Peter Ridsdale: Chairman Turned Repeat Offender

Peter Ridsdale: Chairman Turned Repeat Offender

By on Jan 28, 2010 in English League Football, Finance, Latest | 23 comments

Cardiff City are due in court in a couple of weeks fighting off a winding up order, and the man in charge is a rather familiar one to supporters of Leeds United and Barnsley. Mark Murphy reports on Peter Ridsdale’s repeated misdemenaours and finds a predictable and depressing set of themes.

Of all of football’s recent winding-up petition sagas, Cardiff City’s has had the most soap-operatic plot twists. And at its centre, where he likes to be, is chairman Peter Ridsdale. Ridsdale had reinvented himself as “the good guy” during his first two years in Cardiff, some achievement after his reputational suicides at Leeds United and Barnsley, even if made a little easier by Sam Hammam, the Wimbledon ex-supremo, being his predecessor and combatant. His third year should have seen all his hard work come to fruition with a new stadium and all its attendant financial benefits. But he’s blown it. He has misled Cardiff supporters about the club’s finances. And this has now crossed over into outright mendacity, according to those fans, as Cardiff have until February 10th to pay their taxes and save their soul.

When Ken Bates blamed Ridsdale for the financial woes which forced Leeds into administration in May 2007, he had a willing audience. And even those of us with no time for Bates had to think twice before seeing through the diversionary tactic it so clearly was. Ridsdale had, of course, personified everything that was wrong with the football boom which straddled the millennia on the back of various club share flotations and exponentially increasing broadcast deals. “Living the dream”, Ridsdale’s “play it again, Sam”, entered football’s lexicon, and it didn’t mean anything remotely dreamy, being more like the “six weeks of madness” which Bradford City chairman Geoffrey Richmond cited as beginning their long financial descent, and if Ridsdale was the personification of this, his ‘goldfish’ were also a monument to ruinous success. £20-per-month. Hired…yes…HIRED.

Bates took Leeds into administration without taking any of the blame. Leeds former legend and current director Peter Lorimer even lauded Bates, twelve months before Leeds went into administration, for overcoming all the Ridsdale-era problems and being “twelve months ahead of schedule in terms of his plans for the club.” It mattered not a jot that Ridsdale was right, later in 2007, to say: “I suggest you examine the creditor’s list when they went into administration in the summer and tell me how many of those creditors were there when I was, and you will find it was very, very few.” Yes, the very, very few” included “very, very” expensive ones like Danny Mills and his £217,000, even though he hadn’t kicked a ball in anger for Leeds for years (ever, some would say). But Leeds owed £35m when Bates took them in and out of administration – in his own inimitable way. And “very, very few” of those millions were Ridsdale’s.

There was only £1m, but precious little mitigation, at the end of Ridsdale’s ill-starred year as Barnsley owner and chairman. His successor chairman, Gordon Shepherd, was quick to praise Ridsdale’s “great job”, just before noting that “there are areas where we have spent too much” and also “areas where we have not raised enough”, yet, by 2007, Ridsdale was embarking on a chairmanship of Championship club Cardiff which would turn them from the financial basket case created by Hammam into FA Cup finalists and promotion challengers in a potentially lucrative new stadium. Thanks to Hammam, this journey was an exacting one. And Ridsdale emerged as something of a hero for fighting off the claims – both monetary and political – of “Langston Corporation”, an international organisation of mystery, ‘represented by’, but otherwise nothing whatsoever to do with Hammam. Hammam turned from hero to candidate for the freedom of Swansea as the Bluebirds’ rise from English football’s third-tier to the cusp of the Premier League left £30m debts. Administration and near-certain relegation back to the third-tier was only averted by a £500,000 loan from the players’ trade union, the PFA.

