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Saving Notts County

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Simon Austin | 11:25 UK time, Friday, 5 March 2010

Munto Finance vowed to bring Championship football to Notts County within five years. In reality, they took the club to the brink of oblivion in five months.

The men who said they had the money to finance the dream - Nathan Willetts, his father Peter and Russell King - have apparently disappeared, but their destructive legacy remains.

County are £6.9m in debt. Their top earner is on £1m a year for five years, which accounts for about a third of the club's annual revenue. And the club has to pay the taxman £50,000 a month for the next year to stave off a winding-up order.

New owner Ray Trew and his chief executive Jim Rodwell are responsible for trying to clean the Augean Stables.

kasper595.jpgSchmeichel is County's highest-earning player

"We expected it to be bad, but probably not this bad," Rodwell, the former Boston chairman, told me. "The club was living beyond its means. We all know you can live like a king on credit for six months but after that you hit problems."

So it's been a frantic time for the duo following their arrival at Meadow Lane on 11 February.

Their first priority was to stop the club going into administration. Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs had issued a winding-up petition because of an unpaid tax bill of more than £600,000. A one-off payment of £321,000 and the promise of a further £50,000 a month for the next year averted that threat.

Rodwell and Trew are now dealing with the club's other creditors. First, they asked for written confirmation of how much each was owed. Next, they will discuss repayment schedules with them.

The duo also employed forensic accountants to go through the club's books, and Rodwell admits: "We've found some things that could lead to prosecution. I think we've got a moral obligation to get the police involved."

With County currently seventh in League Two, another big priority is to get promoted this season. Whether that happens or not, Rodwell will have to set about reducing the club's wage bill in the summer.

Football League rules stipulate that clubs can only spend 60% of their turnover on wages, but County had "blown the wage cap out of the water," according to Rodwell. As a result, the League imposed a transfer ban on County before Christmas.trew595.jpg
Trew tried to buy Lincoln City in 2006

Rodwell, who says he was the "archetypal journeyman footballer" before becoming caretaker manager, director of football and then chairman at non-league Boston United, admits he has been taken aback by the scale of the wages being paid to the players.

"Some of our contracts are Championship level, if not even Premier League," says the former centre-half, whose biggest claims to fame as a player were helping Rushden & Diamonds win promotion to the Football League and finishing third in Britain's Brainiest Footballer quiz.

The biggest earner is goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel, the recipient of that whopping £1m salary.

Peter Trembling, County's former executive chairman and the front man for Munto Finance, sanctioned the spending and admits Schmeichel's pay is "ridiculously high for the division". But he defends the other wages paid to the County squad.

"I always said we shouldn't sign the big names until we had money in the bank," Trembling insists.

When you consider that Sol Campbell walked out on a lucrative five-year contract after just one game and that former director of football Sven-Goran Eriksson made enquiries about bringing David Beckham to Meadow Lane, it's clear that things could have been much, much worse.

And the largesse wasn't confined to player wages. Eriksson travelled the country in a chauffeur-driven car, while his right-hand man Tord Grip flew around Europe scouting players. Fine if you have a hugely wealthy benefactor, but it turned out County didn't.

As I outlined in an earlier blog, Trembling claims he is as much a victim in this saga as anyone else. And it's true he put £500,000 of his own money into the club and has joined the lengthy queue of creditors waiting for their money.

He told me: "This has been a terrible time for me and I believe I have been on the verge of a nervous breakdown. The money I put into the club was virtually all I've got."

But many fans will have limited sympathy for someone who was Munto's tub-thumper for so long, and even the kindest will accuse him of having been naïve. After all, Trembling continued to defend the project even as evidence mounted that it was built on shifting sands.

Certainly Rodwell was sceptical as he monitored the surreal events at County from afar last summer.

"Like everybody else, I raised my eyebrows when the new owners came in and made these lavish promises," he says. "I know the lower leagues very well and things just didn't stack up. I always had a deep suspicion that it would all end in tears."

Which of course it did, and Rodwell himself is now the man picking up the pieces.

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  • 1. At 4:04pm on 05 Mar 2010, Rebecca aka Becky aka Beks wrote:

    How did Munto finance pass the "fit and proper ownwers" testing?

    Notts County was failed in more than one ways where Munto were concerned.

    And to be honest Trembling is as bad as them!

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  • 2. At 4:07pm on 05 Mar 2010, localhero87 wrote:

    So if my calculations are right Kasper Schmeichal is on not far off 20k PER WEEK. That really is premiership wages. Unbelievable really.

    Its been mentioned so many times before, but the fit and proper persons test is obviously not good enough, and there should also be agreements in place that if someone pledges money to a club they then a legally obliged to follow through with it. Munto promised everything and gave nothing.

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  • 3. At 4:23pm on 05 Mar 2010, Nick wrote:

    How can the Football League allow all of this to happen. Again it's the fans that suffer. Lets hope that the forensic accountants and the police get convictions and that this then starts to frighten some clubs into acting and behaving properly and professionally.

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  • 4. At 4:30pm on 05 Mar 2010, stuspurs wrote:

    Unbelievable how this can be allowed to happen!
    Good luck to the new owners and all Notts County supporters, I hope they are able to get themselves out of this mess. I go to watch my local team, Wycombe Wanderers, and can't imagine what would happen to us if we were in County's place. Probably a quick trip to oblivion!

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  • 5. At 4:37pm on 05 Mar 2010, iveseenitallnow wrote:

    What are the league authorities going to do about the blatant breaking of the wagecap rules? Notts County have clearly gained an unfair over other teams in the league who have abided by the rules. A financial penalty would be inappropriate (they probably couldn't affod to pay it!) and the only sanction should be a hefty points deduction this season. This should stop any other clubs breaking the wagecap rule.

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  • 6. At 4:40pm on 05 Mar 2010, whufc1985 wrote:

    Crazy times down at notts county. You would have to question why Kasper Schmeical a kid who has played at prem level, would go down to the bottom league, but earning the money that he apparantly is, its easy to see why.

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  • 7. At 4:41pm on 05 Mar 2010, U14345488 wrote:

    Why exactly are Notts County allowed to continue the season unpunished despite heavily flouting the wage cap rule? Every other club in league 2 has to abide by this rule so why don't Notts County?

