If there is one way in which football shows its contempt for anything that isn’t football in the starkest possible terms, it is in its relationship with the outside world. Every time a club enters into administration and is forced down the route of a CVA, the most poignant document of all is usually the list of creditors, which, as well as showing the larger amounts of money owed usually has a list of smaller creditors that will be rail-roaded into having to effectively write off debts for services that were offered in good faith to clubs. Many of these are small businesses that can ill-afford to lose any money, but this usually ends up as a footnote as the biggest creditors’ interests are put above everything else.

When football isn’t screwing the people that do business with it without demanding cash up front for their services, they’re treating their own staff as dispensible. FA rules mean that football creditors have to be paid in full and the ample wages that players receive should mean that there is no hardship amongst players at bigger clubs when they’re not paid because of financial problems, which they always will be eventually unless the club is liquidated. For those that man the ticket office, the phones and the club shop, however, it’s not quite as simple and redundancies at clubs that are teetering on the brink of administration are commonplace. These people do not earn fortunes, and they are frequently treated as expendable when the going gets tough.

At Plymouth Argyle, this was the situation at the end of last month. The club’s staff were not paid at the end of November and, while the players can probably afford to dip into their savings in the short term, this is probably not an option for those that work in the offices of the club. The staff had already stated that they would work on free of charge, but Christmas won’t wait for them and with this is mind the supporters of the Plymouth forum Plymouth Argyle Supporters On The Internet (PASOTI) have been digging deep to try and help them out. Supporter Ian Newell has taken charge of the initiative, which will be passing on donations from supporters to staff to assist them over the festive period and they have already raised £2,000, with hopes that they will be able to raise more than this. Interviewed earlier today by the BBC, Newell said that:

We want to help the lads and lasses who we see every other week at Home Park, but we also want to show to people like Sir Roy Gardner (the chairman), and Keith Todd (executive director), that the normal rank and file fan seems to think more of their staff than they do. The Plymouth directors should hang their heads in shame for what has happened to this club and the way they have treated their staff.

His comments tap into a feeling that has become more prevalent over the last two or three years or so. An invisible line in the sand in terms of the way that our football clubs are run has been crossed by the clubs themselves, and supporters, once the pariahs of the game, are now increasingly taking the moral lead within our game. Charitable work is being carried out by the supporters of many clubs and, at clubs like Plymouth, where those charged with the running of the football club (which, in turn, makes them guardians of the heritage and soul of the club) are not even competent enough to be able to pay their staff on time, the supporters are taking the lead in in trying to retain some sort of moral compass. The club could only offer this statement in return:

Non-playing staff are due to be paid December wages next week, but it is not clear if this will happen or not. The club are making strenuous efforts to meet the December payroll in time and staff have been assured it has been given the utmost priority. There is a chance though that the staff may not receive this month’s pay until after Christmas.

They went on to express how “overwhelmed” they were by the generosity of their supporters, but that they cannot confirm whether staff will be paid at the end of this month is telling. Plymouth Argyle recently won an astonishing sixty-three day adjournment at the High Court over winding up proceedings brought against them by HMRC. The fact that “it is not clear” whether their staff will be paid at the end of December would seem to indicate that they are no near to being anything like solvent than they were when the adjournment was granted. Their ongoing tribulations, however, are for another day. For now, all that we can do is congratulate the supporters of the club on taking matters into their own hands. If you wish to donate yourself (and, yes, I have sent something on behalf of the site), you can do so by sending a payment by Paypal to (the email address) iannewell at blueyonder.co.uk, and you can see the original post on PASOTI here.

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