JONAH – HOW TO BANKRUPT A FOOTBALL CLUB

Rangers financial problems over the last few years are well documented, and whilst being in a position of knowing some of what went on inside Ibrox through my various contacts, it is such a tangled web, that I doubt if even I can shed any more light on the situation. However, when it comes to clubs in financial trouble, there is NO ex-player more qualified.

Many of you, particularly gamblers, will be aware of the term “Jonah”. He was an Israeli prophet, who’s decision to send a boat in the wrong direction into a storm, meant the term became synonymous with sailors, meaning someone whose presence brings bad luck. A term which is now widely associated and recognised. No one wants to become known as “a Jonah”

Hands off Hibs

I signed for Hibs, as a scrawny teenager in 1988 and it was a well run, provincial club. However, almost immediately rumours of financial difficulties, mergers and takeovers surfaced. They were run at the time by two Edinburgh businessman, namely David Duff and Jim Gray. Being honest, I never really trusted them, the were a bit flamboyant for my liking and had the cut of a couple of “chancers”, but they were in charge so that was that. Wallace Mercer, Hearts chairman at the time, obviously felt he had their measure as he launched a bid to takeover Hibs and merge the clubs. Ultimately his target was to wipe Hibs out altogether, sell Easter Road and make Hearts a dominant force in Scotland. The fans however, were not about to let that happen and a magnificent “Hands Off Hibs” campaign was founded and ended any hope Mercer had of seeing the Hibs go under. I wonder if the current fans campaign will have as much success in getting their way

Save the Jags

After some very enjoyable years at Hibs, my time was up and I moved to Partick Thistle, who had just been relegated from the SPL. It was a perfect fit for me, just 15 minutes from my home and a club I felt very comfortable with. In truth, I felt I was going to be there for the rest of my career. That season wasn’t great though, and as the cutbacks started to bite, we were doomed to another year in Division 1. We came back after that summer and uncertainty reigned. The club had sacked Murdo Macleod who had signed me and rumours of financial troubles had surfaced. I felt uneasy with the new manager.

I had been a fairly popular figure at the club and could feel the new manager looking to make an example of me. That’s fair enough sometimes, but not when you don’t deserve it. The clubs financial plight became critical and various campaigns were launched to “Save the Jags”. As club captain I had to front various press releases and be the face of the players. After one of these, the Glasgow Evening Times ran a story on the back pages in which I said, that as the clubs financial plight was so great, the fans ALONE could not save the club but they had shown that it was worth saving. I was hoping businessmen would see this and be tempted to invest.
The manager saw this as his opportunity to make that “example”. I was told in no uncertain terms I had undermined the whole campaign by saying the fans couldn’t save the club. I was to train on my own and would never play for the club again. I knew this wasn’t the board’s thinking but also knew that I had to knuckle down and show my mettle. A meeting was called to explain the situation with the players and ask if anyone else was unhappy as they could go too. In truth, I’d hoped for more support from the players but understood their reticence as they had a fear of the manager and had contracts to protect. I was banned from the home dressing room, banned from the team bus and trained on my own. My guts were run out by the physio (who was only acting on orders). The team lost two games, which was no surprise as we had already been losing, when I was called back to the manager’s office two weeks later and told I was playing the next day at Falkirk.

I was astonished, but my professional pride would allow me to do nothing more than give my all. We won the match 1:0 and thankfully in the coming weeks the Jags WERE saved. However, having lost respect for the way I had been treated, it was my last game for the club and I negotiated my release the next week to Airdrie. I received a lovely call from the Thistle chairman at the time expressing his gratitude and wishing me luck. And of course, I understood his position as he had to back his manager. But the phone call alone spoke volumes and was a real credit to the man.

Airdrie United

So the Jonah strikes again. But this time it was different. Airdrie had been in the doldrums for a few years after an ill fated move whereby Broomfield was sold and they played at a ghostly Broadwood, Clyde’s ground. Initially things were great and we reached two Cup Semi-Finals from our new purpose built home, but the new stadium which was a long time in building, was beset by financial difficulties and due to the delays, many of the hardcore had long since disappeared by the time we moved back to “New Broomfield.”
The stadium became the very problem it was meant to solve and again, as only I knew too well being “the Jonah”, financial problems ensued.
We were called to a meeting and asked to take a 50% pay cut for one month to avoid the inevitable administration and redundancies. At the end of that period we would then receive our deferred payments and everything would be back to normal.
During this time I had a bad injury and had to pay for the operation myself with the help of my family.

I was fine with this as I knew the clubs plight and just wanted to make sure I could keep playing. However, 18 weeks later and having been on half pay for that time, KPMG (the administrators) called another meeting and told us time was up and the club would be liquidated. I had 4 months left on my contract and never received a penny in compensation. It left a very bitter taste indeed having initially been told if we took a pay cut, things would get better. The club went bust and I was owed the sum total of £14,199 in deferred wages and compensation. I will never see a penny of that and KPMG never covered themselves in any glory. It was 9 months before I played again. Jonah indeed.

Let me stress for the most part of my 18 year playing career, it was immensely enjoyable and an absolute privilege to be a footballer, but its sometimes a little more interesting to tell the parts of the story you don’t always hear.

Onto this weeks tips (and remember it could be the last). A win, a defeat and a draw for last weeks three teams and if I am not successful this week, i’ll call it a day. I am considering introducing a “Guest Tipster” spot for anyone who might be interested (hoping someone else can take the flak). So here goes….. Celtic (1to2) to beat Inverness, Queen of the South (4to5) to beat Livingston and Hearts (8to11) to Raith Rovers. The treble pays just over 7to2 with Hills

Here’s hoping

David Farrell

4 thoughts on “JONAH – HOW TO BANKRUPT A FOOTBALL CLUB

  1. Great read Faz, think you are on a winner here 🙂 Having been enlightened to the behind the scenes goings on in football through my son-in-law and also my cousin nothing surprises me and the way some players are treated by some managers and their entourages is sickening!!!

    Like

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