So desperate were Cardiff that Hammam recruited Ridsdale to obtain alternative funding and drive a new stadium project that, as in so many of these tales, was seen as the “solution”, if the club could survive that long. Ridsdale’s legacy (i.e. Ken Bates at Leeds) was still fresh in many minds. But he was still able to (obtain) significant local authority financial backing, which had been previously withheld because Hammam wouldn’t reveal any important detail of ‘Langston’, to whom Cardiff owed £24m of their debt. By January 2007, with Hammam off the board and Ridsdale on it, Cardiff problems seemed to be dissolving. Eight months later, they weren’t. “Langston”, still cloaked in near-anonymity (Hammam bizarrely claimed he “didn’t know” who he was actually representing) demanded immediate repayment of their loans, or Ridsdale’s resignation. Administration loomed as this repayment was miles beyond Cardiff’s capabilities. Ridsdale insisted the money was due, but not until 2016 and after a lengthy, painstaking, mind-numbingly detailed legal proceeding, Ridsdale’s view prevailed, to a hero’s welcome.

The repayment schedule was agreed last autumn, with the whole thing outed as a clumsy power grab by Hammam, who even had the nerve to ask for a board place back, said Ridsdale in November. By then, however, few people could be sure that was true, as Ridsdale had, allegedly, spent as much of 2009 battling with the truth as he’d ever spent battling Langston/ Hammam. The hero has turned villain again for some, as Cardiff’s, and Ridsdale’s own, finances have been shrouded in murk, and Ridsdale’s reactions have ranged from the childish to the churlish to, for some, the downright mendacious. Cardiff’s financial results for 2007/08, the year they reached the FA Cup Final, were published in May and revealed £1m+ trading losses. But Ridsdale side-stepped criticism by embarking upon a worldwide hunt for investment, for which, he hoped, the new stadium would be a “springboard.” In June, the News of the World ran a story saying that Ridsdale’s consultancy firm, WH Sports Ltd, had gone bust owing £374,000 to the “taxman.” Ridsdale technically worked for the firm when Hammam brought him to Cardiff. And the accounts revealed that the club paid them £1.3m until Ridsdale became a direct Cardiff employee in 2007/8. Ridsdale called the story “misleading” as the firm had closed down when the Cardiff consultancy ended. He didn’t deny the debt, though, claiming “all creditors will be paid.”

So, the following week, the paper ran the story again. Ridsdale this time claimed the firm’s liquidation was only because the Cardiff consultancy had ended and that it was a “Member Voluntary Liquidation”, i.e. the company was solvent, just no longer needed. However, Ridsdale had signed a sworn affidavit that a “Statement of Affairs for the Company”, which showed it to be heavily INsolvent, was a “full, true and complete statement.” Just like, as it turned out, the News of the World’s story. This had no direct impact on the club but, as Ridsdale continued discussions on new investment and the Langston repayment schedule throughout the summer, so his credibility came under increasing question. There had been slow progress on investment talks – reported interest from “lifelong Bluebirds fan” David Sullivan had to be furiously denied, in the absence of tangible news.

By the time the (considerable) shock of that had subsided, Ridsdale was on BBC2, at half-time during Cardiff’s early-November fixture with Notts Forest, telling the watching dozens of imminent Malaysian investment, as he stood alongside one Dato Chan Tien Ghee, a Malaysian “property tycoon” who was to be its source. With the Langston negotiations nearing conclusion, Ridsdale was painting a rosy financial picture, which was somewhat undermined by the South Wales Echo’s 26th November headline: “Taxman takes Cardiff City to court.” The Echo told the story in a standard manner. HMRC were serving the club with a winding-up petition over unpaid tax and were giving Cardiff 70 days to come up with the cash. They outlined the doomsday scenario of official receivership in about three-dozen words. They quoted Ridsdale at length (“speaking from Malaysia”) claiming that HMRC were just “rattling our cage” and, descending into legalese, that he expected the judge to say “Cardiff City have been good boys.” And they quoted a financial expert agreeing with Ridsdale over the cage thing, noting that the Football League, with their trademark drive and initiative, were “monitoring the situation.” Ridsdale sniffed: “You can ask all you want but I’m not going to tell you how much.” And the following day declared: “What you have published is despicable and I won’t be talking to anyone at the South Wales Echo again.”

