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How are the supporters of a football club to judge a new owner? Perhaps the answer to that is the question of how desperate for a new owner they are, but even in the most extreme of circumstances, one common theme of recent years has been that supporters have been more prepared to carry out their own due diligence on those that turn up, out of the blue, promising to repair their clubs. And rightly so. Why should someone with no – or, at best, very little – prior interest in a football club turn up there intending to run it? What could their motives for doing so possibly be? This is an especially pertinent question when we are talking about the lower divisions and non-league football, where profits for even the most prudent of owners are likely to be minimal.
In view of this, it is only fair to ask the question of why another serial football club owner, George Rolls, should have decided to quit Weymouth Football Club of the Southern League Premier Division to take over the ownership of troubled Blue Square Premier club Kettering Town, which, he confirmed this evening to BBC London’s Caroline Barker, should be completed by the end of this week. And perhaps even more pressingly than this, why is he taking ownership of this club and leaving Dorset barely a couple of weeks after stating that, “Weymouth fans can rest assured that the Rolls family will not be leaving any time soon.”
This hagiography from the official Cambridge United website gives us a version of Rolls’ past, but it is events subsequent to the writing of that particular article that cause the most concern over his suitability to run any football club, never mind one in as delicate a state as Kettering Town have been this season. Within six months of becoming the chairman of Cambridge United, Rolls had departed from The Abbey Stadium after spending just eight months as the club’s chairman following the club’s farcical pre-season during the summer of 2009. Manager Gary Brabin was sacked by Rolls despite claiming the Blue Square Premier’s Manager of the Season award after leading Cambridge to the final of the play-offs, but he was sacked by Rolls during the summer and replaced with the former Leyton Orient manager Martin Ling. Ling, however, quit the job after just nine days, citing irreconcilable differences with Rolls. This was enough to force Rolls from Cambridge, which meant that Ling did return to Cambridge United and he stayed at the club until his dismissal in February of last year.
Rolls, however, couldn’t stay away from football for long, and by the start of 2010 he was back involved in the game, this time at the perennially-troubled Weymouth FC. In January of 2010 he told BBC Solent that, “Short-term is all about survival in the Conference South this year. Long term, it will be to front the club debt-free and be back in the Blue Square Premier and full-time.” He failed in all respects. Weymouth tumbled from the Blue Square South and into the Southern League at the end of the 2009/10 in bottom place in the table, having managed to win just twenty-two points all season and conceded more than one hundred goals, while, within less than three months of the above interview, Weymouth were in a CVA with debts of £822,000. Admitttedly, this wasn’t a debt run up on Rolls’ watch, but as ploys to get debt-free go, it’s about as dishonorable as they come.
What has happened at Weymouth over the last couple of years could fill a book of its own, but it has included holding talks with nearby Dorchester Town with a few to a ground-share, resigning and handing the chairmanship to a Lithuanian businessman who subsequently resigned, only for Rolls’ wife Amanda to join the board in his place and much more besides. Still, though the denials over him looking to take over at Kettering Town continued apace. Here he is, denying it at the end of December last year, and here’s a message from Weymouth’s official site posted less than two weeks ago, which quotes Rolls as saying that, “no takeover of the troubled club was ever going to materialise.” Rolls stated very publicly very recently that he was only acting as an “advisor” to Imraan Ladak and Kettering Town. What, all concerned will reasonably be asking today, has changed so much over the last couple of weeks or so? Or was Rolls lying all along?
The man now being linked with Weymouth FC is Tony Campbell. Campbell is a former chief operating officer from Plymouth Argyle, but he has also dabbled elsewhere – most notably at Rushden & Diamonds FC last summer, where he introduced Japanese businessmen to the club with a view to taking it over shortly before it folded. It has been suggested by some that Campbell is little more than a front man for the Rolls family to circumvent FA rules on multiple influence on clubs maintain control of Weymouth, but this is obviously unprovable. He will have much to prove at Weymouth, but many of the clubs supporters now give the impression of having been kicked from pillar to post so many times that their trust will be very difficult to win over.