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  • 8. At 4:45pm on 05 Mar 2010, tone9876 wrote:

    I do not understand what Munto's motivation was in all this. Was it all a big con to put Notts County out of business? Was there ever any money to finance the project in the 1st place? Surely there must be a case for prosecuting the Willetts and King for false representation. What is the league doing to stop this from happening to other clubs? What reason did Munto give Trembling for pulling out after 5 months?
    Questions, questions... i doubt we will ever get any answers.

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  • 9. At 5:07pm on 05 Mar 2010, shrewdchemic wrote:

    I'm not a psychiatrist, but when someone (Mr Trembling here) says "I believe I have been on the verge of a nervous breakdown", my immediate reaction is that they haven't.

    Naive at best is putting it mildly. Odd that so many outsiders believed throughout that "the project" had little credibility, but those that could see the books (or lack of them) couldn't see what seemed obvious to anyone with an ounce of common sense.

    "Show me the money". Didn't anyone think to say that?

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  • 10. At 5:11pm on 05 Mar 2010, theroosterpie wrote:

    Why do people keep wanting Notts to have a points deduction. Currently we are not allowed to sign any players, isn't this punishment enough?

    We are being punished financially because of these bogus investors. It is the Football League who have slapped a transfer embargo on Notts, but is also the Football League who ratified the proper persons test, it is the football league who ratified every players contract, every players wages and every player transfer, then you expect the same people to turn round and say now we'll take a load of your points away.

    I am biased about this of course, but that sounds very harsh.

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  • 11. At 5:12pm on 05 Mar 2010, Simon Austin wrote:

    Thanks for your comments everyone - some interesting stuff.

    Good question #tone9876 and one I've asked a few times. Trembling thinks the Willetts and King did think they were going to get their hands on some serious cash through business activities in the Middle East.

    After five months it became apparent this wasn't going to happen and the trio disappeared. They changed their phone numbers and didn't respond to letters and emails. Trembling thinks they are in Bahrain or Beijing at the moment.

    At this point Trembling and Eriksson realised there were serious problems at the club.

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  • 12. At 5:23pm on 05 Mar 2010, WorldCupMadness wrote:

    "So if my calculations are right Kasper Schmeichal is on not far off 20k PER WEEK. That really is premiership wages. Unbelievable really."

    Yes, and he was a premiership player. He is as much a victim as the rest, since he was paid near premiership wages, and agreed to come down to the lowest division on the basis that the club was going to go up to the premiership.

    Rather than that the club would end up on the edge of going bust and he would be in obscurity, with a battle to get back to playing at top level again.

    I think it puts Sol Campbell's walk out in a different light. Sol lost the chance of regular premiership football, and probably given our current full back situation a good chance of being at the world cup.

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  • 13. At 5:31pm on 05 Mar 2010, bill40 wrote:

    When I read of Notts County's "good fortune" I must admit that as a Blackpool fan I was green with envy at the money. Now I just feel sorry for the ordinary fans because I have no doubt they will end up suffering Fl action and higher prices.

    I hope that all sactions will be on those responsible but I fear that a hefty points deduction is in the pipeline that may even take them down.

    I hope for the fans ske this does not happen, but I must also wonder what I would think if my team were in leauge 2.

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  • 14. At 6:07pm on 05 Mar 2010, RememberScarborough wrote:

    If the former owners have disappeared then they could well have been up to no good (toned down for the mods). The club should then hand this over to the police whom I've sure could track them down and issue deportation requests when they're found.

    However, County do seem to have gained an unfair advantage and, if they have breached the salary cap, action needs to be taken to bring them on to a level playing field with the rest of the clubs in the division.

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  • 15. At 6:44pm on 05 Mar 2010, randalthor1812 wrote:

    Kaspar is a quality keeper and should be at least in the championship or SPL ,20k a week is lower prem/upper championship and a lot of clubs would do well to get him in the summer and help county out in the process
    .Bristol City ,Blackpool,Boro,even Derby would probally be in the playoffs with a keeper of his ability and could afford him,(I expect it took a big wage increase to get him to drop to bottom league and he'd take a cut to get back where he should be).

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  • 16. At 7:23pm on 05 Mar 2010, setyourselfonfire - off down the A 5 2 wrote:

    Rumours around Nottingham after the takeover were that the Three Stooges originally approached Nottingham Forest and chairman Nigel Doughty for investment and takeover talks; they were rejected. I'm not surprised now. The clues were there; what sort of multi-national investment firm doesn't even have a website?

    Some of the County fans will undoubtedly have egg still on their faces - a lot of the Forest fans were more than miffed with the way the fans acted with such hubris after the takeover. The days of fans from both sides putting money into buckets to save the Meadow Lane club appeared to be lost in the mist of the Trent and short of a miracle the club will sheepishly bring out the buckets again.

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  • 17. At 7:37pm on 05 Mar 2010, trickysnap wrote:

    Of all the ludicrous football stories, this was the most ludicrous. If something seems too good to be true..

    Guess what.

    It is.

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  • 18. At 7:52pm on 05 Mar 2010, biancoazzurri wrote:

    I feel sorry for Notts County, but once again where were the dissenting voices from fans at the time? Fans have got to start demanding more say in their clubs and start to stop taking takeovers at face value and getting carried away with dreams of glory. We have learnt nothing from the Leeds experience.

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  • 19. At 8:34pm on 05 Mar 2010, DAC wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 20. At 8:38pm on 05 Mar 2010, Onslow The Cat wrote:


    The fans can complain away, but what can they effectively do if the club is not owned by them?

    Consider what's happening at Portsmouth and Man U. Are the fans actually able to make a difference? I mean in reality, not just noises in the media.

    You're right, we learn nothing from history. So we are left with the legacy of Leicester, Leeds, Luton, Portsmouth, Crystal Palace (x2), Cardiff, and now Notts. County. And a lot of others.... please add them here. But the points deduction was started off by Leicester orginally (please discuss) or was it the Palace?

    The one thing we learn is that when a club goes into administration or has financial problems the supporters are the last to be told about what's going on. I wonder why?

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  • 21. At 8:42pm on 05 Mar 2010, Piggin_Tea_Break wrote:

    What a mess. Kasper's wages are no surprise, he is a solid goalkeeper who could have easily punched his weight at Championship level. Aside from empty promises of shooting up the leagues, money is the only reason he could have been lured to Notts County, and now it is costing the club big time. If he had any decency, he would renegotiate his contract and take a wage cut to help save the club.

