Category: Latest

Maidstone & The Conference: Time To Change Tack On 3G Pitches

It’s tight at the top of the Ryman League Premier Division. With a little less than half of the season left to play, just seven points seperate the top six clubs in the table and it remains, for now at least, anybody’s guess who from Kingstonian, Maidstone United, Wealdstone, Dulwich Hamlet, Bognor Regis Town or AFC Hornchurch will be taking a place in the Conference South. Indeed, one of these clubs will not even make the division’s play-offs come the end of the season. Out of that six, though, there is one club that will be furrowing the brows of people at the Football Association and the Football Conference more than their competitors at the moment, because at the moment one of those clubs could yet earn promotion on the pitch, only to be subsequently denied it at a committee meeting. The club at risk of missing out is Maidstone United, and the reason for it is the 3G artificial pitch that the club has fitted at The Gallagher Stadium, the new ground into which it moved in the summer of 2012. The game’s authorities, however, have not yet granted permission for 3G pitches to be used above Level Six – the level at which Maidstone United currently play – of the English National League System. As the rules stand today, the club would be refused promotion should it...

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Port Vale: Norman’s Conquest

After Port Vale’s FA Cup third round replay triumph over Plymouth Argyle, Mark Murphy thought it would be opportune to revisit the two clubs’ financial fortunes since they emerged from administration and ownership crises. And what a tangled web they both have woven. Next up… Plymouth’s hotly-disputed role in the business machinations of James Brent, the high-profile local “entrepreneur” who took the Pilgrims out of administration in October 2011. First, though, the Valiants… Port Vale fans can be forgiven for their transparent battle-fatigue. After the well-documented tribulations under the “Valiants 2001” regime which (mis)managed the club from… er… 2003, (see 200% in passim) they had to endure the falsest of dawns when Lancashire businessman Keith Ryder’s plans to take the Valiants out of administration dissolved in a vat of broken promises at the start of last season. So it is that current owner Norman Smurthwaite can make all sorts of mistakes in his running of Vale AND resemble Ken Bates in a fright wig, without quite being scrutinised and criticised as if one of the rogues gallery of previous Vale directors had done likewise. In October 2012, two months after the Ryder fiasco, Yorkshire-born venture capitalist Paul Wildes emerged as preferred bidder, the straight man of, yet dominant partner in, a double act with Smurthwaite, a 52-year-old retired “finance expert” from Leicestershire (despite the stereotypically northern name). Wildes made...

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Coventry City, A New Ground, The Charity & The Hedge Fund

A new year has brought little respite for the increasingly beleagured supporters of Coventry City Football Club. On the pitch, the team has gone five games unbeaten since its last defeat at Swindon Town on the Saturday before Christmas, including a win against Championship opposition in the form of Barnsley in the Third Round of the FA Cup, but away from it the prospects of the club returning to the city of Coventry from its self-imposed exile in Northampton now seem to have shrunk to being a mere pin-prick on the horizon. January started with the club’s supporters trust, the Sky Blues Trust, publishing the results of Freedom of Information requests to try and establish the whereabouts of the sites that the club has been claiming that it has identified to build the new stadium that it has long promised. In an interview shortly before Christmas, Mark Labovitch – a non-executive director of the club – claimed that it was in the final stages of securing land for a new stadium and details were likely to be revealed in February, which followed confirmation from Councillor Anne Lucas, the leader of Coventry City Council, that it was time for them to “move on” from negotiations with the club’s owner over the future of The Ricoh Arena. The Sky Blues Trust issued its FoI requests to eight local councils on the...

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Southampton & The Sexism Of – Some Of – The Football Press

As the supporters of several different football clubs will most willingly attest, the concentration of too much in one set of hands can have unwanted side-effects. Over the last couple of years, the reputation of the now former Southampton chairman Nicola Cortese had risen from being the man who steadied the club’s ship after its flirtation with insolvency several years ago to something approaching a miracle worker. Under his chairmanship, the club rose from League One to the Premier League in successive season, stayed up and has now pushed on to become a comfortably placed mid-table club. Cortese never seemed afraid to take unpopular decisions, either. His decision to sack previous manager Nigel Adkins was highly criticised – including on these very pages – and extremely unpopular at the time, but the appointment of Mauricio Pochettino has turned into one of the Premier League’s most notable success stories of the last twelve months. Happiness at a football club, however, can be a transient experience and the events of the last couple of days allowed the press the luxury of casting the Saints as a “crisis club” for the first time this season. “Southampton were a club coming apart at the seams on Wednesday night after the executive chairman, Nicola Cortese, quit and left the owner desperately trying to convince the manager, Mauricio Pochettino, not to follow suit” sais the...

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The Petulant Outbursts Of Assem Allam

There’s nothing like a bit of blackmail to liven up English football in a quiet news week (and, alas, FA Cup third round replay week is such a week). Good job, then, that Hull CITY owner Assem Allam isn’t resorting to blackmail in order to force English football’s governing body (the Football Association, in case you didn’t recognise them from the description) to accept his thoroughly-researched, precisely-budgeted rebranding of his club to Hull Tigers. Allam met the FA recently. His “promise to go away within 24 hours” if either the Hull “community” or the FA reject the rebrand suggests that meeting didn’t go according to his plan. The “antics” of the more high-profile egomaniacal football club owners constantly put me in mind of Woody Allen’s 1971 film Bananas (one of his early funny ones), where the newly-installed revolutionary leader of the fictional republic of San Marcos announces his reform plans, including the requirement for “all citizens to change their underwear every half-hour. Underwear will be worn on the outside so we can check.” Allam’s theory, purloined from the Harvard Business Review (so it must be true), is that companies with shorter names perform better when floated on the stock market. Hull Tigers isn’t “shorter” than Hull CITY of course. But Allam told the Guardian newspaper’s David Conn that “everybody knows it now as Hull City Tigers”; which was news...

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