It is understandable that Kettering Town supporters may be desperate at the moment. The question of how desperate they are will likely come to define their relationship with George Rolls, if or when he takes over the ownership of their club. What is clear, however, is that Rolls has considerable explaining to do. The long, tall and short of it is that his arrival at Nene Park seems likely to be tainted by the belief of many that he lied repeatedly over his plans to take over there, and considering the fact that he has found it almost impossible to stay out of the limelight since he first started indulging his desire to run a football club in 2009 makes it difficult to have any confidence whatsoever that he can provide the stability that Kettering Town needs.
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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.
“Within six months of becoming the chairman of Cambridge United, Rolls had departed from The Abbey Stadium after spending just eight months as the club’s chairman”
What a SUPERB summary and assessment of George Rolls Ian!x
I thought ‘journalism’ and it’s purpose had been lost as is being exposed by Leverson. I was wrong. Sorry…X Being a fly on the wall….or i’d rather say a guardian angel….since Rolls got involved at Cambridge United FC…then I have followed closely his ‘career’.
If I review Weymouths plight….as an overview…and with hindsight…he filled a void that wouldn’t have been filled. Continuity has been the winner. There has been a serious price to pay though. Has it been worth it? To the Weymouth fans who still can go to the match this week-end….a reluctant yes. To the locality/business and its negative collateral caused by irresponsible and inconsistent actions of Mr Rolls….then I would have to say….NO. I could not allow that ‘opportunity cost’ to fall in favour of any George Rolls. Close it down…and start again. Beggars can’t be choosers…correct. But they don’t have to sell their moral base and time served ‘relationships’ amongst the Communiies these clubs serve. It’s a ‘family’ thing isn’t it!
Cambridge United folk are still recovering from their experience. It took only a few months to tear apart generations of ‘networks’ and Community links of all kinds.There has been more than one George Rolls come through our gates in recent years too. None though have been so brash…unpredictable…or over confident as him. Too high on life for our reality. They have been offering the same as him….self serving interests which are not benefitting ‘the club’ ultimately. One is in situ at present and has been recently exposed for his ‘and his colleagues irresponsible and malicious abuse of committed fans. He is just smarter than George. Well he brought George in as a smart move for him. George has been labelled with massive debts/bad accounts that were…let’s say…convenent…to some. They moved back into the Chairmanship after the deed…I mean the patsy…I mean after George had been removed. It’s just done a bit more ‘professional’ in ways than a George Rolls could ever aspire too. But we are ‘on it’!
He should not pass the due dilligence. Too much debt around his name/track record. If he does…the system is flawed. However…he will not arrive at Kettering. During his career he has had a guardian angel. It will not be going to Kettering. He cannot operate without it!
On that basis…it’s irrelevant if he passed a fit and proper test. That’s a ‘systems decision’. The system has failed the people in recent years. I am glad to see you Ian with this excellent piece of journalism has stood up to say….’we the people’ know better…and ask the right questions and have ‘feelings’ about it….s*d wot the computer sez. George Rolls….and his exploits….are finished….is the peoples choice. It will be done…..AMEN. I’d flutter away…..but I don’t like heights…!x
Respects to you Ian….good to see written stuff like this…you inspired me…X
Great article and while not revealing anything particularly new to long-suffering Terras fans it’s a sound summary and should be read by Kettering people very carefully indeed. As a former Weymouth Supporters Trust rep on the Board I had more than a little involvement in accepting his bid for the club in November 2009.