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  • 22. At 8:45pm on 05 Mar 2010, DAC wrote:

    This was not the fans fault! We pay our money at the gate and support our team. Believe me over the years we have had some bad teams but that will not put off a true supporter.Some 6000 or so regularly attend Meadow Lane games and at Wigan in the FA Cup I think we had possibly as many as the home team. Please avoid criticising the fans and advocating anything that will have an adverse effect on the fans enjoyment of their 'team'. Ericson and his entourage and the league need to examine what they did or did not do.
    Oh, by the way anyone who refers to us as 'County' clearly do not know how the club is know by its supporters.

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  • 23. At 8:51pm on 05 Mar 2010, U11846789 wrote:

    Some naive comments on here too.

    If conmen (crooks) take over a business and run it for their own ends, and then bunk off, how is the business to blame?

    What has happened is criminal. Full stop.

    To blame the club is like blaming people who have been burgled for having had a home to burgle!

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  • 24. At 8:56pm on 05 Mar 2010, ForestJedi wrote:

    As a supporter on the other side of the Trent, you might imagine I'd be laughing it up over County's problems. Nothing could be further from the truth. I am deeply saddened by the way in which County have been totally screwed up by a regime that quite clearly couldn't run a bath, nevermind a football club.

    As much as it is each club's own responsibility to ensure that appropriate people take up the stewardship for continuity of the club, my biggest concern is with the authorities.

    The FA, The Football League and The FA Premier League all have various "tests" for "fit and proper" club ownership and as County, Portsmouth and others have demonstrated these tests are completely bogus, fony and wholly inadequate. These organisations have the responsibility for the wealthfare of the game as a whole, which implicitly covers the participant clubs. Despite going over the small print of County's takeover at length, they eventually ratified it. How? Despite Portsmouth changing ownership more times than the team has won league games this season for which each owner passed the "FA fit and proper persons test", the club now languish in administration. How?

    These organisations need to take a long hard look at themselves and their procedures.

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  • 25. At 9:24pm on 05 Mar 2010, US Owl wrote:

    What is it about football fans?

    I'm originally from Sheffield and have been a Wednesday fan all my life, but I am appalled at the way that fans of all clubs lose touch with reality when their team is involved. We can be the most sensible, calm and businesslike people in our everyday lives, but when it comes to our team, all sense of good practice goes out of the window and the levels of lunacy rise together with our expectations.

    Why is it we are always looking for a "Sugar Daddy" to come and pump millions of their money into our clubs just so that our dreams (which in most cases are totally unrealistic) can be met?

    Why can't all football clubs be run on a proper financial footing? It may mean we don't win so many trophies (not that Wednesday have won that much in my 45 years of following them), but at least our clubs should avoid getting themselves into the sort of financial predicament currently facing my own club, Portsmouth and Notts County among many others.

    Whilst in some respects I feel sorry for the fans purely in respect of their clubs facing possible extinction, on the other hand, many of these clubs have got themselves into this predicament as a result of unrealistic fan expectations, and fan pressure for better players, results and success.

    As one of the previous posters pointed out, where were the football league when it came to properly monitoring the situation? It seems absolutely ludicrous that the body that approves all of the directors and owners as being "Fit and Proper" and then sanctions the transfers and wages should at the same time be the body that imposes penalties for problems that arise partially (at least) as a result of their own failings.

    The professional game needs a thorough root and branch overhaul, not just tinkering at the edges. Given that the football authorities at all levels only seem interested in maintaining the status quo, I believe it may take proper legislation to achieve that (although sadly, I doubt that the Palace of Westminster has either the time or inclination to be bothered), however, more than anything it needs for us the fans to be realistic about what their club is and what it can achieve without being carried away by our emotional attachment.

    To the fans of Notts County and all other clubs facing financial difficulty at the moment, I hope that you all find a way to survive and that in future we will all be able to live within our means.

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  • 26. At 9:30pm on 05 Mar 2010, KingCnut wrote:

    Piecing it together, I am not sure whether there has been criminal activity: Just wreckless gambling which fell apart the day in Late November when F1/BMW/Ecclestone stopped QADBAK from buying Sauber. That would have given them 40m TV revenue upfront thus providing cash flow for Notts and Sauber. Meanwhile the North Korean adventures plus the high profile was supposed to lead to Jackpot time when Swiss commodity holdings were floated. What they intended to do then, who knows? Why so many confected companies I dont know. The following questions remain

    1. What exactly is the criminal activity that Trew/Rodwell claimed to have unearthed? and Why so long to involve Plod?

    2. Why did Trembling buy the club for 1 pound? Did the 2 to 3 months until Trew took over buy time for some reason?

    3. Is the exact details of the creditors known? Is there a loan arrangement involving King etc still in place?

    4. What did Sol see or hear ?

    5. The accountant, Clemence. Where did he go?

    6. Is Ray Trew funding the ongoing gap in Income/outgoings. They have got rid of Sven and his cars but not much else or?

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  • 27. At 9:31pm on 05 Mar 2010, Fontin wrote:

    Wasn't Notts County a supporters owned club when they took the "lets spend millions on success" option?

    If you bet on Black and it comes up Red then you can't cry afterwards - especially as the Notts County fans backed this. Notts County have a squad they can't afford. They're currently in a false position in League Two. If they don't pay their debts then they should be punished (IMHO thrown out of the FL). Think about the supporters of other clubs who avoid the reckless gambles and cut their cloth accordingly. Why should they be punished?

    Best of luck to their new owners avoiding admin and paying their debts in full. This is a refreshing approach to dealing with Football debts. If they manage it then they should be congratulated.

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  • 28. At 9:49pm on 05 Mar 2010, monkey-imp wrote:

    I was just going to post more or less what Fontin has. Given that the Notts County trust GAVE the club to Munto finance the 'what could the fans do?' argument doesn't really hold with Notts County.

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  • 29. At 11:46pm on 05 Mar 2010, hudjer wrote:

    I can see the cash running out and administration happening. You can't spend cash you don't have like that.

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  • 30. At 00:52am on 06 Mar 2010, jamy99 wrote:

    Notts Couty will probably get promotion this season through having players they cannot afford.

    They deserve a points deduction but it probably won't happen because the league is too leniant.

    And as for Cardiff City, they have been over spending for years! They will continue to do so as they know that the Welsh FA will bail them out when they get into trouble, as they have done before. They really do have the best of both worlds- In the English league and can get into masses of debt without worry!

