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Deal or No Deal for Plymouth Argyle?

The on-going saga surrounding the ownership of Plymouth Argyle has, and still could, put the club very close to extinction.

The turmoil at Home Park has continued throughout the summer with many supporters hitting out at the proposed takeover bid by offshore property company Bishop International who are fronted by Truro City’s chairman, Kevin Heaney.

If the deal to buy the club was to be successful then it would see the Gibraltar-based firm own and build upon the ground and the surrounding land the club currently occupies, while they would then sell the club itself to acting chairman Peter Ridsdale for £1.

It probably won’t come as a surprise to see Ridsdale’s name involved in a club with money issues; you only have to look at his ‘spend, spend, spend’ mentality at Leeds United and the fact he faces trading and fraud charges over a controversial ticket scheme whilst he was in control of Cardiff City, to see why the fans don’t trust him.

The latest twist in this soap opera surrounds Heaney.

So far the identity of his business partners backing him in the deal remains a mystery – to both the fans, and more worryingly the Football League, as they are kept secret behind nominees.

The only thing known about them is that they are a top end property plc which has offices in Dublin; a board which focuses on property as opposed to football doesn’t go down to well with the Green Army (bit of an understatement) as you only have to look at the state the club has been left in by the previous regime.

Furthermore, a figure around £5million is needed to complete the deal, yet another deal by Heaney un-related to Argyle must be completed in order for him to push forward and buy the club.

This, along with the fact that one of the partners, a Japanese investment banker called Koichiro Abe pulled out of the deal just over a month ago has led fans to believe that Heaney cannot afford to buy the club and is desperately trying to conger up the goods needed to complete the deal.

Heaney himself hasn’t got the best business track record; his Cornish Homes (UK) limited company was liquidated in 2008 with debts of £4.8million.

Dual Ownership

To add fuel to the fire, he owns Truro City and one of the factors The Football League state on their website is:

“Except with the prior written consent of the Board no Club may, either directly or indirectly:

“Have any power whatsoever to influence the financial, commercial or business affairs or the management or administration of another football club.”

Although Truro will be playing in the Conference South this season the Football League website also states that by ‘football club’ they mean a team in any division, including ‘The Football Conference.’

This casts more doubt over the deal and gives it a murky image as The Football League have to approve any deal for a club coming out of administration and for them to be given their ‘Golden Share’ back.

Current administrator Brendan Guilfoyle had earlier insisted that the takeover was on track for completion by the end of last month and dismissed fears that the deal was on the brink of collapse. He also expressed the fact that there wouldn’t be enough time for another bidder to come in should the deal fail.

Rescue Plan

However the fans are prepared.

They’ve already set up a ‘rescue plan’ should the deal collapse, which consists of the Plymouth Argyle Supporters Trust, who have already written to The Football League about their concerns involving the takeover, and Devon entrepreneur James Brent (a previous bidder), who have both spoken to the Plymouth City Council about the issue.

The club has only just managed to secure local agricultural company WH Bond, who have actually paid for the first team kit, as a shirt sponsor for the season, however the new kit (both home and away) isn’t expected for a few weeks yet. In the mean time they will be playing in a temporary strip.

With the new football season kicking off in just a few days, everyone including The Football league will be hoping that a deal can be reached. They wouldn’t want one of their 72 clubs to collapse just days or weeks into the new season and the Plymouth fans certainly wouldn’t want their own club to go this way.

As such, they face a dilemma.

A prospect of having a new board that the majority of the Green Army don’t want, but will keep them in business for the short term at least, or push towards the rescue plan which would prolong the affair even more but could possibly be better in the long run.

On the field, the club currently have a squad size of 18, the maximum number for a team in administration is 20. But the summer has seen many ‘goings’ from Home Park and not many ‘comings’ which has left the average age of the squad at 21. Long serving ‘keeper Romain Larrieu, 34 and Carl Fletcher, 31, will have to do all they can to pass on their experience in the hope that Peter Reid’s men start working their way back up the league ladder.

Andy Maynard

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