It’s almost exactly a year to the day since one anonymous person found this little corner of the internet by typing “how bent is Ken Bates?” (including the inverted commas) into Google. How apt, then, that today is the day that Leeds United’s appeal against their fifteen point deduction was rejected overwhelmingly by the Football League. I have kept fairly quiet on the subject over the last couple of weeks or so for two primary reasons: 1. It is being covered far more succinctly elsewhere on the internet than it ever would be here, of you know where to look. 2. The events of this summer in and around Elland Road have been so complicated that I could, in all honesty, have written a thousand words on the subject every night and barely scratched the surface. Today, however, the rest of the League got involved, so I feel that it is appropriate for me to comment again.
First of all, let’s bring things up to speed. KPMG, and the CVA collapsed. Very hastily, Leeds United were put up for sale, and Ken Bates won the right to buy the new club with an arrangement to pay all creditors something like 50p in the pound (which HMRC are challenging in court, but that’s another story), but there was still something in the way of them just starting the new season. The Football League hold a “golden share”, and they had to give their permission for this to be transferred from the old company to the new company before they could start the new season. Under Football League rules, a club is not allowed to exit administration, which Leeds had done, without a CVA being in place, and no CVA can be put in place until after the court case brought by HRMC against Leeds United (which is at the start of September) so, theoretically, Leeds were in breach of the League’s rules and could not start the new season. The League, however, would be desperate for this not to happen, so they can over-rule themselves under “exceptional circumstances”. They did this, but imposed a fifteen point deduction because Leeds had broken League rules, which Leeds appealed. The decision was upheld by an overwhelming majority today.
Only 16 didn’t vote to uphold the League’s original decision. In the face of such an obvious case of the rules being broken, who exactly were the sixteen clubs that voted for Leeds? Well, step forward Bradford City, Burnley, Colchester United, Darlington, Gillingham, Ipswich Town, Nottingham Forest, Plymouth Argyle, Queens Park Rangers, Sheffield United, Sheffield Wednesday, Stockport County, Stoke City, Swindon Town, Watford and Wrexham – I think you’ve got some explaining to do. Stockport reportedly voted against because they wanted Leeds relegated to League Two or relegated from the League altogether. Swindon Town and QPR are currently in the midsts of their own financial crises and may be fearing what would happen to them should their conditions deteriorate. The Gillingham chairman, Paul Scally, is a close personal friend of Ken Bates. But what about the rest of them? What about Sheffield United? They were holding the Sword Of Damocles over the Tevez affair earlier in the summer. Ipswich Town’s chairman, David Sheepshanks, was the chairman of the Football League not too long ago – why was he effectively casting a vote of no confidence against the organisation that he used to lead?
There were reportedly two votes taken at this meeting. The first asked “Should Leeds be sanctioned?”, and was carried by 64 votes to 6. The second asked, “Should the sanction be a fifteen point deduction?”, and was carried by 54 votes to 16. So, did the other clubs that voted against want an even bigger sanction (as Stockport reportedly did), or did they want to let Bates off the hook? Each and every one of them should make an official statement explaining why they voted the way that they did because, as it looks, the only rational reason why a club would vote against such a clear breach of League rules would be because they’re worried that it may affect them in the future. If I was a supporter of one of these clubs, I’d be somewhat concerned and I think that they deserve an answer.