    Notts County made the mistake of not being Welsh

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  • 31. At 02:36am on 06 Mar 2010, forest-sd89 wrote:

    haha ye thats it blame the welsh!

    im a forest fan, and most county fans would think we would be lauhging in their faces at the moment. but were not, our fans and even players have given money to county when they have been in major troubles before. we dont want to see them go into adminstration at all.

    i think the FA and FL needs to seriously look into the Munto Finance take over, because of this group the football league may lose it oldest club! they came to the club promising money, big name stars and success! they somehow managed to bring in a couple of big names, braking the wages budget (which shouldnt have been aloud and the fa took action with a transfer ban).
    All they brought to the club was disaster and nothing else! notts county shouldnt be punished for this... its quite clear Munto Finance should.

    I hope the FA and FL look into the situation and dont give notts a stupied fine and points deduction.

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  • 32. At 06:48am on 06 Mar 2010, Simon Austin wrote:

    Fair point #27 Fontin. County's supporters trust gave their shareholding to Munto for free. They say they saw proof of funds from Munto, promising to put a minimum of £5m into the club.

    In reality, they only put £50,000 in. Trembling personally put £500,000 in.

    He told me the supporters trust failed to do due diligence on Munto.

    A lot of people have been duped here...

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  • 33. At 08:56am on 06 Mar 2010, Oscar the Grouch wrote:

    The club I support is one of those who will be possibly be affected by affected by this debacle. As things stand, Notts County have got into a promotion play off place unfairly by spending wildly above what they could afford.

    It annoys me to think that my club may miss out on a chance at promotion because of this. And what will happen next season? At some point, Notts County will go into some form of CVA or administration. They will end up wiping out millions of debt (and what about the poor local companies that are owed money that they won't get?) and getting a points deduction. But by then it will be too late.

    There should be a points deduction NOW (for the unfair overspending) and then another one when they finally go into administration or what ever they do to shed their debt.

    I'll be 100% honest. I have zero sympathy for the club. The Supporters' Trust gave the club away in a deal that was obviously dodgy. It is a mess of their own making and the club should be punished accordingly.

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  • 34. At 09:04am on 06 Mar 2010, GeordiePie wrote:

    As a loyal fan for nearly 27 years I feel well and truly conned by the so called Munto group. It is all to easy to look back at the circus of last summer and say 'yes well it was The Supporters Trust who allowed all this to happen' - Anybody who has supported a long suffering lower league club for years and years who is presented with the opportunity to ba taken over by a group who promised success beyond the fans wildest dreams would have been swayed by their advances. The Supporters Trust were presented with an overwhelming case to pass over the baton to Munto and unfortunately in doing so we were sold the biggest con in the club's long and proud history.
    We the fans will be paying for this for many years to come, so if anybody thinks taking 10,20 or 30 points off us will correct everything then you really are mistaken. Promotion this season will inevitably end in relegation the following season, and then non-league football after that. I think this point is summed up more succintly by poster #23 The Midland 20, but felt I had to have my rant on the issue.

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  • 35. At 09:49am on 06 Mar 2010, Guoaihua wrote:

    #27 has hit the nail on the on head. Supporters of football clubs need to get their heads out of the sand. It is no good moaning about all this after the fact - a blind man on a galloping horse could see that County were spending far beyond their means and the very suggestion that a mystery consortium would come in and lift you up to the Championship or Premiership is and was ridiculous. County fans had the future of their team in their hands and handed it over to people whose names they did not even know. Shame on them.

    When a club is spending obviously well beyond their income then the fans need to stand up and do something about it THEN - not when things have gone horribly wrong later. I feel little sympathy for the fans of Portsmouth who did abosultely nothing when they were paying stupid money for established internationals, winning the FA Cup and playing AC Milan only to complain about how unfair it all is when the sugar daddy gets bored and leaves. They should have been kicking up a stink long before that, otherwise they forfeit the right to claim to be the 'true owners' of their club. I feel exactly the same about Manchester City, Chelsea and QPR right now. Spending more than they can afford - when the backers pull out those clubs will be inserious trouble and the fans will expect our sympathy. They will not get mine.

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  • 36. At 10:49am on 06 Mar 2010, nffc_1978 wrote:

    Supporters can't have it both ways, you either live the dream and accept the consequences when it ends up like this or be happy to drift along in an aimless existence like a lot of lower division clubs. The problem with our pyramid system is that as every team has the potential to reach the Premier League but only a few actually can, there's little alternative to chasing the dream with imaginary money, and until clubs actually start going out of existence that will continue.

    County fans who thought they were going to be the next Man City shouldn't expect too much sympathy from the other side of the Trent. (And yes #22, it's County - Notts is a cricket team!)

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  • 37. At 10:56am on 06 Mar 2010, lammers74 wrote:

    As a Notts supporter, it felt too good to be true and it turned out that way in the end. It seems to me that the club exceeded the 60% rule because they were given the green light to do so from the football league as they shown them the "cast iron" guarantee from Munto saying that at least £5m will be invested into the club in the next 5 yrs. It would it be a tad ironic if they issued points penalties against a club when they are partly to blame for the clubs predicament after all isn't the football league suppose to protect it's members.

    I was suckered into it, the chairman at the time did no due diligence the trust was suckered into it, sven and his entourage were and so were the Football League. I don't think that Notts had much choice but to go with the "deal" after all the club's been underachieving for over a decade and slowly dying (my opinion)anyway. So you may as well go out with a bang rather than a whimper. I think if any other lower league club or any club for that matter had the same offer on the table the chairmen and directors would be lynched from the nearest goal post if they turned it down.

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  • 38. At 11:05am on 06 Mar 2010, idaniba wrote:

    If the FL with all their resources were unable to detect that Munto were a bunch of crooks, how were the supporters trust supposed to do it?
    The proposal that Notts should have a points deduction for having an unfair advantage because they have financed players by going into debt is an interesting one. I look forward to seeing how many points, and indeed trophies, the likes of Man Utd and others are stripped of by the same logic.
    The fact of the matter is that Munto put nothing into Notts, but took nearly £1 million out. It was a con trick all along and could have happened to any number of clubs.
    Notts will survive this and we will flourish in time. We have learned a hard lesson - there is no such thing in this depraved world as a free lunch. The only success worth having is that which is earned. We used to know this but we forgot it. We have learned that lesson in a very painful way.

