Friday, October 28, 2011

28 October 2011: Green Pilgrim

So the fast is now over, and Plymouth Argyle has a new owner.

And, thank goodness, it's not that Kevin Heaney bloke. He was finally seen off by the Administrator in late September (as therefore was Peter Ridsdale's plan to buy Argyle for one pound and sell off the ground to developers). Heaney is now in deep trouble with his other club, Truro City, which he is trying to run as a professional club but since he has no money, it's now all swirling down the administration/liquidation plughole.

Meantime the Administrator finally agreed to work with James Brent and his Akkeron company to see if they could do a takeover. They completed more in four weeks than Heaney managed in four months - indeed, despite Heaney claimed that completion of the deal was mere hours away, it seems he never even began discussions with the 300 or so football creditors to get them to sign deals. Brent did.

Wasn't easy. Some high-profile folks, including Tony Campbell and former manager Peter Reid, kicked up a fuss at the deal offered, but eventually signed. Some ex-players wanted to sign but it took time, one example being the need to translate into Czech, another being the fact that the player in question is in prison, so in his case what are the legal implications? Working round the clock, one by one, these were all answered by Brent's team, aided very willingly by the Argyle Fans Trust and the good folks at PASOTI. Even Plymouth City Council had a part to play, and they agreed to buy back the ground for 1.6 million pounds, having sold it for over two million not long ago.

Finally yesterday it came down to one thing: the administrator's fee. Despite the fact that all the above work as supposed to be performed by the Administrator but ended up being done by Brent, and despite the fact that the administrator wasted four months by sticking with Heaney WAAAY beyond the six week exclusivity period (that he didn't even pay for in full anyway) - ie despite showing a large degree of laziness and incompetence - the administrator and Brent couldn't agree a figure, and issued press releases saying so.

So, one final mobilization of the Green Army - ie a bunch of folks from PASOTI phoning and emailing the administrator to tell him to get on with it - and this morning the news broke. Everything done, golden share being handed over to a new company named 'Green Pilgrim Limited' and Argyle live on. Somehow.

Not that the good times are close to returning, of course. Argyle survive financially but they are five points adrift at the bottom of the league and most of the good players have been sold by the administrator, who naturally kept the money for himself (and, possibly, Ridsdale, although the facts are less certain there) while the staff and players went without wages month after month. And although Brent states he will be an 'enthusiastic owner', he also states the club will run within its means, which means hopefully they can work out some league safety this year (League Two is really a very low standard so you should be able to finish third-from-bottom if you're any good at all), but don't expect any more five-year plans or Premiership ambitions.

If Argyle do reach the Championship any time soon, expect Brent to attempt to sell the club. But for now, Argyle are safe and they have an owner whose support among the fans is not only unparalleled with any from the past, but due to the circumstances, he may end up being popular long after most owners start getting shouted at for not investing enough.

This was unquestionably the closest call any league club has had to going under without actually doing so. A year of ridiculous scenarios and astonishing outcomes is tracked on PASOTI here, including the Japanese petition, Heaney's 'out'ing after being discovered eating breakfast at a hotel, the administrator's lies and his 'I was given instructions to lie by my solicitor'.

So now we can get back to the important questions, such as whether Matt LeCointe will become the first Ivybridge Community College alumnus to play for the full England team...