Meet The New Boss, Same As The Old Boss

Meet The New Boss, Same As The Old Boss

By on Dec 14, 2009 in English League Football, Finance, Latest | 0 comments

I’m still laid out on the sofa, so Mark Murphy has been looking at the Notts County supporters’ reaction to recent events at Meadow Lane, and he is less than impressed. Unfortunately, because of the nature of some of the comments made when we reported on this subject at the end of last week, comments will have to be closed on this particular post.

There will doubtless be more versions of “I told you so” winging their way across cyberspace and other communications formats to the mouthier Notts County fans who acted as apologists for Munto Finance/Qadbak Investments, and they might not stop until some other football clubs’ financial woes retake centre stage, with Portsmouth, of course, still being the the odds-on favourites to usurp them. Surely none, though, will be as imaginative as the Guardian, which had a series of ‘related links’ alongside an interview with former Notts chairman John Armstrong-Holmes, including ‘UK news – Foot and Mouth’. The paper’s Matt Scott co-wrote the article and, having been the target of considerable (and continuing) vitriol from Notts fans since questions were first raised about the veracity of Munto/Qadbak, Scott could probably be forgiven for setting up that link himself.

Yet even on the weekend that Notts executive chairman Peter Trembling announced his “management buy-out” of the club, the fear is that Notts feet will be in Notts mouths again soon if they haven’t learned the lessons of the past year.Lessons one to ninety-four of the Munto/Qadbak farrago must be that all future sources of investment should be subject to the fullest scrutiny at the earliest opportunity. There should be no opportunity for a future Armstrong-Holmes to talk of “major questions still unanswered” about the club’s owners, fourteen months after entering secretive negotiations with their supposed representatives. It still seems remarkable that Armstrong-Holmes himself should say such a thing. He’s admitting that he really had no idea with whom he was negotiating this time last year to GIVE AWAY the Supporters Trust’s majority ownership of the club. All the “major questions still unanswered” should have been asked during meeting number one, reportedly last October, and they should have been demonstrably answered before there was ever a meeting number two. Armstrong-Holmes has more to be ashamed of than most in this tale. Moreover, all of these questions need asking and answering as soon as the answers are available. Trembling has completed his “management buy-out”, but the inverted commas continue to belong around that phrase.

As this site has already pointed out, Trembling has either been misleading or misled during his time as Munto/Qadbak’s public face and voice and, either way, anyone willing to take his plans at entire face value, or let him “get on with” running and financing Notts in the immediate future is being extremely foolhardy. Trembling can’t afford the complex measures the previous owners took to circumvent League Two’s stringent salary cap regulation, unless he has been overpaid to the point of immorality by Notts and his previous club Everton (Kasper Schmeichel’s reported £15,000-per-week “alone broke the Football League’s salary cap turnover regulations”, according to the Daily Mail’s ‘Charles Sale Sports Agenda’ column of August 26th). He won’t have any mining company ambassadorships to offer former England centre-halves too young to remember mining on any significant scale in this country unless he’s going to get the “mainstream UK financial backing” he was reportedly seeking in London last week from people connected to that same mining company. In which case, there’s another reason not to let this buy-out go unquestioned.

Media hints as to Trembling’s potential backers have included the ever-present ‘Pakistani businessmen’, but they have mainly surrounded “that same mining company”, Swiss Commodity Holdings (SCH), who appeared from out of nowhere this spring to boast a list of acquired assets that would make them the biggest mining company in the history of the universe ever. Certainly, as a Telegraph headline in October noted, if there was much truth in half of the claims made on their behalf, they would be “the biggest company you’ve never heard of”. These are the people who persuaded Sven to touch Notts with a bargepole by promising him riches from an autumn company flotation that still hasn’t happened (ergo “Sven on the brink of walking out”). SCH chairman Kevin Leech was a part-owner, via his company Condor Ventures Limited, of First London, who provided the bank guarantees for Munto/Qadbak to enable the Supporters Trust to successfully recommend gifting Munto/Qadbak its shares. At the time, Trust chairman Glenn Rolley called this guarantee “as sound a commitment as any football club can have.” It now appears not to have been so.

Some Notts County fans, though, don’t appear to care – and this has long ceased to be a debate over the pros and cons of Supporters Trust ownership. Scott is again being vilified for following a personal agenda against Notts, without explaining why he should have one. Did he have a bad experience in Sherwood Forest as a kid and is now exacting revenge by undermining the club’s future? Has he simply asked questions about Notts ownership – past, present and potential – and got answers which begged more questions or were plain wrong? Perhaps it is an anti-Guardian thing. After all, Charles Sale {see above} has carried the exact same material – always an “exclusive”, always a week after Scott – and has not had the same level opprobrium heaped upon him. Leech is being portrayed by these fans as just one of many who lost millions in the dotcom crash earlier this decade. Scott is being accused of ignoring Leech’s subsequent rehabilitation as a charity worker in Zambia, by people ignoring Leech’s adjacency to Munto/Qadbak’s now-worthless bank guarantees.One contributor to the “Notts County Mad” forum, in response to Munto/Qadbak’s alleged links with Jersey court proceedings, attempted a bit of Stalinist revisionism, asserting that “all things Hull City lead back to Jersey and no-one seems to be overly fussed by their financial arrangements”. In the same thread, invocation of names such as King, Nathan Willett, Peter Willett and Munto Finance elicited a response from a parallel universe: “These guys will have nothing to do with us… that’s if they even did in the first place”.

Of course, Trembling won’t know for sure which guys will have anything to do with Notts in the immediate future unless or until he secures the finance to continue the ‘project.’ So no-one else can yet say for sure whether the new investors will be good, bad or ugly for Notts, but with Trembling having already promised that “on securing new investment he will gift the shares that he has acquired to those investors”, questions will have to be asked about them. By the Football League, whose ‘fit and proper persons’ regulations proved so utterly useless in preventing Notts’ current predicament. They should also be by the still-existing Supporters Trust, who would be betraying their principles again if they weren’t scrutinising matters. Trembling has promised a press conference to formally announce the takeover plans, so the opportunity is there. Notts manager Hans Backe said last week, “Sometimes you need a lot of answers about things”. He couldn’t be more right. However, one Notts forum contributor dismissed this as a “very selective quote of Backe’s statement”, and is yet to be pulled up on this by any of his cyberspace colleagues. At this rate, Notts fans are going to need “telling so” again sooner rather than later.

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