    In order to help prevent such a thing happening in the future I believe the FL need to introduce a bond scheme. Anyone wishing to buy a football club must lodge a bond with the FL. If the club goes into administration or breaks other rules the FL keep the bond and the club owner loses his money for good. If Munto had had to stump up £1 million are so in order to buy Notts they wouldn't have ventured because they clearly didn't have any funds in the first place.

    In the long term I suggest clubs should go back to the original format. Ditch owners and restore club committees. In other words, revert from being a plc or limited company, and go back to being a real club run by a committee. It is worth noting that Nottingham Forest oporated this way for many years after all the others switched. As a committee run club they won the FA Cup, the Championship (now called the Premiership), the European Cup twice (now called the champions league), and a couple of League Cups for good measure. So it can work.

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  • 39. At 12:43pm on 06 Mar 2010, theroosterpie wrote:

    With respect of the illegal actions by Munto Finance, they had promised to invest at least £5m in incremental payments over at least a 5 year period. Yes they did put £50,000 in to the club, but, they took what is described as a six figure sum that is not quite a seven figure sum out.

    So perhaps that was the motivation of Willett and Best and Hyat etc. They took over a business, raided its bank account and then disappeared.

    And to those who keep moaning that we haven't been punished in any way, we are under a transfer embargo, so much so, we have lost 3 loan players, 2 of which were key players, another player has gone out on loan and we have a very thin looking squad left.

    Notts County have NOT gone into Administration, therefore avoiding a points penalty. The clubs current chairman is negotiating deals with its 273 (I think) creditors over a period in which it can repay those debts. If it had gone into Administration, the creditors would receive between 10 and 15p for every £1 it is owed, so I think that is an honourable gesture.

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  • 40. At 12:58pm on 06 Mar 2010, Gavelaa wrote:

    Where can I complain about Jonathan Pearce's latest article about Spain and Brazil. As much as I respect him, someone needs to point out that World Cup 98 was not 18 years ago, and that Netherlands and Argentina played in the quarter final, not the semis.

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  • 41. At 2:06pm on 06 Mar 2010, Peter D wrote:

    Doesn't anybody do due diligence here, where were the auditors, the bank specialists where were the profit and loss statements. If you buy a house you have to show income, the deposit and a means to pay. Where were these documents.
    It is ridiculous that something like the countries national past time has no meaningful financial oversight. Is not fraud a crime, why are charges not being brought.
    If this is how finance is run in the UK no wonder the country is in a mess

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  • 42. At 2:28pm on 06 Mar 2010, Jeff-Pieman wrote:

    Too many people still don't understand or want to understand this story.
    It isn't a case of simply living beyond the club's means.

    Notts County based their spending, including the players wages on the promised investment. The club is now in a financial mess because the investment was never made. Not only was no money invested into the club, it now seems a considerable sum was actually taken out.

    It doesn't matter how many players the club would have signed, with no hard cash actually put into the club, we would have over spent, even if we had signed lower league/non league players.

    The Football League were presented with documentation which seemingly guranteed £5 million if Munto pulled out, the Football league sanctioned every signing based on the £5 million gurantee, which we now know wasn't worth the paper it was written on.

    There is no points deductions because the league sanctioned all signings, instead there is a transfer emgbago which means the club now has a threadbare squad in the promotion run in, hardly an advantage.

    Instead of making a bad situation worse with points deductions or financial penalties, the Football Leage AND the F.A. should work together to find out
    1: why these people were able to take over the club BEFORE passing the fit and proper persons test.
    2: HOW after many months after taking over the club did they pass the Fit and Proper persons test.
    3: Like the supporters trust how were the Football League duped into believing that the 5 million gurantee was genuine and how intensive was the legal checks done on this gurantee.

    Until these and maybe other questions are answered, this COULD HAPPEN TO ANOTHER CLUB in years to come.

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  • 43. At 2:43pm on 06 Mar 2010, sam1 wrote:

    The Football League have failed regarding the flawed takeover. So have the Notts supporters trust. But one key point remains: Notts County have GAINED an unfair advantage over other clubs who run their affairs properly. This has an unfair impact on other clubs challenging for promotion, and the fans of those clubs.
    Yes, Notts may have a small squad and are are subject to a transfer embargo, which effectively closes the door after the horse has bolted. But the fact remains that they have got into a very strong position in the table with players like Hughes who they have no right to have.
    Notts County fans should ask themselves this: How would they feel if their club missed out on a promotion or play off spot because of a club that has gained an advantage by "spending" massively beyond its means?
    Notts should be docked points this season.

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  • 44. At 3:06pm on 06 Mar 2010, thisbhoylikespie wrote:

    I'm more than willing to hold my hands up here and admit 'i was duped'. I was very sceptical of the whole Munto thing, but when Sven Goran Eriksson turned up at Meadow Lane it gave the whole thing a sense of validity. As it is, I'm devastated to be in the position we're in now.

    However, the Football League are as much to blame as the club are. Considering they gave us the green light to go over the wage cap, punishing us now would be foolish. How can they give us explicit permission and then punish us afterwards? That makes no sense, and neither does Fontin's opinion that we are kicked out of the League. If the FL had refused our request (as they should have done in order to keep the integrity of the league) we wouldn't be debating our penalty.

    Besides, they are punishing us once already with the transfer embargo, something which may yet prevent our promotion dreams anyway. That said, I can understand the frustration of fans of clubs around us.

    I would hope that the Football League enforce the wage cap going forward to prevent any other clubs getting themselves into the mess we are in, and as many have already said, the Fit and Proper Persons test really must stand up to scrutiny.

    It really is us fans who are going to suffer now. Season ticket prices have been increased for next year, and we'll lose most of the big earners in the summer. I've already heard some dissenting voices from fellow fans about this, as well as the deal to keep Nottingham RFC at Meadow Lane, but quite frankly, our survival is paramount. I'd suggest my fellow Notts fans hold on tight. It's going to be a bumpy ride.

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  • 45. At 3:31pm on 06 Mar 2010, sam1 wrote:

    Within a week Notts County could be in an automatic promotion spot largely thanks to the goals of Lee Hughes and the contributions of other players they signed under false pretences, not least Schmichael and Davies. If Notts fans are to suffer on the field, let it be this season, not next after enjoying promotion.

