Notts County & Munto Finance: The Inquest Begins

Notts County & Munto Finance: The Inquest Begins

By on Feb 13, 2010 in English League Football, Finance, Latest | 15 comments

“Ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated?” was the rhetorical question asked by John Lydon to the audience at the end of what turned out to be The Sex Pistols’ last show, at the Winterland in SanFrancisco in 1978. If only football club owners were as candid. This week, though, Peter Trembling slunk away from Meadow Lane with a press statement that gave away little about his actual role in what has been going on at the club during his time there, but there it now seems likely that the truth will out. At this stage, it feels as if it is now a matter of the new owners going through the books and revealing the extent of the mismanagement of Notts County Football Club over the last six or seven months or so.

There have already been a couple of articles printed in the press on the subject of just how wretched the situation has become at the club over the last few months, and we don’t know whether everything that is to be said on the subject has come into the public domain yet. What we know for certain is that Munto Finance was a mirage – a vehicle, effectively, for something else altogether – and that the promises made to Notts County supporters last summer were built entirely upon sand. What is only now starting to become apparent, though, is the extent to which the club was being asset-stripped, with the impression constantly being given that the money was just about to be put in, and the extent to which everybody seems to have been being hoodwinked.

There are probably some red-faced Notts supporters this morning, all the more so considering Sven Goran Eriksson’s first choice of post-Munto interviewer – The Guardian’s Matt Scott. The irony is marked for anyone that has been keeping a close eye on this story over the last few months or so. Scott was, for the entire duration of the Munto months, the primary bête noire of those that had fallen for the conmen’s charm. He was accused of having been following an agenda and of telling lies for the purposes of creating news (his critics never did successfully suggest why a journalist with no connections with Nottingham would suddenly decide on – and still less get editorial approval to publish – a vendetta against a League Two club). Yet Eriksson chose him, for this first interview. Reward, possibly, for a job well done.

There are parts of the interview that start to sound like a James Bond film scripted by the writers of the “Carry On” films. At one stage, Eriksson flew out to North Korea – a country practically bankrupted by years of sanctions – with Nathan Willett and Russell King (whose continuing involvement in the club was repeatedly denied by a club eager to pass the Fit & Proper Persons Test) for a meeting at which share certificates in the phantom company Swiss Commodity Holdings were thrown around like confetti. His attempts to negotiate with a clearly unhappy Sol Campbell were nipped in the bud when Campbell left halfway through a training session just after his only appearance for the club. The impression that Eriksson gives is of someone more than slightly embarrassed by what has happened and the fact that he allowed himself to be taken in by it all.

Meanwhile, Ray Trew has had a look at the books and appears less than impressed by what he has seen so far. An article in this morning’s Daily Telegraph describes “some individual footballers earning over £1m a year” (which would indicate that the likes of Kasper Schmeichel may even be earning more that the £15,000 per week which was believed to be the uppoer limit of what he may have been being paid), “masseurs coming out of their ears” and, intriguingly, some adminstrative staff earning as much as £65,000 per year. No wonder there were so few prepared to question it all. The club seems to have been turned into a gravy train very quickly. The players that Notts County couldn’t really afford to pay for all along will most likely be released as and when they can.

In the meantime, Notts County supporters are left utterly stranded. They have to keep their fingers crossed that the new owners will behave themselves. They gave up their say on the matter when they gave control of the club to Munto during the summer. The Supporters Trust at Notts County is fatally holed in its current constituency, but this need not be a permanent state of affairs. The whole point of supporter democracy is that the trust board, if incompetent, can be replaced. Whether there is any thirst for this to happen, however, is moot. In the meantime, normal service will resume over the fullness of time. And it’s only fair to leave the final word on the matter to David Conn of The Guardian. He included a chapter on Notts in his 2004 book “The Beautiful Game?”, and his closing paragraph about them ended up being more prophetic than anyone could possibly have imagined at the time.

Perhaps after all they’ve been through, Notts County will know themselves more thoroughly now, understand their limitations, the junior club in a small city, and realise that their job is firstly to ensure they survive, extend their record-breaking history, run themselves properly, openly, with genuine people in charge, who care about the club. Be committed to living within their means, and grow not by gambling with money they haven’t got, but by weaving more fans into the club and reaching out to the community. Aim for success realistically, not sink into the red to chase it, all the way, maybe, campaigning for a fairer share of money through football. Perhaps all this trauma was for a reason, showing those in charge a better way, and all the lessons will be learned. Or, on the other hand, maybe they won’t.

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    15 Comments

  1. So, where are the Notts County supporters who accused those who saw through Munto of “envy” and “sour grapes” now? Hanging their heads in utter shame, I would hope.

    NottyImp

    February 13, 2010

  2. Another great article.

    What has happened at Notts sould be awarning to fans of clubs with new owners who promise the earth, and say they’ve got ‘more money than you can shake a stick at’.

    Of course the previous two owners of Pompey have indicated that they had plenty of money, yet produced nothing but loans from other people.

