Author: Mark

Will Deep Debt At Deepdale Leave Preston In Deep…?

Before the news broke of a “possible offer” for Preston North End, I couldn’t quite understand why “leisure tycoon” Trevor Hemmings hadn’t bought the club months, maybe years ago. He has, after all, paid for it, many times over. Preston North End, founder members of the Football League, have been spending more than they have been earning for a very long time. They are the sort of club Premier League supremo Richard Scudamore might label a “victim” of the “debt-is-bad” culture which he believes is wrong, for reasons which are not obvious on Planet Earth. But they have been increasingly financially reliant on Hemmings since he became Preston North End plc’s largest individual shareholder in 2004. And their financial decline can be charted by his ever-increasing number of loans to the club. The loans started as “funding for on-going working capital requirements.” But in more recent months, as Preston’s financial position became more perilous, the announcements got more specific. They read: “The loan will be used by the Company…” to “meet the cost of the players’ wages” or “to make payments to HMRC in respect of PAYE tax deductions and National Insurance.” Each concluded with an increasingly weary “the total amount to date that has been advanced…now totals (insert figure)…including accrued interest.” And they served as a build-up to the almost inevitable winding-up petition from HM Revenue and Customs,...

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Mark Murphy’s Life Through The World Cup: Part One

I’m at the wrong age. This struck home when I had an idea for an article for this web-site about the 23-man line-up which could be constituted from the rejects of the other nations’ squads. But before I could tap in “Maradona’s a loony tune for leaving Esteban Cambiasso out”, I discovered that the, ulp, Daily Mail had already delivered on the plan. So, here’s me, in the prime of 44, already a reactionary. I was the wrong age in World Cup terms too, as a child of the seventies who watched Brazil and Jairzinho in the World Cup – but not the 1970 vintage, all “sheer delightful football” even when Pele was missing open goals. No, I got the 1974 “vintage” with rugby tackling centre-halves, Jairzinho with a microphone haircut which would have had him thrown out of the Stylistics for garishness and Rivelino straight from the set of a spaghetti western. I remember nothing of the second-half of the 1974 final, or anything very much of Holland’s total football throughout the tournament. For some reason, microphone hair-cuts lingered longer in the memory – Germany’s Paul Breitner, for instance, scoring a 35-yarder against Chile. At half-time in the final, though, I went into our back garden and tried to score a goal just like Germany’s Gerd Muller had, twisting in seven-and-a-half different directions before dribbling a shot into...

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The Christian Aid Secrecy League

Of all the football figures railing against the appointment of another independent FA chairman, Leeds United chairman Kenneth William Bates was the most predictable. An independent mind and independent voice would also have an independent eye. And Bates wouldn’t be one for independent eyes, in case they saw him for what he really is. That thought occurred as I read a report by Christian Aid, the – surprise – Christian organisation dedicated to the end of world poverty, into the secrecy surrounding football clubs in the United Kingdom. Entitled Blowing the whistle – Time’s up for financial secrecy, the report offered case studies of some of the more secretive clubs, and noted that Bates’ Leeds United “takes secrecy to a new level.” The way that Bates’ mind works, he would probably be miffed that these words didn’t translate into Leeds actually winning the Christian Aid Secrecy League which forms the focal point of the report – Manchester United fans can be assured their team won more than the Carling Cup this season. But being a voice independent of any footballing vested interest, Christian Aid are quite happy to tell things like they are, which makes for uncomfortable reading for more than just Bates. It would be easy to joke that world poverty could be near-cured by halving Premier League wages. But the report is only really using football and...

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Scudamore & Clarke: Chief To Chair

The Football League has a new chairman, in the form of former Leicester City chairman Greg Clarke, the man that took the club through one of football’s more notorious insolvency events, during the 2002/2003 season. Mark Murphy takes a look at Clarke’s first interviews since taking his new job, and compares and contrasts his views with those of Richard Scudamore, who seems to continue to believe that, in spite of all the evidence to the contrary, there is nothing whatsoever wrong with the Premier League’s financial model. “People actually realise that there is an almost perfect correlation between the spend and the league table position. Almost perfect.” “So from now on, at the start of August, all the club chairmen should declare how much money they’ve got and the league table should be based on the results. This will save the bother of having to play the games.” The above could easily be one quote, even though the words were taken from one article written by a comedian and the other written by another comedian, if not necessarily a deliberate one. Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore came out with the first in his most recent holding of court with the national press. By “perfect” he almost certainly meant “exact,” but with Scudamore, you’re never sure. He certainly wasn’t offering this scenario as a criticism; quite the opposite, in...

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Are Wednesday & Palace Cracking Up?

A brave, or foolhardy, contributor to the Sheffield Wednesday fans’ website “Owlstalk” last week asked the straightforward question “Who did what?” about club chairman Lee Strafford’s recent departure. The last time I dared look at the thread, it had stretched to 57 pages of responses but barely an answer. Meanwhile, at Crystal Palace, former chairman Simon Jordan is right where he wants to be, at the centre of the story. He is, so about 94 local and national newspaper headlines have informed us, the “key to Crystal Palace’s future.” But he’s been that for a long time and look where it’s got them So the Sheffield Wednesday saga drags on. Again. Having won a few ambiguity awards over the months, US “investment group” Club 9 Sports finally made an investment offer to Wednesday’s board on May 13th, and went terrifyingly public with the detail on May 17th. However, on May 14th, Wednesday’s board said an unequivocal “Foxtrot Oscar” to the terms. And on May 17th, Strafford resigned as chairman, to be replaced by rave from the Wednesday grave Howard Wilkinson, who had been “acting as technical adviser to the club” – which may have explained a lot to a lot of Wednesday-ites. Wednesday’s relegation had a significant, ultimately fatal impact on Club 9’s offer, not so much reducing it as moving it a decimal point to the right. What...

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