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  • 46. At 3:33pm on 06 Mar 2010, tallshort wrote:

    "I've already heard some dissenting voices from fellow fans about this, as well as the deal to keep Nottingham RFC at Meadow Lane, "

    You dont deserve to have Notts rugby club there after what you tried to pull. The rugby club should move to lady bay and let you sink, its no more than you deserve.

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  • 47. At 3:45pm on 06 Mar 2010, thisbhoylikespie wrote:

    @ Tallshort

    I agree, the way the rugby club were treated was a disgrace.

    Needless to say, I'm not one of those dissenting voices. I'm more than happy to have them at Meadow Lane.

    @ Stuart Ellis

    I'd suggest you read the post of Jeff-Pieman again. And how can the Football League punish us for something they gave us permission for? The simple fact is the FL are incompetent

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  • 48. At 4:18pm on 06 Mar 2010, Geoff wrote:

    Just reading this piece reminds me of the terrible reign of Darren Brown at Chesterfield about 10 Years ago.

    Like Munto Finance at Notts County, Darren came in and promised us the world. Just like Notts County fans, we were all taken in by his smooth talk and the signing of quality players on inflated wages that we could never afford.

    When this all fell apart, and the Chesterfield Supporters Trust took control it soon became evident that a massive fraud had taken place. This resulted in an investigation by the Serious Fraud Office. Brown was eventually found guilty of fraud, and sentenced to 4 years in prison.

    It was Brown's activities at Chesterfield that eventually led to the Fit and Proper test rules. It seems to me that these rules need examining again.

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  • 49. At 5:42pm on 06 Mar 2010, rubsley wrote:

    Blah blah blah. Who cares? Isn't everyone in debt anyway?


    Notts County are doing wicked - let's let them get promoted and then lots of people in Nottingham and elsewhere will be happy.

    But perhaps they'll still be skint and paying their players too much. In that case, sell the nice Danish goalkeeper and buy someone cheaper.

    And then play some bluddy football and don't do it again!

    In the meantime, we should go looking for the naughty Munto men and make them give the money back, plus shame them to their mummies, plus wag our fingers at them. And the football league can say, sorry, Notts County, it was sort of our fault too.

    Debt is bad; don't do it.

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  • 50. At 5:45pm on 06 Mar 2010, panchopuskas wrote:

    Good post from UF OWL. Time to regulate how clubs are bought, sold and financed. Time, for example, to stop leveraged buyouts where prospective ownwers can borrow money to buy a club and then cripple the club with these same debts. How is this possible? ManU never had a debt in it's life and is now probably the most indebted club in the world. The same happened to Liverpool.
    Not many Premier clubs would stand a real financial check up.
    Time for new rules, caps on spending, caps on wages, and greater involvement of the fans in running the clubs.
    My own suggestion would be for the encouragement of fan ownership - it happens in Spain with Real Madrid, Barsa and Ath Bilbao. The FA could make a start with the smaller clubs in the lower divisions.
    Portsmouth and dear old Notts County are just the tip of the iceberg.

    Just wait and see.

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  • 51. At 6:34pm on 06 Mar 2010, Brit-exPat-In-USA wrote:

    As a County fan for 50 years I am naturally concerned, but are we worse off than one year ago? Even a points deduction would still leave us better off than missing the Blue Square League by one point and a permanent position at the bottom of L2.

    I never believed the Munto thing in the first place, why would anyone with that kind of money invest in L2 when there are premiership clubs looking for investors? My Mundella classmate Haydn Green did, but he was a lifelong fan, Munto never heard of County before they conned us.

    So my fellow fans, be perpared for a bumpy ride. At least we are facing reality, this fate could await the rest of British football, as you are all living on credit. If you make a list of teams that have no debt and cover expenses from income you will only need a postage stamp to write on. Major sport is a charity subsidized by individuals with more money than sense. Most of them have integrity, but not a bottomless pit of money.

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  • 52. At 7:45pm on 06 Mar 2010, Herbert Munday wrote:

    So Mr Rodwell has worked out that "The club was living beyond its means." I wonder how long it will take him to go the step further and realise that they still are? Just after they get promoted I suppose.

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  • 53. At 7:54pm on 06 Mar 2010, NASRI_IS ALGERIAN AND FRENCH FACT wrote:

    I just got to say how stupid can the notts county board be when munto finance came in they were living in a dream rather than in a reality seriously why on earth would a ''so called multi million company'' invest 5m in a club thats in third tier of english football who have seriously got to be deluded if the club and fans thought they were going to be next citeh in terms of millionaires!!!!. Seriously i saw this coming from the start when their ridicolous plans to go to premiership in 5 years falteened to desive ones eye !.

    Sol campbell and sven eckisson were all true fools to believe this dream would seriously happen! they must have been very very persuasive to get all these big names to come their was even talk of mancini and beckham coming to this new look to meadow lane!. Now look thier in serious debt and need to pay off there creditors its gone from being a dream to a complete nightmare for notts county and its supporters !.

    As for schmiecel earning 1 mil a year isnt that bad to be honest for a prospect goalkeeper like him and former son of a top class goalkeeper he should at least be in a much higher league than this now at best championship or even playing for a club in the bottom half of the premier league. Im very surpised he decided to stay their and didnt choose to follow the paths of the other big names that left the club such as campbell and the man that brought him their ecrisson.

    How many managers did they have seriously and i thought qpr were good at sacking managers you should come and see notts county they were doing it a dozen times to managers this season. Sorry if you keep on sacking managers your just not going to bring stability and spirit to the team you need one man thats going to take charge and that man has to be manager even thought they are still in the play offs luckily the amount of changes in management was a complete joke.

    This example of what has happened to notts county and portsmouth is a sign for other clubs who attract investors you supposedly are multi millionaires and promise to bring quality players think again before you think about selling to these imposters and cons who just want to make a profit out of your club!.

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  • 54. At 11:48pm on 06 Mar 2010, George Buck wrote:

    As a member of the Notts County Supporters Trust I have to take part of the responsibility for what has happened. There were a small minority that voted against the takeover. I wish they were given more of a voice at the time.

    I was blown away when Sven was appointed. It has all seemed too much like a dream. I don't think many of the supporters would have expected to reach the premier league in five years. The Championship would be the pinnacle for a club the size of ours. To get there and stay there would have been more than enough.

    I feel like a dictator has arrived and has flown out of the country leaving the mess behind. The club has suffered enough from this debacle. If it had succeeded then there would have been no points deductions. So I don't see why that would be relevant, now that the club has debts of £6.9m.