Rolls’ bid was the ‘least worst’ alternative at the time, the worst being padlocks on the gates (which was imminent at time of takeover) or an ‘ever-shifting goalposts’ bid from people who went onto dabble so successfully with Rushden. The problem with GR is this: if he pitched up in a flash motor wearing a camel-hair coat and a huge gold chain you’d take what he said with a huge pinch of salt. But in person at least GR is a nice, inoffensive seeming bloke who seems desperate to be liked. So he says the right things. And then does something completely different. I’ve never joined the anti-Rolls clamour at WFC as at the end of the day he’s the reason we were stood on the terraces last Saturday watching a game of football. But my patience has now worn thin. Invisible in fact. Think carefully Poppies – a phoenix club may not be so unthinkable.
Sooty, I think we are in agreement that Rolls was bad for CUFC. However referring to yourself as a guardian angel is an interesting description given that your sole contribution to the club was hugely damaging to our reputation. For those not in the know, Sooty was found guilty of smuggling duty free cigarettes, all for the greater good of his beloved football club, you understand.
Hoping the limousine business is going well since being found guilty of having no licence to run such an operation.
Sooty…. What massive yawn that bloke is. A convicted criminal and a complete waste of space.
I think like Rolls, he’s got a lifetime ban from CUFC as well!
Nice one Neal!x CUFCs reputation? Look around yours….the folk who did…and do…damage the reputation are still in situ and voicing their ‘opinions’ fraudulently. My domain is outside of those Abbey walls. I’m happy with my lot. Be happy with yours!x Thanx for putting your name to your post tho’!…respect…X Shame you didn’t put the links for perfect explanations as to your assertions…both accounts. If you ain’t read them then it is not savvy to be giving half the story…is it? I ain’t gonna provide the links either…cause it ain’t about me….in here. Shame you ain’t got no comment on the subject matter….isn’t it? Perhaps you weren’t as close to events to be able to say. You certainly aren’t close to my ‘reality’…..or u wouldn’t be presenting ureself as a half wit Neal….to those ‘learned’ friends who will and have read. So you all sha**ed George….a CAMBRIDGE lad….and throw him out there….and carry on to the next individual do you?
I can do that….but considered it a responsibility to shadow George for when and where he needed ‘support’. He asked for it. I was a party to him being made redundant if you recall? None of you gave him that….did you? Reputation? You wouldn’t know how to start to build one. The Pride and Passion flag hasn’t been flown really since I gave it you all back….as i din’t think you worthy of it being flown……put it this way……not many could hold my eye of any ‘names’ who chose to fly it in front of me…..I reckon.
Talk about me…fine….but don’t throw garbage in the public domain about ‘our’ reputation being damaged…..if it weren’t for me the club would have been finished….TWICE…in the past 10 years….FACT. Where would your ‘reputation’ have been today then…eh? Sorry Neal….nice attempt at showing your discontentment with me about summink mate….but its 2 football clubs futures we are discussing in here….not your so called fickle ‘reputation’….or me. Image? STICK IT UP YER AR*E. Gimme the people anytime. In fact come at me with the ‘damaged reputation’ malarky…and I really really should have just pissed meself…..but i’m being ‘courteous’….because the damage can be repaired….no probs….I been on it for 10 years!x Trust me…..!x
…hey anonymous…..SQUEAK. Standard…….sigh……GEORGE BANNED ME U DONUT!!!!!!!!Jeeeez.
Sez it all about that one init!hahaha!
P.S…I have never charged CUFC Ltd for the enhanced publicity my efforts out there have generated for it….NEVER….not once Neal! Kind of guy I is. I know more faces in the terraces than anyone…..you know that Neal…if your a ‘regular’ U. The ‘karma’…is cool babes….chill!x
I have to say this tho’….I swear….honest to him up there….I have never ever looked like this….in public….in me shirt…..in 35 years. Being teetotal I wouldn’t. I hope not too many saw you………..now u coulda been having a heart attack for all we know! Like your one liner about my association with the laws of the land…..don’t really tell the story does it?!
