Something must be up when “Publicity Pete” declines to talk to the media! When the BBC contacted Peter Ridsdale for his comments on their take on the News of the World story which claimed that the club were on the brink up being wound up because of the non payment of a £2.7 million tax bill, our media friendly Chairman had nothing to say. That is not to say that there has been no official comment from our Chairman since the story broke on Sunday as this very short response on the club’s official site, which for me raises more questions than it settles, appeared that day.
Since then, Peter Ridsdale has spoken about the alleged pre-arranged transfer of Adam Matthews, but there has been no further comment on the possibility of the club being wound up by HMRC (Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs). Instead, it seems that our Chairman has fallen back on a couple of trusted lieutenants to deliver his thoughts to worried supporters. We therefore learned from one that the Revenue “will be paid this week” and that three to four new players will be signed in the next two weeks. From the other, we hear that Peter Ridsdale says that “the club WILL NOT go into adminstration because of an unpaid tax bill” and “the aformentioned tax bill will be paid as per the pre-christmas arrangement with HMRCAND NOT as the article which appeared in the News Of The World.”.
So, that all sounds like very good news, but it needs to be said that at the end of November, our Chairman was talking on the official site about the media’s negative coverage of the “odd hiccup” and saying “to have reached an agreement with Her Majesty’s Revenue And Customs so that our tax affairs can be at all times on an agreed footing with them is better than a number of football clubs, and against the challenges that we have faced, is a monumental success.” about the club’s relationship with HMRC. Two weeks or so later, Peter Ridsdale was saying the following about the initial winding up order and it’s subsequent dismissal to the Echo in this article;-
“We were disappointed in the first instance, but this puts any doubts that anybody had about the future of the club behind us. We can now get on with what we are trying to do, which is get this club promoted. It’s also good that we can reassure supporters who may not know the ins and outs of these situations” and when asked to comment on how much had been paid back to HMRC, he replied “That’s clearly confidential”.
Now, I’m not going to say that Peter Ridsdale was lying in those two pieces – given that we are talking about the taxman here, it’s hard to see what he would hope to gain from doing so anyway, but that article with the Echo took place only a few days before the club, allegedly, defaulted on it’s pre-agreed paying off of some of the total debt owed to HMRC. Therefore, given the optimistic nature of his comments then, it’s hard to reconcile them with the fact that he is once again having to face questions about, an alleged new winding up order for non payment of taxes which, significantly, the club have not denied the existence of.
Whichever way you choose to look at it, Peter Ridsdale’s credibility, already something that he was seriously lacking in the eyes of many supporters, has taken a battering in these last few days. It is argued by some that others on the Board should not escape criticism and I think that is a fair point, however, it needs to be remembered that our very handsomely paid Chairman’s habit of claiming the credit for any previous off field successes during his time in charge, does not do him any favours.
To a large degree I think this season has seen a change whereby the club, and in particular our Chairman, are now in a situation where they are nearly always reacting to events whereas in the past they had a modicum at least of control over them. To explain what I mean by that, I would say that in previous seasons while the new ground and retail site were being built the club had the option of going to PMG for help as well as selling more players to raise the revenue needed to balance the books to some degree. However, it is widely rumoured that, with the retail site completed, PMG have pulled the plug on helping the club out any more (the cashflow problems of the autumn would seem to back that theory up) and are in fact asking for their secured loan to be paid back sooner rather than later.
So, with PMG probably not prepared to be as helpful as they had been previously, selling players becomes more important and with that in mind, I come back to that hamstring injury Ross McCormack suffered at Blackpool when he was, seemingly, on his way to Hull. With no one willing to come in for Joe Ledley either, I think the club went into September a few million pounds short of what they had budgeted for because they had only been able to manage the one high profile departure in Roger Johnson.
If City could have got, say, £3 million for McCormack, then I believe so many of the current problems would have been avoided – for a start we would surely have been able to have paid the taxman more regularly. In that respect, City have been unlucky and the removal of the PMG safety blanket has brought matters to a head. Three years ago the current regime took over essentially because they had engineered a set of circumstances whereby Langston/Hammam had virtually no option but to accept the new share issue which saw them lose control of the club – the current board were in control of that situation, but that is no longer true as they desperately try to plug the holes in their financial dam by using next year’s income.
Next year’s income has already been borrowed against in terms of television rights and many of the income streams from the new stadium which we used to be told would be the panacea to our financial woes have been flogged off to others, so, for the past two seasons City have looked to get their season ticket income in sooner and sooner. However, with wages to be paid until the end of the season, you get the impression that even if all the season ticket revenue raised over the past few weeks went to paying off the taxman and we sold someone like Adam Matthews, we would still find ourselves back at square one soon enough.
Mention of the season ticket revenue raised by the Platinum Ambassador scheme brings me on to the event which, I feel, means that things will never be the same at Cardiff for Peter Ridsdale or the members of the current board. Barring a take over from the Malaysians, it seems hard to see how the nearly £3 million raised by the sale of more than 10,000 season tickets will be spent on new players this month to help in our quest for promotion and this is despite them being specifically marketed as a way to, according to the spiel anyway, give Dave Jones the transfer money he has always been denied previously in January.
Now, frequent users of Cardiff City messageboards have got into the habit of posting more about finance than football in the last five or six years and so there were some who came out with what I am sure are very sound business reasons why City didn’t go for an “honesty is the best policy” approach regarding the sale of season tickets and admit that the money would be spent on paying the taxman. However, I believe those people are missing a fundemental point.
Us bloggers and messageboard contributors love to analyse anything and everything to do with Cardiff City, but we tend to forget that there are far more supporters who are in it purely for the football (you know, that thing that first attracted us to the club!). I can’t help thinking that they are not going to take too kindly to their money being used to pay off tax bills when they were fed the line that it was going on new players. Perhaps I am wrong, but I believe that the “silent majority” who, essentially, support the Chairman and Board and trust them to handle off field matters could well turn if we do not see new players of the quality you would expect when you have £3 million to spend arriving at the club in the next few weeks. Apparently, there is currently some speculation that a frustrated Peter Ridsdale has had enough and may pack it all in, but if he does stay, I’m not sure whether he will ever have the support of a majority of supporters again.