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The Decline & Fall Of Leyton Orient
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Tranmere Rovers & Cheltenham Town Stare Into The Abyss
The former York City owner John Batchelor died at the relatively youthful age of fifty-one in a Stockport hospital on the eleventh of April. The news of his death has been greeted with a mixture of shock and surprise by many that were aware of him. It would, however, be fair to say that his death hasn’t been greeted with much sadness by those that came into contact with him in football, at least. Batchelor, who seemed to revel in role within lower league football so extreme that by the end he could almost be described as a pantomime villain, never seemed to give a damn about those that he screwed whilst he was alive. Perhaps the lack of sadness at his parting is what he would have wanted.
His arrival at York in 2002 was all about creating a fuss and creating headlines. Having had a moderate career in touring car racing, he was unknown within football but promised great things for the club. He redesigned the club’s kit to incorporate a chequered flag and changed its name to “York City Soccer Club” as a rebranding exercise. For the duration of his involvement at Bootham Crescent, however, he was running it into the ground. Persimmon Homes, who had agreed to purchase the club’s ground, had paid him £400,000 in sponsorship money for the sports club that he was now claiming York City to be a part of, but only a quarter of this was said to find its way through to the football club’s coffers. Batchelor brought himself a £250,000 house and, nine months after he took over, York City were in administration.
Batchelor attempted to buy the club back from the administrator, but lost out to the Supporters Trust in March 2003. The seeds that led to the club’s relegation from the Football League, however, had been sewn. He stayed out of football for the time being, though, before returning to the game in 2008 with a series of unsuccessful bids to buy failing clubs. First of all, he turned up at Mansfield Town, where he was lined up as the replacement to their very own reviled chairman, Keith Haslam. Indeed, there were some that believed that Batchelor was introduced as a potential owner to make Haslam seem more palatable to supporters. His interview with the local newspapers has since entered into infamy:
“Let’s be clear, I want a football club, preferably one in the league. The ONLY reason that I want it is to make money, the only reason that I want to do that is to look after my immediate family. I can only do that by making it work on the pitch and as a result making it work commercially. This would be MY club, if you like what you see come and watch, if you don’t, then stay away. I am not even interested in discussing it with “fans”, however, I will talk to customers anytime.”
In the five intervening years, he had made his business practices perfectly clear. He had bought a stream of companies, only to see the majority of them collapse. In the most infamous case, he bought Moornate Chemists, a Burnley based family firm with a downpayment of £70,000 and further payments to the sum of £415,000 promised to complete the sale. Moornate was soon subsumed into another Batchelor company called The Besglos Polish Company, but David Brown, the man that had sold Moornate, didn’t see any more of the £415,000 that he was owed and within months Besglos was in administration. He recalled that Batchelor once said to him, “This is what I do for a living: I fuck companies”. Batchelor spent a spell in hospital towards the end of 2006 suffering from alcohol dependency.
The modus operandum hadn’t changed at Mansfield. The big “marketing” trick was to change the club’s name to Harchester United, after the fictional team from Sky TV’s “Dream Team” soap opera. The deal foundered and he then pitched up at Accrington Stanley, offering £1.5m to buy the club, relocated it to Leigh and call it Lancashire United. Accrington’s then owner, Eric Whalley, was unimpressed and rejected the offer. He was then involved in attempts to buy Chester City and as recently as last summer was fronting a four man consortium that was attempting to buy Southampton from the club’s administrators. It was, perhaps, his brazenness that proved to be his undoing in a business sense. In December of last year he signed a declaration which barred him from acting as a company director for seven years. The Insolvency Service’s public statement on the matter made for pretty damning reading:
“The misconduct is primarily concerned with both companies making payments to Mr Batchelor personally. These payments totalling about £50,000 were made between 12 June 2007 and 06 August 2007 at a time when he knew that the companies were insolvent. Furthermore, Mr Batchelor took control of each company by utilising their funds to buy their own shares. This in itself was not illegal, but the structure of the acquisitions, was detrimental to the creditors of the companies concerned, and to the benefit of Mr Batchelor’s connected companies, which were taking over the businesses. Mr Batchelor took over Besglos on 28 March 2007 and placed it into Administration on 07 August 2007, and Moornate on 30 April 2007, placing it into Administration on 26 July 2007.”