Keep banging those drums……X Up the U’s……it’ll be ok…..honest!x
….if you go thru the Histon site…there is a full appraisel Neal…….read it….come back…and apologise. Then I will believe you were waiting for a plane……init…..X A Crown Court Judge never looked like you….neither did 3 Magistrates….and I do respect their judgements……they accepted my reasoning and charitable approaches….in BOTH situations. I want to listen to you…..really want to take you serious…….but I just can’t……until you’ve educated ureself on ‘the facts’. We’ll get on after that…..I reckon!x
“You certainly aren’t close to my ‘reality’”
Not sure anyone is really Sooty.
Hi Ian…X Just popped in to inform you Weymouth Football Club….is alive and kicking!x You…were a part of that mate!!!x Straight up! Your article inspired me…and a few others. It also gave rise to serious debate affecting 3 other football clubs that i know of. Thank you for your time and effort on behalf of us all..X
…George….is on his own. We all have to make sacrifices. Debt to society paid…X
Hi Vaughan…sorry mate I meant to leave a reply to you in the above but was focused on WFC and Ians input….and wanted to pay me respects to that first…X
Your right mate…not many will be in touch with my reality! 27 schools…5 dads none me own…kids homes…borstal…prison..all before 18….millionaire to nowt in me 20’s….didi it again in the 90’s…and mix with billionaires and crack heads. I stay in touch with the people and choose too. You appear a decent chap and am willing to account for myself to you! I am a ‘reformed’ scammer…fraudster….and was BRILLIANT at it. Plied me trade Nationwide. Took the system…as it robbed me. Not any ‘individual’ as such but Central/local governments nationwide…big businesses and businesses who don’t give a sh*t either quite gladly. Proud of all of that. I had a conscience!
In 2000…I ‘became a ‘turncoat’! Kinda born again experience only with aliens who controlled the gods actually! Another chat….!x But since then…all of that experience…wisdom…and ability….has been invested in ‘the people’. That’s why the football industry don’t want me near ’em!
There isn’t anyone good enuff within it to con me….end of. Sussed that when one of Englands ‘favourite’ sons used to sling me and me siss a box of liquirice allsorts aged 5 as he secretly took me mother out. 40 odd years later we get Sven…John Terry…….Giggs…..not much changed has it? I try to do me best for the ‘genuine” amongst it all.
So…on that basis Vaughan…and seeing as Neil above alluded to some mis-demeanours…then I thought it only fair to hear ‘my side’…for those interested. I have put a link in the box but i’ll put it here again in case it ain’t worked!x
…here’s the ‘official’ story….but yes…the Judge accepted we did it for a charitable cause and didn’t imprison us. Guilty. I LOVED me Community Service…HONEST!….miss it actually….X
Here is the latest ‘official’ story re licensing.
What isn’t asked…or discussed…is why…for 9 years…didn’t any local authority want to ‘come near me’. It took an innocent outsider to come in and ‘deal with me’….whilst his peers cowered. Here is my explanation as to why…’the truth’.
Thanx for your comment Vaughan….you sound ‘sharp’ to me….muh appreciated…X
Neal…nothing peronal mate….I know who you are and your a good fella….so no issues mate honest…X
Just remember tho’…like me…when we put our real names out there…proudly…we do have a responsibility in what we say. All I ask is you ‘debate’ issues ‘#fairly’…especially when you may not be fully au fait with ‘the facts’. Opinion is fine…..but please….read for yourself….and you surely can’t return and say….i’m a wrong un….!x You’d be the only one….name to name….straight up…and on that basis….i’ll forgive you and respect you for your bravado in intent…albeit mis-guided…ok!x
…football???>>>> 10 years old…but still valid!x http://www.matso.tv/hooliganism.html
Gimme a call/mail anytime Vaughan…Ian…and Neil….U all sound ‘sound’ folk to me!x
I have read the ramblings of Sooty and also followed the links in his piece. Is it only me who thinks this bloke is a complete turbo charged nutter? Surely not.