The Return Of Stephen Vaughan? Wrexham Beware.

By on Nov 10, 2010 in Finance, Latest | 15 comments

He’s back, and it’s almost if he never went away. The return of Stephen Vaughan onto our radar would be funny, if it weren’t for the fact that his involvement in anything to do with football (or, indeed, rugby league) wasn’t such a portent of doom for those likely to be on the receiving end of him. Vaughan has pitched up for an interview with the Chester Leader, stating that he is part of a consortium that is planning to purchase Blue Square Premier club Wrexham. Vaughan was barred from acting as a company director this time last year after being admitting to carousel fraud (a type of VAT fraud), but he seems to be of the opinion that this will not be an issue because “I would be involved strictly as an investor and would have no part in the day-to-day running of the club”.

It is, of course, worth taking a moment to consider Vaughan’s recent in history in the game. He resigned his position at Barrow AFC in 1998 after an HMRC investigation into money laundering at the club, but this didn’t stop Barrow being liquidated in January of 1999 and the club being demoted from the Football Conference at the end of the 1998/99 season. It later transpired that Vaughan had unlawfully transferred the ownership of the club’s Holker Street ground into that of his company, Vaughan Promotions without the permission of the other directors of the club. After a court case brought about by the liquidators, Holker Street was eventually returned to the Barrow in 2002.

Vaughan pitched up at Chester City in 2001. His involvement in the club has been well-documented, but culminated in the club being relegated at the end of the 2008/09 season. By this time, however, he was no longer a director of the club. These had been quietly transferred into the name of his son, Stephen Vaughan Jr, in the April of that year. He put the club into administration and, after a period of brinkmanship, managed to persuade the Football Conference to allow them to start last season with a twenty-five point penalty. Chester descended into chaos, with supporters boycotting the club eventually proving to be the tipping point in its death. With a new company running the club it took just seven months for them to be expelled from the Blue Square Premier, evicted from the Deva Stadium and wound up at the High Court.

None of this, however, would have meant that Vaughan failed the FA’s Fit & Proper Persons Test. Because he had divested his “control” in Chester City prior to their administration during the summer of 2009, he still falls ons the right side of the F&PPT in that respect. His undoing came with the carousel fraud. He used his rugby league club, Widnes Vikings, to perpetrate this fraud, which is best described in the words of the Insolvency Service themselves:

The transactions (the buying and selling of sports goods) appeared to be part of a linked series of purchases between the UK and Europe. Mr Vaughan then attempted to reclaim VAT for the club, however HMRC refused the repayment of the club’s VAT claim on these transactions. Payment for the goods was made via the First Curacao International Bank, based in the Netherlands Antilles. The bank was closed down by banking authorities when it was discovered that it provided banking facilities to a significant number of companies involved in carousel VAT fraud.

He was disqualified from acting as a company director for eleven years in November of last year, and it is on this point that he finally failed the F&PPT. This is probably the biggest motivating factor by Vaughan behind his statement that he would be acting, “strictly as an investor”. The Insolvency Service, however, has rules to cover acting as a director as well as being a director. Shadow directorship (in which an individual acts as a director although not formally listed as one) is frowned upon by the Insolvency Service. Whether they have the resources or will to act upon cases of it, however, is a subtly different matter.

Perhaps this informs Vaughan’s decision to go public and allow himself to be interviewed at such a time. It was always unlikely that he would stay away from the game, no matter how much we may have wanted him to. To allow himself to be interviewed by a local newspaper, however, would seem to indicate that he either still considers himself to be untouchable (possible) or that there is something else going on.

It is worth taking a moment to remember just how hated the current regime at Wrexham is. We’ll be covering this is more detail later on in the week but, for now, we should merely consider that The Racecourse Ground is very much in danger as the result of the behaviour of those running the show over the last couple of years to the extent that there will be an organised protest there when Wrexham play Luton Town in front of the television cameras later on this week. Vaughan’s interview could have been countered by a statement from Wrexham’s former owner Geoff Moss that the interest of Vaughan was not the sort of person that he wanted at his club. Instead, he could only manage an ambiguous comment that offered nothing but an increased sense that he doesn’t give a damn about the club:

I have not had any contact with Stephen Vaughan and know nothing about an offer from any consortium he might be involved in. I do know him from football circles and he did approach us once before – three or four years ago – to buy the club but nothing came of it. The club is for sale and we have had a couple of enquiries but none, as far as I know, have been from Mr Vaughan. Let’s just wait and see if he does make an offer.

So, Stephen Vaughan, while he was still the owner of Chester City, submitted an offer to buy Wrexham? Although he had relinquished ownership of Barrow in 1998, he retained shares in the club even after he took over at Chester City, leading to the farcical situation in which, thumbing his nose to the FA, he sold his shares in Barrow to his painter and decorator days before an FA Cup match between the two clubs. That he was interested in buying Wrexham in 2006 or 2007, before much of the fuss that ended in Chester City dying on his watch, would seem to indicate that this is a leopard unable to change his spots.