“This is what I do for a living: I fuck companies”, then, passes from being a way of conducting business to being an epitapth for a man whose impression upon the game was entirely negative. It’s difficult to imagine that there would have been a death bed repentence – there’s no form in his entire back catalogue that indicates that he would have done so, and we know for certain that he never made any public apology for his behaviour in business. Considering the number of times that alcohol makes an appearance in stories about his business activities, it would be easy to draw the conclusion that it was the alcoholism that ended up doing for him and this would certainly explain (although it wouldn’t vindicate) some of the public pronouncements that he made over the last two or three years.
As such, the terms of engagement between John Batchelor and football supporters were drawn pretty early on. He was pretty open in his contempt for football supporters, and football supporters were hardly backward in coming forward with what could be described as ripe opinions about him. Maybe, on one level, we should find sympathy for anyone that lives their life in the shadow of alcoholism. However, he never gave any indication of showing any regret for his actions or his public statements, and the only sorry conclusion that we can reach is that at least football will be better off for his no longer being around. Ultimately, to say only that “we should find sympathy” for him seems to be the most damning indictment of all. John Batchelor: This is what he did for a living. He fucked companies. It’s not much of a legacy, when all is said and done.
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.
Excellent article. Would have been tempting to say terrible things about the man on a personal level given his record, or conversely to soften his practices in the light of his early death. I think this hits an excellent balance. It’s a shame a man dies in these circumstances, but his appalling business practices and contempt for the communities he tried to wreck and creditors he shafted should not be glossed over.
Cheerio John, keep a spot in hell free for Stephen Vaughan, Bill Tomlins & John Gurney!
I am never one for finding nice words to say about people like this. How you act in life determines the respect you get in death and this man was a cancer on football (and business in general).
Hope your death was as painful as it was for all those employees told they no longer had a job because of your rapaciousness.
There was no statement from YCFC. No comment from the directors. Not even the hint of an announcement over the PA.
Batchelor thrived on confrontation, loved to play the villain and now he’s gone. He never showed remorse.
Good f***ing riddance.
Have to say that I feel no sympathy for the man but wanted to comment on the high quality of the article. Nice work.
While he clearly made mistakes in life those of you posting should have some consideration for his family less than a fortnight after his death!
Micky F-go fuck yourself.
Fwis, you twat.
Big love to anyone with a shred of compassion or decency.
Sam Batchelor (1 of 4 children)!
Also, as his son i have an interest. He’d love the fact that you lot who never met him care enough to post on this article! He’s literally laughing his ass off above or below.
Well said Sam! John was a great bloke to know, with a fantastic and infectious sense of humour. I suspect he had as many enemies as he had friends, though I dont think he was ever that bothered about either.
I’ll always remember your Dad, Sam (iworked with him for a number of years), for his sheer presense, his warmth and his generosity. He had a fantastic spirit and i’m very saddened to hear of his passing. I’ll always be glad that i knew him.
Thank You, that is good to know.
It’s too easy to come on here and slag off the dead, when he can’t defend himself, Mr Batchelor may not have been a football fans no.1 personality, but the fact he is survived by his children and it ain’t nice for them to see the comments made about him on here
To Sam, your father was never going to top many popularity contests, that is pretty well known, he had some mad ideas, he was never one of my favourite people to be very honest with you, the whole York Soccer Club and Harchester United thing and all that.
My thoughts are with you and your family Sam, it is awful to lose a loved one.
All the best
Nice to see the son has his father’s genes … Batchelor was scum … and Sam ..I hope someone fucks you like he did my father ..
Well sam, if your old man made a living out of fucking up companies then don’t be too surprised that some people are glad the old alcky is 6 foot under. You’ve probably got enough of his ill gotten gains to not warrant any sympathy. My sympathies go out to the unpaid creditors and the little people whose lives he made worse. Good riddance.
Good do see your as pathetic as your old man Sam.
As a york fan i was very pleasd to hear the recent news! It’s shame he couldn’t have croaked ten years back, before he damaged our club.
