Issue Used goods, damaged goods

As told by Michael Wood

While League Two trundles along this season with Rochdale at the top, Grimsby at the bottom and a bunch of clubs nestling in the middle most of the attention from a media point of view has been given to the curious wanderings of Notts County who were put up for sale by The Munto Group this morning.

County’s summer sale to people of the Middle East – or was that Pakistan – to build a team to start challenging for promotion immediately and the Premiership in half a decade has been well documented with the saga of Sven, Sol, Schmeichel and Lee Hughes being something of a running soap opera. This latest twist contains the idea that Sven and Peter Trembling – the mouth piece of the Munto Group so far who told us of the irritation the owners had at having to reveal their identities to anyone – staging a management buy out.

All of which seems unlikely – as City fans we can attest to the commonly held thought in football club sales that the ratio of realistic buyers x to people who use the sale as a chance to get on TV, big themselves up or otherwise fail to materialise into genuine bids y tends to be x:y – and with the amounts of money being paid out to a squad of talented players one has to wonder if it is feasible that anyone will be able to take the club on.

There is not much money in League Two football – even at £20 an away fan – and if the club is for sale and “investment” needed to cover weekly wages is not being put in (and some would say that that investment is smoke and mirrors in the first place) then the wages of a Hughes, a Ravenhill or a Lee will soon drain any profit the club makes.

One might suggest that if The Munto Group have no will to fund the team they seek to sell for another six months then should a buyer not emerge within the three weeks before the transfer window then we may see a significant group of player exits from Meadow Lane. If there is no buyer by the start of February then Munto face the bill for paying the likes of Lee Hughes for another six months.

All of which assumes that there is the money to make those payments there in the first place which David Conn of The Guardian suggests that there might not be and that club might be owned in a pyramid of debts that ultimately lead to an empty bank account.

If that turns out to be the case then it is hard to see a future for the Oldest League Football Club at all. If no buyer who can meet the bills can be found then those bills even be so huge – this is a club which agreed to pay Sol Campbell £50,000 for five years – that even administration is not an option. If a judge does not feel that the creditors will get more from a CVA than they would through selling the assets then he is entitled to deny an appeal for the protection from creditors that administration offers.

At this assumes a worse case scenario but as the media attention at Meadow Lane attests to the dreams of the summer have started to become nightmares. The proud club owned by their supporters in the summer are the butt of jokes over the Campbell affair and are failing to see the (ludicrously high levels of) promised performances on the field.

County are today being sold as used goods – The Munto Group like Mark Lawn last season have found that it takes more than money to walk this division – and in a sense damaged goods. There is little reason for anyone who has the money to buy into a club that agree to pay the likes of Hughes a weekly wage would favour purchasing County from The Munto Group. Buy Rochdale and improve Spotland, buy Bournemouth and clear the debts.

The next few weeks will determine a future for County that is highly unlikely to be those dreams the supporters who owned the club bought into last Summer.

League Two carried on regardless but if the worst fears of the situation are realised and County cannot be sold or even cannot complete season then there are serious questions to be answered by the Football League about how they have allowed this situation to develop.

The 5-0 of the first day seemed to represent a new dawn for County but if a buyer can’t be found then that game may not even remain in the football history books leaving County fans with a long time in front of them to ponder the thought that one should be careful what one wishes for, in case one gets it.