Birch impresses fans with honesty
Last night about one hundred and fifty fans packed into the Victory Suite to listen to the club new Administrators. Both Trevor Birch and Brian Jackson of PKF Accountants fielded question for over an hour from fans and were extremely open with their answers.
The Admin men
There is no doubt that the vast majority of those present welcomed the arrival of PKF and the non appointment of Andrew Andronikou from UHY and man they felt they could no longer trust.
Trevor Birch is a football man, having played at the professional level for several clubs and then been involved as Chief Executive including Chelsea, where he brokered Roman Abramovich`s £180 million takeover of the club. He then served in a similar role at Leeds United, Everton, Derby County and, most recently, Sheffield United.
Brian Jackson has 32 years of Corporate Recovery experience dealing with all types of businesses including the successful conclusion of the administration of four Scottish football clubs: Clyde, Clydebank, Dundee and Motherwell. A number of these have involved fans participation when coming out of administration particularly Dundee.
The current situation
My only complaint about the evening was the whole session was open to question rather than a statement from the Administrators following by a Q & A session. This meant that some of the key facts we were looking for had to wait until some fans had had their usual gripes about ticket prices etc.
You will know by now of course that thirty three staff were made redundant yesterday and others had their hours reduced to part-time. The sole reason for this was economic. Today Birch will meet with representatives of the PFA to discuss players having their wages deferred or in some cases even reduced to help the club survive until the end of the current season.
He hoped all staff would be paid in February - some who were present were asked to discuss their position with PKF representatives after the meeting. TB was particularly concerned about the lower paid/part-tine staff.
Birch felt that with the current amount of cash in the club it could only survive until mid April unless a buyer could be found or more cash injected. The only way this could happen would be by fans flocking to the remaining nine home games as this was the only source of income open to the club. He asked all fans present to do their utmost to ensure that.
In questions he agreed that the club had to act quickly in winning stay-away fans back by offering special deals, lower prices and possibly cash turnstiles. I gather since that a number of players including skipper Liam Lawrence will be at the ticket office on Friday to talk to fans and help raise the profile of the crisis.
Other tickets deals including corporate packages would be announced on the clubs official site in the very near future. In fact Birch emphasised that all statements from the Administrators would be issued this way and through no other vehicle.
The Football League
TB was damning of the attitude that the Football League had shown in their discussions this week. They had shown an 'intransigent` attitude and would allow the club no new players over the twenty that they already had unless some were to leave. The reason given was that this would give the club a competitive advantage and other clubs had already argued to the League that this should not be allowed.
The League along with the Premier League were also withholding payments due to the club as other member clubs were owed monies for transfers, wages etc..
TB said the role of the Football League was strange as they had overseen the takeover by CSI and had said they were watching the club closely. They had though relaxed that grip and allowed the club to slip to the edge of obscurity.
There were obviously many questions as to the level of existing debt and in particular the Chanrai (Portpin) debenture of £17m.
TB made in clear that when he sold the club he would get the best possible price and would then fight out the Portpin position in the courts. He said simply if I only have £5m then that is all we will get!
He was unsure as to what the actual level of debt was but thought is could be around £8m. He would have a clearer idea when his team had finished their look at the books.
He also made in clear that when CSI took over the club the CVA agreed on exiting Administration in 2010 became their responsibility. It would not pass to a new owner.
There was little doubt that he felt the club had not been well run over the years and the size of contracts agreed for players was ludicrous for a Championship club.
He also said that the club had really missed a trick in not building a new stadium in the past fifteen years or so when other clubs had done rather than spend big on chasing glory. He described this as a 'dereliction of duty`.
TB had been given two names by the previous administrator and there were a couple tipping their toes in the water but at present no firm interests. He hoped this position would change now that he was involved.
Pack the Park
So it is over to the fans now to fill the stadium on Saturday - about 4,000 tickets left I gather - to continue to show their support and for those who had an axe to grind with the previous owners to return. Spread the word - quickly!