Sam, though i do have sympathy for you for your loss, you’ll not hear many words of condolence from york city fans, the man was rated so low.
quote-“It’s too easy to come on here and slag off the dead, when he can’t defend himself, Mr Batchelor may not have been a football fans no.1 personality, but the fact he is survived by his children and it ain’t nice for them to see the comments made about him on here”
Hey ho, can’t keep everyone happy! You wouldn’t have enjoyed the shippo s tributes t the cunt then !
Sam whilst it is always terrible to lose family surely you have some understanding of the misery your Father caused. He wrecked peoples lives, people with families of their own and all to line his own pocket and perhaps keep up appearances with flashy cars and the like.
For what he did to York City he will never be forgiven and maybe you should be ‘happy’ that he left this mortal coil in a controlled setting and not at the hands of City fans who wished him dead many times over.
Go and grieve but please don’t expect one iota of sympathy from people other than those in his twisted gene pool.
Sam – I met him so I can comment about the weasel that was John Batchelor and although I feel sympathy for you and your family I have no sympathy for the man who stole at least £300,000 from York City – and remember you and the rest of your family lived on the fruits of that theft- a new house.
Unfortunately you will never understand how much your father was hated by many people whose lives he touched and whose money he stole and whose jobs he discarded, but at least he looked after his own family with the proceeds of his thefts!
Got to say, as a YCFC fan the demise of this scumbag was the best news in years!
The ‘man’ came very close to killing something I love & for that reason alone I have no sympathy for him or his family! No doubt the same family that did ‘rather well’ out of this thieves wrong-doings!
As far as I am concerned the tosser didn’t die soon enough & I hope he suffered a long, slow painful demise (though no doubt the alcy didn’t feel a thing), he’s first of the robbing bastards to go – here’s hoping Craig & Swallow aren’t too long before they join him in hell!
To those of you who assume we have any inheritance, i have yet to see it. And i know there is none coming so stop spinning that line.
I was no part of my fathers business dealings. Nor were my two brothers or younger sister.
You have vindicated my dads hatred of football fans. You are scum.
And ‘jeff’, it’s spelt you’re, not your you thick fuck.
‘Glad all over’. How any moron can compare a football team to a human life is beyond me. It’s a fucking game. You have my sympathy for the lack of anything of true meaning in your life. I’m not asking for sympathy for the man himself but i have never done you lot any wrong. 2 wrongs=right?????
It worries me that people like you are franchised and allowed to vote next week.
I knew John Batchelor for many years and came to me as a sales rep. In those says John would be of great help and it is very sad indeed to see what happened. many people have been taken for a lot of money, myself included. I was taken for £300k a few years ago by two blokes who still do it for a living but we have to move on and fight back. It is a sad testimony to the way John turned out but as people said before me on this site we have to consider the feelings of his family. They may have gained through his shady deals but i suspect they knew lttle of his activities. They are still in mourning so let them grieve and stop this awful shit that is being placed on here. R.I.P. John for all your failings and my condolences to the batchelor family
I came across John b&q on the touring car circuit. Good on Sam. Whatever J.B did he does’t deserve to receive all those nasty horrible comments after his death, especially over a stupid Football club,I can’t believe people can be so vindictive over a pathetic football game/club
I only found out about this recently and have to say it’s the best news I’ve had in a long time. The man was a disgrace to the human race and a waste of oxygen. He came into our company and within months stripped it of its assets and employee morale. I remember when both myself and my dad were made redundant and had no money I thought I hope he dies a painful death and rots in hell – looks like I got my wish! And now as I look back knowing I am making a lot of money (in a decent and legal manner) I can laugh at the fact he was so pathetic to have to conduct business in such a way, just an all round loser!
this man was a menace, myself and my family were dragged into his scheme,s not long before his well deserved death, he lied and cheated money from my father knowing full well he was dying and we all lost our homes and everything we had all worked for, im sorry he was ever allowed to live! and create a family that obviously were very clouded by this evil person.
[…] League and sell the ground – sat on prime land in a desirable area – for housing. John Batchelor bought the club and promised a lot of things he wouldn’t deliver, including buying the ground […]