Date:Monday October 2 2006
The following is a personal statement from James Wills, Director and Shareholder of Swindon Town FC.
With reference to the comments made at the Supporters Trust meetings referring to what my father and I have said at different times, I can confirm that the close season meeting with Bill Power and Mark Devlin took place without Mike Diamandis present. My father and I left the meeting with the clear understanding that Bill Power recognised we did not want to be involved with any overspending or signing of players that required us to introduce additional funds to the club.
At the time, we assumed the Club would be operating within budget and although we knew Dennis and Gus were coming on board, we were of the belief that the 20% contracted salary reductions resulting from last season's relegation together with the agreed value of the proposed new contracts would allow the club to maintain the playing budget at the same level as 2005/2006.
We monitored the Press like everyone and saw Bill Power take the accolades of his arrival and we were looking forward to the future
During the next few weeks, contracts for new players would arrive from Mark Devlin. I would check that Bill Power had seen them and ask Mark that they were within the budget. Mark confirmed this. I repeatedly asked him to run the contracts past Mike Diamandis, but he did not. It is apparent that contracts were being presented to Sandy Gray as 'done deals', with the implication that the contracts had been agreed by Bill Power and myself, and Sandy would ratify them. I became increasingly anxious about the contract situation and spoke to Mike Diamandis and Mark Devlin about my concerns. As a result, Mike Diamandis telephoned Linda Birrell and explained to her clearly that he had been asked by me to look at the contracts and he wanted to know why contracts were completed prior to them being approved as 'done deals'.
When it became apparent that Paul Ince was considering joining our Club, I telephoned Mike Diamandis to check if he had seen the contract. Mike was excited as everyone else about Paul possibly coming on board. He had not seen any paperwork, and he told me it was not for us to decide whether or not Paul Ince should join us, but what we needed to be sure of following the meeting that I had had with my father, Bill Power and Mark, was that this over expenditure was in fact being covered and to that end we then tried to contact Bill Power over a period of about a month. Mike Diamandis telephoned Bill Power on many occasions and sent email after email over a considerable period of time trying to make contact with no success.
Eventually, these matters were raised at the Board meeting held on August 2nd, which was arranged to formally appoint Bill Power and Phil Emmel to the Board. At that meeting Mark Devlin was given the opportunity to explain an apparent budget overspend.
Mark initially denied he had been given a copy of the budget and implied that the Finance Department had not furnished him with one. However, we were given evidence to show a draft budget was emailed to him on June 12th, with a follow up email sent on June 29th. He then produced a self-generated report where he showed pluses and minuses from the previous year and said he knew he was within budget. He had not taken into account the entirety of football budget in his report or the bonus scheme that he had agreed without Board approval. This scheme is expected, to cost the Club in excess of £250,000 if we continue to compete for a promotion place. At this Board meeting he also omitted to inform us that, on the 5th July, he had made Paul Ince a formal offer of employment, and that on the same day of the Board meeting an email had arrived from Paul Ince's agent confirming his acceptance of his offer to join our Club. It must be stressed that Mark conducted these negotiations without Board approval.
I can confirm that during our meeting on the 2nd August we offered Bill Power and his partner the opportunity to take over the running of the Club. Although we were unhappy with the financial commitments being made by Mark Devlin on behalf of the Club we remained silent as we believed Bill Power was going to finance any shortfall in cash, as had been implied by both him and Mark Devlin in the Press, We understood Mark Devlin was working to the budgets or with Bill's approval to any overspend. We did not wish to be involved in the day-to-day decision making and we were all looking forward to a period of returning as fans.
Bill Power declined to take up our offer and said it was his wish that we should all work together. Unfortunately the terrible accident occurred the following weekend and we were unable move forward on this basis. We had tried to contact Bill and his partner after the air crash on a number of occasions through Mike Diamandis in order to establish their future intentions. Eventually a meeting was held on September 20th with Bill Power's representatives. Phil Emmel said that Bill Power was not aware of the commitments that Mark Devlin was making. That was a matter for Mark Devlin and us. He also revealed that he considered their investment to be a loan and not a share deal. I can confirm that our solicitors Wedlake Bell worked with the nominated lawyer of Bill Power on the deal for a matter of months. I can also confirm that Bob Beecroft Associates, a firm of Accountants, worked on the structure of the balance sheet for a similar period. All the relevant information was presented to Bill Power by Bob Beecroft and at no time during these meetings did Bill Power and Phil Emmel suggest the funds were being provided as a loan.
My father and I are dismayed by the way the club affairs have been managed off the field since Gus and Dennis arrived in May, and the Board meeting in August. As a consequence it is extremely difficult for us to have any confidence in Mark Devlin's direction.
It is now my absolute wish that this continual public harassment of Mike Diamandis and the rest of the Board should cease forthwith. In my opinion, a small minority of supporters have been attempting to state rumour as fact and have manufactured downright lies to support their misinformed opinions. If, as some clearly believe, this is all an elaborate scheme for my father and I to 'regain control', I can assure them it is not. I can also confirm that in the meeting at which we made the offer to Bill Power and Phil Emmel that they could run the club themselves, the atmosphere was calm and we were extremely hopeful that, a solution to the forecast overspend could be found.
With regard to the comments of Mr. Wilks, who has expressed his wish to head up a new consortium, he is correct with his estimates as to the amount of money required to secure the long-term future of the club. In the short-term we are now forecasting an overspend of approximately £750K for this year. We have invited Cliff Puffett to meet with the STFC Finance Department and discuss with him the problems that the club now faces. Cliff has been given copies of all recent reports and the full financial details of the overspend. We are taking this course of action now, because no matter how many times we report the situation, the press and a minority of fans do not seem to want to believe the truth. The facts we have stated are the reality but we would be delighted to consider transferring the club to a consortium that could demonstrate it was able to provide the funds necessary to secure the club's short term and long term future.
Mr Wilks' comments with regard to the Board are regrettable and misinformed. We are extremely sorry that he feels the way he does. However, my father and I have chosen and endorsed the team we feel best equipped to run the club. Any personal attack on our advisors and this team is an attack and an insult to us. We are putting everybody on notice that enough is enough. Our family feel that a few individuals interested in their own personal gain have primarily orchestrated this latest campaign. This Board has been trying to rescue the football club from its parlous position of five years ago and the financial situation has improved considerably over that period. Our gates are up on last year and we are currently second in the league. This has been achieved by Mike Diamandis and the Board convincing Dennis Wise to come and deliver results for us. There is still a great deal of work to do but with Dennis and his excellent backroom staff at the forefront we have a chance to really turnaround the Club's fortunes. It is imperative that we remain focused on the task in hand and that everyone, and most importantly, the fans are pulling in the same direction.
With regard to Trust chairman Paul Davis suggesting that the reports of Bill Power's health are 'polite fiction' I can confirm again that we were told by Bill Power's wife and his partner that he would not be able to lead a normal life for at least 12-18 months. We have documentary evidence that Bill and Phil were not well enough to consider discussing the football club's affairs until the 20 September meeting. If The Trust believe differently then perhaps they could produce the appropriate evidence instead of relying on pure conjecture. We would ask Mr Davis to please inform us as to where he receives his information. He may wish to review the accuracy and integrity of his sources.
To conclude, my father and I are distraught by the prevailing attitudes towards us and the current Board of STFC, and it leaves us no option but to seriously consider our future involvement at the club.
Director Swindon Town F.C
For more information please visit the Official website of Swindon Town F.C at http://www.swindontownfc.co.uk
Date:Monday October 2 2006
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