress and his £280 an hour bills.