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  • 55. At 00:31am on 07 Mar 2010, We all agree - Paul McKenna is Magic wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 56. At 05:45am on 07 Mar 2010, Phnom Penh Andy wrote:

    Woah! Neither Simon Austin nor any of the posters have noticed the flippin' huge elephant in the room. Jim Rodwell, former "director of football and then chairman at non-league Boston United" - how did that go then? He entered Boston Utd into a CVA and got them thrown out of the Conference and demoted 2 divisions. This is no knight in shining armour. This is no 'fit & proper person'. It's unbelievable that people with disastrous track records like him, Vaughan and Ridsdale get invited to financially troubled clubs and repeat their actions. Come on Simon, a little 'due diligence' please.

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  • 57. At 06:53am on 07 Mar 2010, Clive Plummer wrote:

    Notts County officials and supporters need to realise that the grovelling buckets for cash from Forest fans would return nothing. Most of us remember the 1991 testimonial for Warnock (Attendance 18,000 and 13,000 were Forest) where your small minded poisonous little band of gormless cretins spewed out their vitriol for 90 minutes, when Forest had put their complete first team squad out a week before the FA Cup final. The word went round that Forest fans would stop supporting the weaklings over the Trent, and I for one have never gone back to Meadow Lane since that day. I wouldn't give a farthing to help you, when your fans have alienated the vast majority of the local support that could have saved you from inevitable obscurity. Goodbye, turn Scruffy LAne into flats......

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  • 58. At 07:37am on 07 Mar 2010, goldenbales wrote:

    I think anyone who is looking to buy into a football club must present a 5 or 10 year plan stating your ambition for the club and proving that you have the finances to back it up.

    eriksson and trembling were hoodwinked by a couple of conmen,its as simply as that and they put blind faith into them without being shown or asking for any evidence whatsoever they could deliver on their promised.

    If for example you have a plan say like the man city owners you need to go on a personal audit to prove you have the money to take them their and not jepordise the club, sign contract personally guaranteeing the club in the event of financial trouble.

    Succesfull football clubs needs to be run like a business, but to some of these people they see it as nothing more than a game like they get on their playstation. This isnt just about tactics and man management, running a club succesfully involves the whole company structrue to be efficient

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  • 59. At 12:43pm on 07 Mar 2010, stevegle wrote:

    I'm afraid that desperate though events are at Notts County -- and like so many people I feel sorry for them -- the events there follow the well-worn and illusionary path of football today.

    The fans demand millionaires to bank-roll the club and with it a glut of highly paid players. Moderate players demand better wages and their agents demand their cut for merely 'being there', and even players can expect to be signed from a well-edited video of career highlights. In the meantime would-be owners yearn for the 'celebrity' status and so-called power of owning a football club. Most of the dream therefore is based on either money that doesn't exist or can only be vaguely promised in the hope of reaching the nirvana of the Prem.

    "But we're a big club," goes the continuing moan from the seats and terraces. "We deserve it!"

    Perhaps they think they do, though the illusion soon wears out and the consequences are all the more keenly felt. Inland Revenue inspectors grow weary of chasing payments, so they become more determined to get their money.

    I expect County have had their local benefactors and enthusiasts over the years but the real core of the club is in its continued survival at the level they are; there will be promotion and relegation but you cannot buy your way to swift elevation to glory and fame.

    Honey-tongued promises may be made, but the reality tends to bite back.

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  • 60. At 2:30pm on 07 Mar 2010, MagpieSean wrote:

    We were on our way out anyway. This may have sped it up or slowed it down but either way, we're going out of business. Its a sad state of affairs, but at lease we can look back at this season and say 'wasn't that a great year of football'.

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  • 61. At 7:58pm on 07 Mar 2010, Andy wrote:

    We must not forget, that club have been duped, they bought in the likes of Schmeical and Hughes based on these promises. If you look att he league, even if the win all of their games in hand they will still not be top of league 2. Getting out of league 2 isnt just about how much you pay but on the ability too.

    Rochdale have limited fans but a lot of talent, Bournemouth have the longest standing embargo in history and look how well they are doing. I hope that the administration does not come to bear as I would love to see other teams beat them to promotion despite of these benefits Notts County have enjoyed.

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  • 62. At 00:22am on 08 Mar 2010, Adrian Smith wrote:

    I hope the Magpies cant sort out out the mess and survive as a club but feel sanctions should be levied in terms of point deductions to stop them being promoted given the way they have smashed the wage cap rules. Its not fair on other clubs complying with the rules. Once again this issue shows how poor the Football League are. If they had applied the rules in force then this mess wouldnt be so severe now.

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  • 63. At 03:27am on 08 Mar 2010, thisbhoylikespie wrote:

    Kind of getting bored of repeating myself here, but repeat myself I shall.

    The Football League gave us permission to go over the wage cap. How then, can they justify deducting points from us? Whilst I understand the frustrations of fans of the clubs around us, this suggestion is ridiculous.

    Instead, the Football League need to enforce the 60% wage cap rules, no matter how rich a club is or appears to be. This will stop anything like this from happening again, as well as upholding the integrity of the competition.

    Sorry guys, I understand you think it's unfair, but so is punishing us for something we were given explicit permission to do.

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  • 64. At 08:03am on 08 Mar 2010, seventeenth wrote:

    The economics of the soccer community simply dictate that only the large populated areas can support a major club; unless there is a truly significantly wealthy ownership. The likes of Nottingham and Bristol for example, fall into this category, and possibly even Sheffield. It is an extremely sad observation, especially when one considers the wonderful histories of some of the clubs so noted. One can therefore understand the emotions of the fans of Notts County when such financial aid seemed to be at hand; there is simply no hope of regaining any zemblance of former glories from earned income.

    Nottingham is a wonderful city with a generous population but only with one team and one modern stadium could they draw the crowds of 75,000 or more necessitated by the financial demands of the super clubs. This is obvioulsy not a problem facing Nottingham alone; how many clubs in England can compete with the 'so-called' big four. Not even with the potential support from say Newcastle, Sunderland, Manchester City and Leeds.

    On a regular business basis, Fulham is incapable of meeting such demands, but it currenly has a benefactor. There is therefore probably no chance of Bristol, Sheffield or Nottingham of meeting these demands as the issues to overcome are so huge. What of the history of support for each of the existing clubs and the need for all of them to rejoice in the formation of a new unit? How about the need for the support of the FA and the League? Could there be convenient land for the new stadium? Can the problems of transportation logistics be solved? How many jurisdictions will be required to agree and support such a mammoth undertaking.

