City pay the rent to Gibb who refuses to sell

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.

Maybe Notts County are – gulp – doing it right

One can’t imagine that a few years ago Mark Lawn imagined he would be looking forward to the start of the football season as a chance to sit a few seats away from Sven Goran Eriksson who returned to English football with Notts County as director of football but the Swede and the Shipley based business man will be but yards apart for the opening day of the season.

Much mockery of Svennis’s return to English football at a low level with one blog summing up the move saying “If the money is there, then Sven will be there.”

You struggle to recall how Sven went from the man who beat Germany 5-1 to being today but it had far too much to do with his proclivities in the bedroom and not enough to do with his inability to tackle the Steven Gerrard/Frank Lampard midfield which was great at getting to places but lost grasp when they were there. Sven came more close, more often than any other England manager to success.

So why is he watching Steve Williams – the Barber from Bamber Bridge – make his professional bow in August and not off preparing for a World Cup or at least a Premiership or Championship campaign? Public relations partly – Sven is damaged goods – but then came a thought.

Notts County are owned by men richer than nations and the assumption is that they have arrived at Meadow Lane to buy success in short order. They have signed City man Graeme Lee and former Bantam Delroy Facey to achieve this.

Sven, Graeme Lee, Delroy Facey. It would seem that they are not putting the resources into the playing squad. If signing Graeme Lee was instant promotion then City would not be facing Notts County in League Two.

It occurs – and perhaps this will be proved to be wrong – that the money of which there is lots is going to Sven and Tord Grip and going behind the scene rather than on big contracts for players the way Fulham or Wigan rose through the leagues.

Qatari tycoon Abdullah bin Saeed Al Thani fronts an investment group which owns County and as with most investment groups he no doubts looks for longer term and sustained profits. This is not Blackburn and Abdullah bin Saeed Al Thani is not Jack Walker. It is not about pride it is about building a football club to be successful in the longer term.

How long? Sven talks of the Premiership and has signed a five year contract but if at the end of that five years the ramshackled County of last season are gone and a foundation for sustained success is in place then he will have done his job. Academy football, training grounds, recruitment policies. These are the things that one would want to put in place for longer term success and these are the remit of a director of football and County have gone for a man vastly over qualified for the job at League Two level.

Perhaps the remit is to build Notts County as a Premiership club from the outside in rather than the model of getting it Premiership on the pitch and hoping the rest well follow. After all that is the way Bradford City rose and fell.

At five on the first day of the season City fans will cheer to the rafters should we win and we would be joined by the sniggering behind hands of many ready to have a pop at Sven but short term results are not (it would seem, I could be proved wrong with a glut of spending tomorrow) the aim but rather the construction of a solid, robust entity which can maintain any success it has.

Notts County – for all the money bags talk – might be doing things right.

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