    Alan J

    February 13, 2010

  3. What give you the right to be so patronizing why should everything be done in your domain,you just dint like the idea of a small club like us making it,OK we have been stung but we still believe in our club,who knows perhaps some kind person (not from your neck of the woods)will come forward,its you lot that wants to get in the real world as you live in cuckoo land get a life.

    David Boyes

    February 13, 2010

  4. ‘“Ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated?” was the rhetorical question asked by John Lydon to the audience at the end of what turned out to be The Sex Pistols’ last show, at the Winterland in SanFrancisco in 1978.’

    Until they reformed in 1996. And 2002. And 2007.
    Whaddya you mean, you don’t remember that? Oh…

    Tim Vickerman

    February 14, 2010

  5. @David Boyes – you really are in denial aren’t you! If you look around at this site at all you’ll probably see more about the small teams than the big, and that about the big is often less than complimentary.

    If you want to be angry with anyone, be angry with those behind Munto Finance, and those that were taken in by them. A lot of people had doubts about Munto, and those have proved to be correct; some Notts fans at the time accused them of sour grapes. Now it’s all come home to roost, you accuse them again of sour grapes. Take the plank out of your own eye….

    Albert Ross

    February 14, 2010

  6. NottyImp vocalises a real problem with County in that they may be the second club in football to go beyond the level of sympathy.

    Anyone who has even questioned County this season has been slurred up to the point where they were proved right. David Boyes represents a strange kind of mentality. Ben Davies of Shrewsbury was a very good player for them last season and this year he has been spirited away to Meadow Lane, ditto Graeme Lee from Bradford City. Boyes’s idea that anyone could be against County because they are a small club neglects the idea that – by basically running up debts they were never going to be able to afford – he people they are ripping off on the whole have the same aim. The level of entitlement that Boyes shows – not that a small club should be allowed to do well just that his small club should be – along with the generally obnoxious attitude of County fans all season (and the players – Kasper Schmeichel kicked a door in this season after one loss at Valley Parade) starts to create a situation where other football fasn are at risk of cutting them loose with a firm statement that they have made the bed they lay in.

    I certainly would find it very hard to put my money into a pot to “Save Notts County” when Lee Hughes is taking out of that pot and because of people like David Boyes. However if football is weakened by the loss of any club – if we cannot in favour of any football supporter should be in a situation where his club is threatened – then we as a community have to extend sympathy, forgiveness and help to the Notts County fans even though they are the second club to pass sympathy.

    The question is are there clubs of whom one would say that we can not get sympathy for?

    Michael Wood

    February 14, 2010

  7. You state in the article that Munto asset stripped the club.
    They did lots of bad things, but what assets did they strip???

    Manneken Pis

    February 14, 2010

  8. There was talk of Notts going into admin again, but that is not going to help when you’ve still got players on £15k+ a week, and you cannot just rip up players contracts unless they agree.

    In todays MoS they say that Kasper Schmeichel is on a promotion bonus of £200k. How are they going to pay that?

    And for David Boyes, I support a club that has been in admin twice, but nearly went out of business just over 2 years ago (we couldn’t go into admin again as the judge forebode it when he agreed the 2nd period of admin).

    We have new owners who are trying to run the club in a business-like manner, and they have said that they will not throw money at the club, despite being worth an estimated £800m+, which our fans fully agree with.

    Alan J

    February 14, 2010

  9. Not all fans were duped and I hate this thought that they were. I voted against the takeover even though I hated the people that were running the Trust.

    Someone needs to look at the reasons the Chairman at the time who was on the Trust board not only said the deal was good for the club but went further and said thats Trusts were simply social experiments, funny that at the time he was telling people that he was to become a Director of the new company?

    Nottsfan

    February 15, 2010

  10. The least of Coumty’s problems is the HMRC debt. I suspect Trew can manage to pay that off. But what does he do with the other £3.9 million of debt and a wage-bill that is completely out of control? Expect Notts to be in Admininstration before the end of the season…

    NottyImp

    February 15, 2010

  11. Nottsfan: Considering the situation Notts appeared to be in at the time, the club had already been spending beyond it’s means. Rather than blame individuals, or take any of the blame, it’s easier to blame the movement.

    That said, the Trust were majority shareholders, not 100% owners. The other ex-shareholders have been very quiet through all this (other than agreeing at the time, that the sale was the best thing for the club).

    Rob

    February 15, 2010

  12. Rob,

    2 others shareholders agreed to the sale too. Not all them did which is why Munto only had 90% shareholding.

    Nottsfan

    February 16, 2010

  13. Did Roy Parker agree to it or not? Out of interest, like.

    admin

    February 16, 2010

  14. Admin – he did yes.

    Nottsfan

    February 17, 2010

  15. Sounds very similar to what has been going on at Pompey with a few more zeroes involved and of course your friend and mine Peter Storrie.

    PompeyinBulgaria

    April 28, 2010

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