Chester’s Near Miss
The festive period may have come and gone, but the confusing world of the ownership of football clubs continues to rumble on. The recent break has seen developments involving two names that have graced these pages before, Morell Maison and John Batchelor. with mixed results. Maison came to our attention because of his time in charge at Southern League club Halesowen Town, but has now resurfaced at, of all places, Chester City, where he was announced as their new Director of Football on Boxing Day.
During his time at the club, the Yeltz were kicked out of the FA Cup and the FA Trophy by the Football Association, ran up horrifying debts, were boycotted by the club’s own supporters, had the West Midlands Police Economic Crime Unit investigating allegations of fraud at the club and ended up being released on bail by the police over the matter. There are several aspects of this appointment that are curious, though. The first is the issue of whether he is being paid or not because, if he is, he’s doing better than the players, who are believed not to have been paid since November.
The second interesting aspect of this is the issue of Stephen Vaughan’s continuing interest in the club. Vaughan failed the Football Association’s Fit & Proper test when he was banned as a company director because of his admission of carousel fraud, and should have offloaded his interest in the club by the middle of December. It was, however, Vaughan that was reported as having met Maison and as recently as the 22nd of December Vaughan was confirmed as not having sold his share in the club, although he told the Liverpool Daily Post that a consortium had “due-dilligence on the football club and I am now hoping we can expect a completion of a deal before the new year”. Three days left, then.
There is, amid all of this bad news, a small chink of light for Chester City supporters. Yet another of the serial football club owners whose name had occasionally been mentioned in association with the club (and another bête noire of this site), John Batchelor, can now scrub his name off the list of buying any football clubs in the near future. Batchelor was ruinously involved at York City earlier in the decade, was sniffing around Mansfield Town earlier this year and described himself as an asset-stripper in his involvement in football clubs, but he has now been banned from acting as a company director for seven years.
Batchelor, who seemed to take a perverse pride in what he seemed to believe was no more than being plain speaking but seemed only to alarm anybody connected with any football club that he went within ten miles of, was investigated by the Insolvency Service’s Disqualification Investigation Team over his conduct in the affairs of two companies that he was acting as a director of, Moornate Chemists Limited and The Besglos Polish Company Limited. He was found to have been making payments to himself – the sum total being around £50,000 – while he knew that these two companies were insolvent. They both went into administration in the summer of 2007 with debts of £750,000.
The full extent of Batchelor’s asset-stripping, therefore, is clear. While at York City, he took £120,000 on sponsorship out of the club and diverted it towards his motor racing team. Of the twenty-four companies of which he has been a director, fourteen had been struck off the companies register and six have been insolvent. He would, however, still have passed the Football Association’s Fit & Proper Persons test until his disqualification was announced. As we have seen repeatedly over the last few months, though, it is almost impossible for anyone to be declared as unfit and improper to run a football club unless an outside organisation such as the Insolvency Service gets involved first.
Chester City will finish 2009 with a negative points tally after their match this afternoon was postponed. No-one at the Football Conference, the Football League or the Football Association has yet made a public statement on the startling success of their decision to allow Vaughan to perform what could best be described as a “switcheroo” during the summer. Exactly who will benefit, and in what way, from the involvement of Morell Maison at Chester City Football Club is anybody’s guess, and the bare fact of the matter is that there is precious little to suggest that the issues surrounding the ownership of the club has been resolved. Still, at least John Batchelor now cannot get his paws on another football club for a few years, which is a start.