Ridsdale’s ego had clearly been punctured by the clearly non-despicable story coming out on the day that Dato Chen joined the board and invested a reported £200,000 into the club, and he announced in mid-December that agreement had been reached over Langston debt repayments, while the winding-up petition was dismissed by the High Court on December 16th, which led him to comment triumphantly: “This puts any doubts that anybody had about the future of the club behind us.” It didn’t. Reports suggested the tax bill had been paid. But a tax repayment schedule had merely been agreed, Ridsdale not so quick to accuse the papers of despicability this time. And the News of the World helped see in the New Year with the headline: “Cardiff must pay tax bill or face going bust.” The story claimed unpaid tax ran to £2.7m and that Cardiff had missed the first repayment date, 22nd December, less than a week after Ridsdale’s triumphalism. His response was to claim that “some of the information” could only have come from “stolen” documents, an effort to discredit the paper and/or its source which inadvertently confirmed that the story was true.

Fans began to demand “answers.” The Supporters Trust called for an EGM of shareholders, confident that disaffection was general enough to get the shareholder support required. The BBC confirmed Cardiff would return to the High Court on February 10th under a threat of being wound-up. And the Echo detailed Cardiff’s financially grim reality, noting for the first time that the costs of “fitting out” the new stadium had “spiralled” from a forecast and budgeted £3.5m to “£7-8m.” The solution had become the problem. Ridsdale maintained his superficial confidence with stories of potential buyers for the club sprinkled around the local press, about which new board member Dato Chen will have had a view. An innovative-looking season-ticket scheme, persuading fans to renew early specifically to fund January transfer window expenditure, had raised £3m, with the enticement of a refund if promotion was won.

Then, this week, the bombshell. There was no investment. The stadium did cost millions more than forecast and, we’re awfully sorry, but “investing in new players in the transfer window…will not be possible…in the absence of new investment. Whilst we apologise for this, we do not apologise for ensuring that the viability and financial health of the club is the ultimate priority.” A mea-not-very-culpa, as a friend of mine described it. Fans’ reactions have varied between “Ridsdale out” and “Ridsdale must go”, with words like “betrayal” and “lied to” in common usage. The BBC website illustrated its story with a picture of Ridsdale, holding his head in his hands – which was about right.

Little credibility now attaches itself to Ridsdale, just like when he left Leeds and Barnsley – his early promise buried in debt and alleged deceit. Fans’ money might save the day on February 10th, and many would not have objected to them being used in that manner per se. But they feel duped, with numerous Ridsdale quotes from the scheme’s launch confirming that view. Ridsdale’s days as the good guy are over. He’s never recoiled from suggestions that the stadium was his “project” so he can’t credibly distance himself now. He has failed to bring in long-promised investment. And he didn’t. He may not resign over this. But if he does, he will remain a “fit and proper” person to run another club. And if he could get two football jobs after Leeds – hired goldfish and all – there’s surely others waiting for his magic touch. Clubs would, of course, be advised to avoid him. He would be advised to avoid them, too.

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    23 Comments

  1. I’m not a fan of Ken Bates, by any means, but the Ridsdale comment that he was responsible for very little of the £35m debt when Leeds went into administration is highly misleading, since under English football rules “football debt” is senior to regular debt, meaning it gets paid off first. So debts associated with, in particular, transfer fees and the payment of players (ie the ones which Ridsdale ran up) had to be sorted out over the intervening period, while deferring non-football debt payments; the remaining burden was passed off at pennies on the pound to non-football debt – local businesses, St Johns Ambulance, and, via HMRC, the taxpayer. The fact that there was “only” £35m of debt left meant that, by that stage, £70m of it had somehow been sorted out (paid off, though probably not at 100%). How people like Ridsdale continue to pass the tests set up to prevent rogues from becoming football club directors continues to bewilder me (and most other people, I think).

    Max

    January 28, 2010

  2. ha,ha,ha fantastic, honest pete finally found out eh. just hope he stays around to finish the job. get cardiff back to the 4th division where they belong pete(or bust)!

    brian

    January 28, 2010

  3. And I wonder how just much real money Peter “I didn’t lie” Ridsdale has taken out of Cardiff City in salary and performance- related bonuses?

    That’s a laugh. If Ridsdale’s bonuses were genuinely performance-related, HE’D be paying CARDIFF.

