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Dunfermline Blog: When One Black Hole Closes…

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dunfermlinefcOn Sunday I woke up to Moira Gordon’s Scotland on Sunday article quoting Bryan Jackson of PKF, the administrator appointed earlier this week when Dunfermline Athletic voluntarily entered interim administration. The cost of administration is being underwritten by fans and all of West Fife seems relieved that the club has not already gone straight into liquidation. It is now universally accepted that to give DAFC’s 94% majority shareholder, Gavin Masterton, fans’ cash to save the club would’ve been throwing money down a “black hole,” and nothing more than a short-term fix. Administration gives PKF effective control of the football club but Masterton still holds his shares, and one of his other companies, not [yet]in administration, still owns the stadium. Therefore, Bryan Jackson’s comments speak to the next Masterton-related problem:

“We [PKF and fans’ groups] had a discussion about the need to pull together. I would like to see all the factions moving in the same direction but that’s not always easy. That is a common problem in football for some reason, maybe that’s the nature of it when there are so many people with a vested interest but if you were to ask groups what is your objective, I think they would all agree it is to save Dunfermline Athletic Football Club yet they all fight and squabble and do not move towards that together. Unfortunately, though, especially in this instance, I don’t have time for them to squabble, I need help, I need money to pay day-to-day costs, I need them to get their offer together, I need them to try and do it fairly and non-conditionally which is sometimes a problem.”

“The thing is, in these situations people often want everything to be perfect, to buy the club but with the proviso that they must also own the ground, they must have this or that and so-and-so must not be involved but in these circumstances, to achieve all these things might be very, very difficult.”

About two weeks ago I addressed this issue under the heading ‘The Club with the Thorn in its Side’ and I’ll say it again as my concern remains much the same:

“There is… concern about how much the Masterton family expect to take out of DAFC and/or related operations in the future… I fear the “black hole” discussion is about to open up again. I thought the dissidents had won the “black hole” debate when even the Board-appointed Steering Group accepted that giving the current family-run Board fans’ cash would be no more than a short-term fix. Anything less than clear long-term security for the club, it’s stadium, and its crucial revenue streams, is likely to be viewed as yet another “black hole,” a drain on the club, and a real threat to the club’s future sustainability and very existence.”

“Even if fans can be convinced that the club has a future working with the Masterton family, two options spring to mind; 1. the club is saved by the fans for the benefit of the fans, or 2. the club is saved by the fans for the benefit of the outgoing owners. It makes a huge difference; the Pars can be a true and important community asset reinvesting every penny into what matters, such as on-field success, off-field success, the youth of West Fife, and community spirit, or the Pars can be a club forever indebted to the people who brought us an abundance of debt.”

Responding to Bryan Jackson’s comments on the Pars Alive website, a fan known as Oxpar and presumably based in Oxford or with knowledge of Oxford writes:

“Oxford United went through a similar process regarding the ground when the fans there ousted the owner after a long campaign. Unfortunately they were left with a situation where they are paying an exorbitant rent for the ground and have no involvement or income from Catering or Hospitality. We need to ensure we are not left in a situation where we are paying a non-sustainable rent for East End and that the income from Catering and Hospitality benefits the club.”

So there you have it, as one black hole closes another one opens. Fans are no longer being asked to give their money directly to Masterton for a short-term fix. Instead they are being asked to donate to Jackson for a short-term fix. The much-vaunted long-term solution still lies in the hands of Gavin Masterton. In short, nothing significant has changed. Gavin Masterton was the problem and he is still the problem. He won’t go away and no one seems capable of getting rid of him.

Fans should be in no doubt, working with Jackson is indirectly working with Masterton. As the administrator, Jackson works to get the best deal for creditors, and Masterton is not only the majority shareholder, as I understand it, he is also the biggest creditor.

The desire to save the Pars is strong. The question is; is continuing to work with the Masterton family a fate worse than death?

A few years ago the answer to that question would have been a fairly straightforward choice. Nowadays it’s not so simple. Death has never looked so good. Rangers died, the assets were sold off for a fraction of their value, and a new ‘phoenix’ club was allowed to join SFL3. Apparently Charles Green’s new debt-free team can now ‘afford’ to lose around one million pounds every month.

It seems to me that whether the Pars bounce back after administration or bounce back after liquidation the important thing is to bounce back for good with a long-term, sustainable future, completely free of the Masterton family, their cronies such as John Yorkston, and the “black hole” they represent in whatever guise.

Talking About Clyde

Talking about Clyde isn’t something I do all that often but I did respond to a Scotzine blog a few days ago from a guest writer. I vaguely remember a few Pars-Clyde games; some dour ones from the early eighties and a few more exciting encounters from the mid-eighties, but if I have a soft spot for Clyde it’s because of the club’s plight. I even attended a Clyde golf day and met loads of great supporters and players.

The guest writer mentioned AFC Wimbledon’s website and their view that a football club is the community formed by fans and players working together towards a common goal. I tend to agree with that definition. For me, the legal entity, the company status, or whatever, is almost entirely irrelevant and something for the lawyers and accountants to squabble over. Something I fear they do to get rich. I was much happier when a club was a club and the legal entity was never mentioned.

Dunfermline Athletic has various legal entities on the go, and it’s not a good thing. As discussed above, one legal entity, the part that actually plays football, is currently going bust and has just entered interim administration. Unfortunately, the other legal parts or brands are probably going bust too; the stadium, the events, etc. It’s a mess. For me, a club wins together, loses together, and goes bust together, or at least it should.

The idea that debt is not an integral part of the club and can exist in a daft other-worldly legal construct, somewhere else, in some sort of different dimension, is madness. Absolute madness! It’s the kind of flawed logic and legal/accountancy mumbo-jumbo helping to divide and destroy Dunfermline as we speak.

My advice for Clyde fans was to stick together, stick it out, and not to let Clyde be torn apart by division, any kind of division.

“The club is the community and vice versa,” I said, “and you can all decide together how to define your community and, hopefully agree together, where your club will be based [as there’s a proposal to move from Cumbernauld to East Kilbride]. It’ll still be your club though; all the good AND all the bad bits.”

Pars United

I think much the same about Dunfermline. So, when I awoke this morning to find that Jim Leishman and others have launched a new initiative, Pars United, I was delighted. I can only wish this project well as I have done with every other initiative to save the Pars. However, as usual with Pars initiatives, and at first glance, the initial press release from the self-proclaimed Pars-strategists seems to be missing something; there’s no mention of Gavin Masterton’s stranglehold on the club. What’s the modern-day lingo for it, “the elephant in the room,” or should it be, “the monkey on your back,” perhaps? Either way the Masterton situation and the “black hole” he represents must be addressed as a matter of urgency.

C’mon ye Pars United, don’t fall at the first hurdle. Tell it like it is and tell us what you intend to do. Are you planning to pay Gavin Masterton fans’ money or not? If so, how much and how can you justify it? If not, what is your strategy to ensure that Pars fans’ cash doesn’t primarily fund the exit strategy of Gavin Masterton and other hingers on?

It not that I don’t want to see Gavin Masterton paid. I want all creditors to get a fair deal. I’m simply asking for transparency and clear answers to obvious questions. Is paying the administrator another “black hole,” or essentially the same “black hole” in a different guise? Are the fans saving the club for fans or are fans saving the club for the benefit of the outgoing owner?

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