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Shame on you

Trust reaction to revelations about plot to oust City from BC

The Supporters Trust has reacted angrily to the revelations in Fridays Evening Press about the relationship between Bootham Crescent Holdings, John Batchelor and Persimmon concerning York City Football Club.

Sophie McGill, spokesperson for the Supporters Trust commented:

Unfortunately, the citys Football Club has suffered from the actions of those charged with its ownership, who have sought to benefit themselves. We are appalled at the way these people have treated the supporters, local business and the media, and the community of York in general.

The origins of the current troubles at Bootham Crescent can clearly be traced back to 1999. That was the year that BCH was formed as part of a corporate restructuring exercise to enable the Club to be secure in its activities and the ownership of Bootham Crescent was stripped out of the Club. It also coincided with a clear change in the financial management of the Club, whereby, a Club that had previously been run along relatively prudent lines, suddenly began spending well beyond its means. The Clubs then directors who, of course, remain as directors and the majority shareholders of landlord BCH - created an unsustainable wage bill, far in excess of what the Club could afford such that cash reserves soon dwindled. In fact, the Clubs wages to turnover ratio of 180% in the 2000/01 season is amongst the worst ever in the history of UK football.

Under the agreement with BCH, Batchelor took over as Chairman in March 2002, and ownership of (just) the Club in April 2002. Batchelor made a bad situation worse, and now, sadly, the Club faces extinction within the next few weeks.

In March 2002, a few days after Batchelor was appointed as Chairman of York City Football Club, he announced that Persimmon plc, the York-based contruction company, had become a major new sponsor of the Football Club and his racing team. Under the agreement with Persimmon, Batchelor received approximately 400,000. At the time, Batchelor made assurances that the majority of the monies would help support the operations of the Football Club. In the Evening Press on 19 March he commented, where the money goes (between the racing and football teams) will depend on where there is the greatest need, but I suppose that will be the football club to offer it stability.

Supporters of York City are now appalled to learn that the 400,000 did not come to the Football Club, but instead went to Batchelor and his racing team. Batchelor has admitted to supporters that only a fraction of the 400,000 has made its way into the Club. Even then, that 100,000 of Persimmon monies that came to the Club was soon outweighed by expenditure by Batchelor on new types of cost for the Club. It is clear that in the summer of 2002, Batchelor embarked on a spending spree of the Clubs monies which many people find unpalatable, particularly given the parlous state of the Clubs finances. That expenditure has included significant costs to rebrand as a Soccer Club and various other costs to support Batchelors racing team.

On the day of his appointment as Chairman of York City, Batchelor urged the fans and the community to trust in me. It is an unfortunate fact that Batchelor, the self proclaimed saviour of York City, has misled the media, the supporters and the community of York on many matters over the past eleven months. Similarly, Douglas Craig has often claimed that he and his fellow BCH directors are supporters of the Club. Their actions are not those of people seeking to support a future for professional sport in York. Shame on you.

Blaming the clubs financial crisis on only 3,000 people turning up each week is not correct. York City Football Club has suffered in recent years due to the apparent deliberate mis-management that has brought it to the brink of extinction. Going forward, York can have a sustainable professional football club at such levels of support. What is needed is common sense, such that the directors of the Club only allow it to spend as much as can be afforded. Reality football, not fantasy football.

Sophie McGill, spokesperson for the Supporters Trust commented:

Football club directors have responsibilities, not only under Company Law, but also a moral responsibility to guard the future of the Club for future generations. Unfortunately, in recent years, York City has suffered at the hands of people who appear to have pursued a different route for their own benefit.

The Supporters Trust continues to pursue its central aim, that is, to ensure that in the future the York community has a football club that it can be really proud of. Trust representatives have continued to work behind the scenes over recent weeks to help secure this aim.

The reality of the situation is that unless someone steps forward within the next few weeks with significant amounts of money to put into the Club, York City Football Club will lose its Football League status and could disappear altogether. It will be left to the Supporters Trust to pick-up-the-pieces. Therefore, the Trust is looking to raise its funds and pledges towards the 1/2 million mark.

The Supporters Trust is now seeking to increase its funds with a view to supporting the future of professional football in York. That future could involve the Trust having some form of ownership stake in the Citys football club. The level of that ownership stake depends, in part, on whether or not other investors step forward to help support a future for professional sport in the City. The greater the amount of money that can be raised and pledged in support of the Trust, the greater leverage there will be to get more backing for the Club from other businesses and the greater influence the Supporters Trust can have in the future ownership and operation of the Club.

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