    What a conman. What a creep

    OneTonyCurrie

    January 29, 2010

  4. Max said “How people like Ridsdale continue to pass the tests set up to prevent rogues from becoming football club directors continues to bewilder me (and most other people, I think).”

    It’s because the FA have no inclination to introduce a stricter FAPP test that would stop the likes of Risdale jumping from one club to another leaving a trail of destruction behind him. Just like they’re not interested in cleaning up the bungs and dodgy agents that Mike Newell railed against.

    Mind you any club that lets Risdale through the door with his track record deserves eveything they get!

    Micky F

    January 29, 2010

  5. Ah deja vu for us Leeds fans hearing the same old verbal bull from a blatant crook.

    Have to say it couldn’t happen to a nicer bunch in Cardiff (Yes we hate you sheep herding muppets), I certainly won’t be shedding any tears after the stick we took when it happened to us.

    As for Ridsdale I do hope he gets another Football job very soon when he gets hounded out of Cardiff, hopefully at Old Trafford or Stamford Bridge!!

    See you as we pass you on your way down Cardiff, and we will have a knowing smile on our faces!!

    Big Stan

    January 29, 2010

  6. Peter Ridsdale is a liar a conman and a crook and for having the 3 titles he his currently earning around 550k PA at Cardiff City and the Football League still views him as fit and propper person to run a Football Club. Personally i wouldn’t have him running the local scout group as i’m sure all the bob and job money would soon disappear??

    Jeff Blueheaven

    January 29, 2010

  7. Only one word is suitable for those brain-dead LUFC fans posting on here and it starts with a B ******S, un-likely that you can work it out so its bollocks! Proper football fans would not take such delight in one clubs temporary misery.

    From a true Football fan and even truer Bluebird fan!

    Graham Powell

    January 29, 2010

  8. well as the leeds fans (rightly) point out, it couldn’t happen to a nicer club and a nicer set of fans!!

    cardiff laughed at our (swans) demise, and laughed at leeds demise… well guess what you inbreds?? WE’RE ALL COLLECTIVELY LAUGHING AT YOUR DEMISE.

    what goes around comes around, and i doubt very much a single tear will be shed by any other club.

    BAPTISTE

    January 29, 2010

  9. Message for Fat Stan: you dirty northern kunt!

    At least Cardiff City can take pleasure in your clubs pathetic downfall over the years being as a result of beating you 2-1 in the cup all those years ago.

    Top of the Prem at that point weren’t you I believe??!

    Blooooooooooobirds!!

    Big Bob

    January 29, 2010

  10. Message for Baptiste: You dirty jack gypo!

    Inbred doesn’t even come into play with you Forrest Gump retards down there – you’re so many generations past inbred you’re bordering on full on mongos!

    Oh and guess what……EVERYONE THINKS YOU’RE KUNTS!

    Bloooooooobirds!

    Big Bob

    January 29, 2010

  11. ridsdale gonners saturday hahaha CMON U BLOOOOOOOOOOOBIRDS!!! SUPPORTTHEBOYSMAKESUMNOISELOL

    bobby

    January 29, 2010

  12. To all those fans out there who are reading about the current problems being experienced a CCFC I would say please take a look around you and view the greater picture of English League Football. It’s not a pretty one at the moment with so many clubs facing similar financial problems. As a CCFC fan I am also a fan of football in general and have not, nor will I ever, derive any pleasure from seeing other fans suffer as the result of mismanagement of their beloved football clubs. There are those among genuine football fans who act responsibly and treat others with the utmost of respect so please don’t ‘tar all of us with the same brush’. Carry on supporting your clubs in every way you can and derive as much pleasure as possible in doing so because like us in Cardiff you don’t know what’s waiting around the corner.
    I’m going to forget all the politics surrounding my club and get out there and support the players and manager as best I can. I suggest you all do the same and leave the abuse to mindless idiots who know no better. I want football to survive everywhere.

    Lottydottyblue

    January 29, 2010

  13. couldn’t happen to a nicer club in cardiff city

    deluded, arrogant, superiority complex and horrible fans.

    jacko

    January 29, 2010

  14. Ladies and gentlemen……….I give you a true representation of a Cardiff City fan…’Big Bob’.

    Well done mate, you’ve managed to embarrass your club and city by showing everyone what Cardiff city fans are really like!!

