SPL chief executive, Neil Doncaster, appeared on BBC Radio Scotland this evening strongly pitching the appropriateness of a Newco to be voted into the SPL. He gave a couple of examples to back up his position and used gaps in his interviewer’s understanding to paint a strong picture.
While he accepted that a Newco had never assumed a position in an elevated league in Scotland he gave two examples of it happening in England and even went as far as suggesting that “going down the Newco route” was the normal way to exit administration now.
There is a crucial difference between the examples Doncaster gave and all other examples, including Rangers – over 75% of creditors agreed to a Creditors Voluntary Arrangement.
A note of explanation first:
Football clubs are free to change their corporate structure by application to their association. This has been done my most clubs over the years, in particular in the 19th century when they went from being private clubs to incorporated limited companies. There was another wave when the PLCs arrived. Celtic went through this process in 1897 when it became a limited company and again in 1994 when it became a PLC (Celtic PLC remains the same legal entity they became in 1897 with the same company number).
This facility to change your corporate structure has never been a charter to ditch your debts. Financially distressed football clubs in England often change corporate structure when subject to a takeover. The new boss comes in with the company he used to fund his takeover (like Craig Whyte’s Wavetower) then applies to the FA to associate the club with his new company. If over 75% of creditors support a CVA, this is in order and is always granted. The old company is then usually wound up.
Back to Neil Doncaster. He gave two examples: Crystal Palace and Plymouth Argyle.
Creditors of Crystal Palace agreed a CVA proposed by CPFC 2010 in June 2010. Following this, CPFC 2010 took ownership of the club and successfully applied to assume its league share.
Mr Doncaster may have been concentrating on matters elsewhere on 6 May last year when Plymouth Argyle’s creditors agreed to a CVA. The same day Craig Whyte completed his takeover of Rangers. Following this creditors agreement, the club was bought by the Akkeron Group.
Precedent in Scotland and in England is clear: if you get the agreement of your creditors (by a CVA, for example), the football authorities have no issues. If you don’t get agreement with your creditors, you’re finished.
Before I get asked the Leeds United question one more time…. 75.2% of Leeds United’s shareholders agreed to a CVA but on the 28th and final day creditors were allowed to act, HMRC objected. The Football League used emergency provisions to authorise Leeds share transfer as the CVA had sufficient support. HMRC dropped their appeal soon thereafter.
There is little we can do about controlling the debate on radio. Neil Doncaster has pinned his colours to the mast and tonight agreed to be interviewed by a journo who is also financially heavily conflicted towards supporting a Rangers-Newco in the SPL.
Doncaster also appears to have sprung the same misinformation on the organiser of the SPL Survey, who the SPL chief was very dismissive off tonight, implying the organiser accepted his view after he explained “the facts”.
This is the bottom line for you and for Doncaster. Crystal Palace, Plymouth Argyle and Leeds United all convinced over 75% of creditors to support a CVA.
Here is a list of the teams in Scotland and England (in modern times) who failed to agree a CVA:
All of them dissolved. None emerged as a Newco retaining their league status (although Airdrieonians fans bought and moved Clydebank FC).
This man – Doncaster – has no right to present you or SPL clubs with a selected version of English clubs history which plays fast and loose with the most important fact of all – did 75% of creditors agree to a CVA?
Precedents are clear and 100% consistent. Get 75% of creditors on side or start supporting another football team.