Issue Lawn, the business men and knowing which Devil you know

As told by Michael Wood

People want to buy Bradford City – Mark Lawn insists – but none of them have the money.

The City joint chairman reacted with a measured head to rumours around the future ownership of the club as the close season dragged on and rumours seemed to emerge for want to anything else to talk about between City fans. This rumour had it that Lawn and Rhodes were at negotiation stage with some business men about selling Bradford City and seems to be a half truth, if a truth at all. Three months ago the rumour was that City were going to be bought by SL Benfica as a feeder club, the portugese obviously having an eye on Andrew Villerman and Leon Osbourne.

Lawn is clear about his and Rhodes position at the club they both support and now own. They would leave without making a profit if someone came along and made them an offer but while there is plenty of talk no one ever comes to the club with enough money to buy The Bantams.

There has always been someone looking at Bradford City since I came here three years ago but none of them have come up with the money. I’ve always said, if it’s in the interests of both Julian (Rhodes) and myself to go, we will go without making a penny profit.

Lawn’s position at Valley Parade is an uneasy one with three years of stewardship resulted in plenty of talk but thus far no success. The club is in a rude state of health owing just a £1m but having an outstanding problem with the huge rent paid to The Gibb Pension fund on Valley Parade. The main issue with taking over the club and moving City forward seems to be – for many – the ownership of Valley Parade and the costs involved or the costs of relocation.

The club is in a strange position of being in good health but having relatively few assets having already been split form its major one. On a balance sheet Bradford City are the money that can brought in from good will of the support less the costs of running the business including the rent to Gibb.

This alone is probably is enough to attract “business men” and it is credit to Lawn and Rhodes that they are seemingly immune to the talk by potential suitors of how they could improve the club. David Moores spoke recently of his regret at selling Liverpool to squabbling American pair George Gillett Jnr and Tom Hicks who have loaded the club with the debt of purchase and seem set to spend the summer selling the family silver.

That Lawn would go back to “a pie and a pint” should someone come in who had the funds to take City further than he could illustrates the strengths and weaknesses of the man. He is a firm hand on the tiller at Valley Parade but his imagination is limited. A lieutenant, not a leader, but a good lieutenant at that.

I have my issues with Lawn but bertainly he is a better option than is conjured by the words “business men” which is so often football’s catch all phrase for all that is wrong in the game. “Business men” – in football speak – are the opposition of “Proper Fans” and their arrival is hardly ever a good thing for the communities around clubs. It is a simplistic view that says that all to do with business is to the detriment of supporters but Lawn’s prudence in assuming that is good for Bradford City. “Business men” are too often the devilment of football.

If at one end of football Liverpool have problems with Americans than at the other Chester City had problems with Liverpudlians – specifically Stephen Vaughan – who violated the club out of existence. Vaughan is the warning for anyone who owns the club they support about selling to the next guy through the door and one can only hope that should the time come when Lawn and Rhodes do sell then we can only hope that it is not to a character this unsavoury. John Bachelor – who died recently to very few regrets in York where he was once chairman of the Minster Men – said of his attempts to buy another football club following his attempts to take Bootham Crescent from York City and into private (his own) hands to sell off the land for housing “This is what I do, I fuck businesses out of money.”

A Bachelor would find nothing to interest him at Valley Parade but a Vaughan – who managed to run up £650,000 in one year in cleaning costs for The Deva Stadium which were paid to (you guessed it) Vaughan Cleaning Ltd or some such – would find much to enjoy at Bradford City.

If Lawn is a Devil – hard talk on someone who while rubber stamping spending £600,000 in a year has managed to take a club that haemorrhaged money at an unprecedented level to a breakeven point – then he is at least the Devil we know with even the overnight administration he held like the Sword of Damocles over the club’s head following the car attack incident at Accrington being preferable to the slow death of Chester City.

The rumours continue about buying and selling Bradford City and typical of Lawn he reacts to them directly rather than inviting all to look around at massive cuts announced yesterday suggest that there is little money around and to draw their own conclusions.