    True as it may be that some fans from Leeds and Swansea might take great pleasure on seeing Cardiff fall in this way but I for one, as a true Jack, hate to see any football club, including Cardiff, suffer due to the actions of one man.

    You on the other hand ‘Big Bob’ wouldn’t be missed by anyone if you fell off the end of the earth kidda!

    Ping pong Jeff

    January 29, 2010

  15. Those of you taking the piss, remember your club could be next

    Marky

    January 29, 2010

  16. I hate seeing any club/fans suffer, but with the general attitude of some sets of fans, Cardiff in this instance, it does make it hard to feel sympathy at times like this.

    Steve Thomas

    January 29, 2010

  17. Message for Ping Pong Jeff:

    I don’t know what you’re talking about mate – I happen to be a high court judge with a diploma in Astro physics, a part-time youth club leader working with troubled teenagers, do volunteer charity work with the homeless and coach my kids football team on the weekend.

    If your fellow jack clowns can tar every Cardiff City supporter with the same brush and throw insulting comments our way, I don’t see any reason why I can’t join in the fun??!?!

    Can’t take it? Then maybe they shouldn’t dish it out kidda xx

    Big Bob

    January 29, 2010

  18. Speaking as a Cardiff fan it is now time for us to borrow the necessary money and buy out David Beckham’s LA Galaxy contract. We can use Beckham’s name to bring in endorsement revenue and investors to buy the club. Having Ryan Giggs (Cardiff through and through) as our new player manager and Gary Neville as his assistant will help secure Beckham’s move. This is no gamble its a sure winner!

    BlueBird 1992

    January 29, 2010

  19. Message for Jacko: Arseface!

    Big Bob

    January 29, 2010

  20. I have a bottle of bubbly on ice awaiting the day when Cardiff go bust and will take great pleasure in watching the violent scum who follow them crying their eyes out. It really couldnt happen to nastier bunch.
    Come on you Swans!!

    wyn thomas

    January 29, 2010

  21. It is really quite sad to read the personal and tribal comments on this article. I’m a CCFC fan, season ticket holder and supporter. I’m also a fan of Welsh football – meaning the other five sides in the English pryamid system as well as the national team.

    For those of us who are welsh, we may be experiencing the halcyon days of football in South Wales. CCFC have a new stadium, and are in the top six of the Championship. SCFC have a new stadium, and are in the top six of the Championship. Newport County FC are running away with the Conference South, and Merthyr Tydfil FC have overcome a ten point deduction and are now within touching distance of the top half of the Southern Premier League.

    I’m not surprised that the money has not gone on players – but then it was the worst kept secret in british football that Cardiff City are strapped for cash. However, the offer to have a price freeze for the next five years was a good deal. Did I really think that the money would go on players? No, I didn’t. However, I got what I paid for – the right to go to all the home league matches next season.

    People can protest if they want to (and some will, I have no doubt) – but I’m going tomorrow to support CCFC against Doncaster, and hopefully we’ll get another good result.

    PeripateticMF

    January 29, 2010

  22. Marky my club wasn’t next, it was previous with Hammam.

    The Fit and Proper Person’s Test isn’t worth anything whilst Risdale and Hammam continue to pass it.

    Martin

    February 6, 2010

  23. Hear the frank and exclusive interview of Peter Ridsdale on ONFM about the day to day challenges of being executive chairman of Leeds United Football Club, Barnsley and Cardiff City. In the extended exclusive interview Peter talks at length about his time as executive chairman of Leeds United, a time when two Leeds Utd fans were stabbed dead in Istanbul, the trail of Premiership footballers Lee Bowyer and Jonathan Woodgate and at a time when the club incurred enormous debt. Peter also talks about his current dealings with Plymouth Argyle FC and his attempts to seek a financial backer for the club. In the interview Peter refers to the impact of suffering negative publicity in the media and in fans forums and of the personal impact on his reputation. He also speaks about his relationships with the former Chairman of Chelsea Ken Bates and the former manager of Leeds David O’Leary.

    click here to listen http://snd.sc/dGB1NK

    ONFM

    February 25, 2011

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