The supporters of the club, as we mentioned on here last week, seem unlikely to be in favour of that and the one things that they need to be at present is unified. (12/01/2011)
A constant theme of clubs where supporter protest has been successful in recent years has been where attempts on the part of their opponents to “divide and conquer” have failed. (02/02/2011)
Unity, at this stage, cannot be understated and there are scores of examples of clubs at which arguments within a club’s support have been allowed to cloud a broader principle. (08/02/2011)
Well, they can’t say that we haven’t issued sufficient warning, but if we have learnt one thing about the support of Wrexham Football Club over the last couple of weeks or so, it has been that this support seems unable – some might say pathologically unable – to unite, even in the face of adversity that is threatening to overwhelm their club and while it continues to enjoy a relatively successful season on the pitch. Indeed, events have been moving so quickly of late that it has started to become difficult to keep up with what exactly is going at Wrexham at the moment and time constraints prevent us from going into everything that has happened at the club over the last seven days in as much detail as we would wish to.
This time last week, we may have reasonably hoped that the scenario that most Wrexham supporters would seem to prefer, a joint bid between the hotelier Stephanie Booth and the Wrexham Supporters Trust, would come to fruition. By the end of last week, however, that hope seemed to have evaporated into thin air after a meeting between Booth and the Trust. What exactly may or not have been said at the meeting (and even the tone in which it was said) has already been furiously debated, but the outcome remained the same. The WST stated that they were looking forward to another meeting with Booth in a couple of weeks time, but Booth stated that the trust were going their own way and that she were unable to work with them. WST has since issued a “vision statement”, outlining its aims for the future of the club and has stated that it intends to release further information in a couple of weeks or so regarding its bid to take it over.
So far, so divisive, then. This spat, however, fell into relative insignificance in comparison with what became public knowledge amongst Wrexham’s supporters on Monday lunchtime – that, for her many public pronouncements about taking over Wrexham Football Club, Stephanie Booth (as well as her husband, David, for the record) is banned from acting as a company director until the 17th of February 2012. This disqualification, which was unearthed almost by chance by a member of the Red Passion Wrexham website and forum, relates to a company that she was involved with called Lloyds Sterling, which was closed down in 2006 after an investigation by Companies Investigation Branch of the Insolvency Service.
The whys and wherefores of this are largely irrelevant. Booth has since managed to obtain exemptions from this order for two of her companies, which are listed on the Disqualified Directors Details, which are held by Companies House (although these are matters of public record, we are not producing them here since they contain her address details but can confirm that we have seen them), but there are valid questions that she needs to answer. Why, in the numerous messages that she has made in public on her Facebook page, has no previous mention been made of this disqualification? Considering that the discovery of this disqualification was made by a member of the public, how long would it have been before she did inform the public?
As with all other issues relating to Wrexham, the issues that this leads to are complex and confusing. The FA, the Football League and the Football Conference are all subject to the Fit & Proper Persons Test, which Booth would fail. As things stand, all share-holders or people intending to stand as club directors are required to complete a declaration and the full guide to it (from the FA’s own website) is available here. Section Two of the Guide seems pretty unequivocal on the subject:
2.3 No person who is subject to a Disqualifying Condition (and who is not a Serving Director)
may become a Director of a Club.
Meanwhile, the issue of disqualification from acting as a company director is, quite specifically, the very first thing that appears on the declaration that those wishing to act as directors – and Booth has stated on her Facebook page that she intends to act as the Chair (presumably of the Board of Directors of the club) – of clubs need to sign:
(i) I am not subject to a disqualification order as a director of a UK registered company
under the Company Directors’ Disqualification Act 1986
If Booth believes that she has legal cause to circumvent these rules, she should probably inform Wrexham supporters of how she intends to do this, for there doesn’t seem to be any exemption in the guidelines offered by the Football Association and, regardless of the fact that she side-stepped questions over this yesterday, such concerns are utterly valid ones for supporters that have been knocked from pillar to post for the best part of the last decade. Indeed, one Wrexham supporter that attempted to question her over this was met with a reply that said, “Fortunately I am not answerable to you”, and the somewhat extraordinary:
You are not allowed to publish official documents without their express permission so maybe see you in prison later then
There was one further sting in the tail for Booth last night. The resignation of Lindsay Jones from the WST Trust Board may have increased the possibility of a joint bid yet emerging from the ashes of what long ago became a farcical situation (it is, to the extent that anything can be in the world of Wrexham FC at the moment, understood that a personality clash between Jones and Booth was one of the reasons behind the collapse in the relationship between the two groups), but Jones left a letter that was reprinted on the Red Passion forum last night. The Trust itself described his resignation as being due to “the intolerable pressure placed upon him in the electronic media over the weekend”, while Jones himself stated in the letter that:
It has caused distress to my family and it is also clear to me that this shabby and co-ordinated campaign to discredit me will not end. My resignation makes it easier for me to deal with this nonsense.
It is also crystal clear that I am being lined up as the fall guy for any subsequent withdrawal of rival bids to buy the club or a rejection of the excellent WST bid to purchase the club. I have to protect my family from this possibility.
Someone that has worked tirelessly for the supporters of his club, then, has resigned his position on account of what has come to pass at Wrexham over the last few days, and this says a considerable amount about the madness that seems to be engulfing the place. We hope that those that have made the position of this tireless worker for the cause untenable are proud of themselves.
There is, as there has been constantly over the last few weeks or so, still considerable room for speculation over what all of the conjecture currently engulfing The Racecourse Ground actually means. We already know that the Football Conference is paying very close attention to what is going on at Wrexham and, considering the firmness with which they have dealt with financial misdemeanours since toughening up their financial rules, it seems inconceivable that any buy-out of the club will not be very closely scrutinized by the authorities, especially whilst the governance of the game at all levels is being inspected as closely as it is at present. Ultimately, Wrexham’s supporters still need to unite. The future of their club, after all, remains in the balance. They also, however, need to keep asking these difficult questions. This could be their final chance to influence the future direction of Wrexham FC, and the stakes are too high to get it wrong.
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Post-Script: We are aware of the comments ascribed to Companies House in the Daily Post this morning. We can only presume that, if they are correct, her entry will be removed or amended accordingly. The last few days have still provided more questions than answers.