    It may even be probable that the League cannot continue to function in its present format as some of the centers are simply too small to compete in a division higher than the one in which they are sustainable.

    It is possible to envision a dozen centers in England which would be capable of securing the fan base to support such a venture but not many more. At that point, a Euro Champions League becomes an even more viable and necessary proposition. There then looms the possibility of exercising some control over the financial status of each club in the form of administration displayed by the NFL.

    Isn't it wonderful what thoughts may be generated all from the plight of a small club with average gates less than those of the Vancouver Whitecaps?

    Thank you very much for this blog; it is very sad but an eye-opener to the situation in the lower divisions.

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  • 65. At 11:49am on 08 Mar 2010, Grumpy_southerner271 wrote:

    For any Notts fan to complain that they have a "small squad" due to their "embargo", thus having an effect on their promotion push is dillusional.
    Try having only 12 or 13 players available (not necessarily fully fit) for almost every match this season. A full scale embargo for 14 months whereby the only way a loan signing can be made is if the club can provide medcal proof that they do not have 12 fit enough players to make up a 3 man bench alongside our 3 times retired assitant manager and a local year 11 pupil.
    Notts have got it bad? somehow i dont think so.
    The vast majority of L2 teams if not all would be more than happy to have just 1 or 2 players from your "small squad" so to have a full starting 11 of that quality and to still complain is outrageous imo.

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  • 66. At 1:00pm on 08 Mar 2010, Grumpy_southerner271 wrote:

    Oh and to add to my last comment, Notts are STILL playing players that they cannot afford, thus accumulating even more points to those that they have already earned with these players.
    Surely, there are supporters of other teams who are in the hunt for promotion e.g. Chesterfield, Rotherham, Bury etc. who would be peeved if their team missed out on the 3rd automatic place due to Notts players?

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  • 67. At 1:19pm on 08 Mar 2010, Swiftjeff wrote:

    This may help fans and Simon Austin understand the situation.
    Notts didn't break their wage cap, so shouldn't be punished. At the time when Munto took over they 'promised' a guaranteed £5m income to Notts plus the usual turnover. The league included this in the wage cap calculation so effectively Notts were allowed to spend at least £3m a year on wages - this guarantee never existed and the league allegedly never saw a legal document!
    The Police have been called in to investigate fraud - but fraud investigations take ages so don't blame the new chairman for not acting sooner.
    It unfortunately looks like Notts have been stung by messrs Willet and King and maybe Trembling. If you investigate past deals involving these men (see F1 BMW Sauber takeover) you won't be surprised to learn they have tried to de-fraud others - they were never interested in Football, they were just con-men and Notts were the unlucky team.
    If all you genuine footbal fans want this to stop happening (to any team) then organise a petition demanding the FA, premier league and football league to not allow takeovers without legally guaranteed funds.
    Fans, managers, players alike - we are all to blame because we moan but won't take on the reponsibility of trying to solve the issue. As Ghandi said..'you have to be the change you want to see' (or that could have been Ian Holloway).

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  • 68. At 2:42pm on 08 Mar 2010, theroosterpie wrote:

    Well if Notts County deserve a points deduction, then so do Manchester United, Liverpool, Chelsea....the list goes on.

    And will lots of Forest fans stop griping on about "oh we went to Meadow Lane and we paid money" blah blah blah.

    Then don't come!

    Thanks very much to those that did, stop droaning on about it, and by the way it was Mick Walker's testomonial that you came to and your first team you played a week before the FA Cup final lost 2-1 to Notts reserve team, a few weeks before we went to Wembley and unlike you, we won.

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  • 69. At 10:19am on 09 Mar 2010, Tedthedarloboy wrote:

    While I was a little shocked that Kasper dropped down to league 2 he would have at least got to play first team football and I am sure he was taken in,as were others,by the promise of more "big"signings.I feel really sorry for him and no way can he be blamed for taking the money offered,nor for keeping taking his money throughout this troubled time for County.
    As for ANY investors I firmly believe that anyone taking over a club should,as part of the so called "fit and propper" tests,not only prove they have cash available at that time but be forced to submit at least 2 years wages,(preferably 3),with the Fa/league.Should they then fail to make the required sum to replace the first years spending the threat of a points deduction suspended for 12 months would force a rethink and reduction of the wage bill.At least if this were implemented the powers would have at least 2 YEARS knowledge of the problems and could step in befor we get to the Pompey/Chester saga.

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  • 70. At 2:34pm on 09 Mar 2010, sam1 wrote:

    Insolvent Notts County clung on to high earning players while refusing to hand over money due to other clubs and the Revenue.
    String 'em up

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  • 71. At 8:18pm on 09 Mar 2010, Ian_in_Bristol wrote:

    Whilst the current state of Notts County's finances is not recommended or desired, until they fail to service the debt they have done nothing wrong... The clamour to punish Notts is most likely due to supporters looking to help their own teams up the league.

    For sure Notts will struggle going forward, but to date nothing illegal has happened. The only 'irregularity' referencing the salary cap has been approved by the football league.

    Unless Notts go into Admin there is nothing wrong with the way Notts have done there business. Get over it!!!

    It's a pretty big gamble though

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  • 72. At 1:30pm on 11 Mar 2010, iveseenitallnow wrote:

    To all those who are saying the League approved the players' contracts so they cannot now backtrack and deduct points, I would say that they can and they should deduct points. The League were obviously lied to in that £5m was to be injected. It didn't happen so therefore the wagecap has been broken. It is that simple really. The offence has come to light now and the points deduction MUST happen this season. If it doesn't then it sends a clear message to all other clubs that you can cheat to get promotion, just invent a mysterious overseas investor, tell the League they are going to invest £100m without providing evidence and pay as much as you like to illegally gain promotion.
    The League won't do anything as past history proves. How did they punish Boston? Points deducted the next season after they gained an unfair advantage in getting promoted (on goal difference) to the League.

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  • 73. At 2:58pm on 12 Mar 2010, theroosterpie wrote:

    I understand your point iveseenitallnow, but Munto finanace did provide evidence that they were going to invest lots of money, far more than £5m. There was a bank account with an incredible amount of money in it and it had also been accredited as being geniune funds. What ever happened to that money after that, we may never know.

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