So. Barrow: liquidation. Chester City: folded. Widnes Vikings: in administration. This is the track record of Stephen Vaughan, on top of his eleven year disbarrment from acting as a director. Wrexham supporters don’t need convincing of how damaging he could be for their club, so the only thing that we can do is implore the Football Conference, the FA and the FAW to monitor developments at the club as closely as possible. Chester City died because it had to be put down after years of abuse. If there is somebody in a position to ensure that this doesn’t happen to their traditional rivals, it is essential that they do not merely stand aside and allow this to happen again. Moreover, the authorities have it within their power to act on an increasingly worrying situation at Wrexham Football Club. Hopefully, this time they will not leave until it is too late before they act.

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    15 Comments

  1. Only one comment to make: EEK!!

    Simon Cope

    November 11, 2010

  2. There’s only one club I’d be happy for Mr Vaughan to be connected to, the Bletchley Stealers!

    Micky

    November 11, 2010

  3. I may be cynical but I think this a ploy by Moss and Roberts to take the sting out of the protest tonight.

    Remember how Bachelor turned up at ailing clubs threatening all sorts of indignities (turning Mansfield into Harchester United was a classic)? I think this is Vaughan’s role now. It may well backfire since the Wrexham fans who aren’t interested in politics, land deals, asset stripping and broken promises might be stirred into action by the prospect of satan himself taking over.

    And as one Alex Hamilton found out, when we rise up together, it’s a very frightening prospect indeed.

    ian

    November 11, 2010

  4. Hope for the best, prepare for the worst, Ian.

    admin

    November 11, 2010

  5. Vaughan is a parasite, and as well as the issues highlighted above SV and SVJ are due at Liverpool Crown Court in January 2011 to face assualt charges brought by the CPS after he was alledged to have broken a PC’s jaw. The sooner he is banged up the sooner all football supporters can rest at ease. Chester Football Club is now a credit to the community it serves despite the best efforts of that Man and his hangers on.

    Blue on a mission

    November 11, 2010

  6. Micky – agreed 100%, is there anyone that can put him in touch wirth Wankeyman and allow him to use his own brand of persuasion on Mr Infectuous Enthusiasm?

    Dermot O'Dreary

    November 11, 2010

  7. I can only conclude that Stephen Vaughan wants to get himself prosecuted for breaching his company disqualification order. He cannot act, directly or indirectly, as a company director until 2020. By publicly expressing an interest in Wrexham FC in the media he should surely once again come under investigation by the Insolvency Service’s Public Interest Unit.

    WrexhamFan

    November 11, 2010

  8. Surely if S*****n V*****n did invest in Wrexham, he would have influence over the club and therefore be a ‘shadow’ director. The Insolvency Service would then have to step in and press charges. This seems like a very stupid thing to do on SV’s part. There must be another reason for this sudden interest in Wrexham.

    On another note, as a Chester fan, I sincerely hope that Wrexham are not taken over by the wrong sort of person. When Chester were wound-up all the Wrexham fans I knew were extremely sympathetic. Hopefully they’ll be able to become a fan owned club, like we are, and enjoy all the benefits fan ownership brings. Looking forward to the derbies again too!

    Richard

    November 11, 2010

  9. Farcical. This can’t be allowed to happen, can it?

    nickthompson8

    November 11, 2010

  10. Sadly it appears we are destined to follow in Chester’s footsteps, only five years behind. First Guterman and now potentially Vaughan. Oh well, at least the derby will be on again when we are both in the Evo Stick!

    Carl Douglas

    November 11, 2010

  11. SV should not underestimate the fans feelings… he should ask alex hamilton what its like to deeply offend us.

    steve

    November 11, 2010

  12. I wouldn’t pin too many hopes on the IS (or indeed anyone else) doing anything much to enforce the “acting as a director” rules. Mike Diamandis, by his own admission, ran Swindon Town as “general manager” through some of our darkest days from 2001-2 onwards. His disqualification from acting as a director from Nov 97-Nov 2004 seemingly didn’t hinder him and no action has been taken retrospectively either. Almost certainly because he’d done nothing wrong whatsoever, obviously.

    Like much of insolvency law, seems the rules are only there as a deterrent – if you’re bold enough to break them, little if anything happens

    Paul D

    November 12, 2010

  13. I’ll feel bad for all the decent Wrexham fans if this nonsense does happen, but you’ve got to allow yourself a little chuckle at the moronic Wrexham fans laughing at Chester when he destroyed them as well as the moronic Chester fans who backed him until the very predictable end.

    Good luck Wrexham.

    Martin

    November 12, 2010

  14. Meanwhile, in Geoff Moss news

    ejh

    November 12, 2010

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