Issue City pay the rent to Gibb who refuses to sell

As told by Michael Wood

Another year, another payment of the rent once dubbed “peppercorn” on Valley Parade to our former chairman Gordon Gibb.

Gibb’s connection with Bradford City goes back seven or eight years to when he rode in white knight style to save the club from Geoffrey Richmond. Gibb fell out with Julian Rhodes, made big noises about City being able to play at the ground he ended up owing but once described rather distastefully as worthless and retreated to his position of angry landlord.

Last year he put the prices up as is his right in the contract. They stay at this higher rate this year and the club look at its options.

Mark Lawn has revealed talks to buy Valley Parade back from Gibb which faulted because of Gibb’s demands to be paid more for the ground than he paid. Again some would say this is his right as owner of the asset.

BfB attracted some criticism for labelling Gibb “a cretin” recently and some was deserved – it is insensitive – but the comments heard back of “that is offensive to Cretins” is typical of the attitude towards City’s landlord amongst some groups of supporters.

Others though look at the situation and declare that Gibb is simply acting within his rights as landlord. Gibb breaks no laws when dealing with Valley Parade and let no one say he does.

However let no one say that Gibb has acted in a way that is in keeping with good football governance and maintaining the future of football clubs in communities like Bradford. How often though are the ethics of Gibb’s owning Valley Parade looked at?

The former chairman bought the ground when City needed money to pay the bills that were mounting at the club. Gibb paid £2.5m for Valley Parade giving the club, along with a sale of the offices to a second investor, £5m to stave off administration which happened anyway due in no small part down to the tax Bradford City had to pay on the lifeline £5m that it is said the chairman “didn’t realise would need to be paid”.

City needed £5m and got £4m – so it is said – and we all remember the results. We all remember fans earning £500,000 to keep the club going and the administrator being forced to wave the same amount. Half a million Gibb The Chairman failed to get when selling the ground to Gibb The Landlord.

Which raises questions as to the deal made between Gibb’s two roles at the club. One has to wonder how many other parties were invited to make an offer for Valley Parade, if any? One has to wonder how and to whom Gibb’s offer was made? The spin on the deal was that the sale of our single most valuable asset had secured the future of the clud but nothing could be further from the truth with administration a year away only then and disproportionate rent now a millstone for a business that struggles now.

Gibb is seen as someone who got involved and got pushed out ending with the rough end of the stick and out of pocket and now holds assets haplessly and with the malice of a wrong child but perhaps that is an unfair assessment of his business acumen.

He took over a football club which was in financial trouble and managed to end up owning the biggest asset which he bought for less than it is worth – or at least less than he thinks it is worth when talking to Mark Lawn – and did so under the claim that he was saving the club.

Perhaps one hopes that Gibb is a “cretin” because the alternative is – while legally above board – a damning state of affairs which could be put alongside the Luton Towns, the Wimbledon’s/Milton Keynes Dons and York Citys of recent football history.

Chairman buys clubs and sells the assets to himself before leaving. It is not uncommon in the world of football but how many people inside the community of Bradford City let alone in the wider footballing world see it as so?

To put it in context Gibb ended up with the Valley Parade, Geoffrey Richmond ended up being declared bankrupt yet when articles are written on the decline of the club Richmond’s name figures often and Gibb’s hardly at all.