3831: A Club Pushed To The Brink
by : Paul Grech
When do you give up on your team? Most fans - at least not the glory hunting ones - don't even think of that as a sensible question let alone one to try and answer: it is their nature to support their club whatever the results and circumstances. Yet clubs like AFC Wimbledon, AFC Telford and FC United of Manchester came about precisely because the fans took that decision to withdraw their support of clubs that no longer represented them.
Crawley fans are the latest to be faced by such a situation. Just over a year ago they were a small club living the dream. A historic promotion to the Conference was followed by a twelfth place finish in a season when they were as high as second.
It was at that point that their troubles started. John Duly, the man who had overseen their rise from the Southern League, had run the club at what he called "a sustainable loss" of around £200,000 each season. In the summer of 2005, however, he felt that the club had progressed as much as possible under his guidance and the time had come for someone more ambitious to take over.
Chas and Azwar Majeed certainly fit that profile. They came in with big plans and promptly turned the club from part-time to full-time.
Soon afterwards, however, worrying rumours started filtering out. Phil Agius, of the Devils Trust, takes up the story. "It turns out that Chas Majeed was an undischarged bankrupt, banned from being a director of any business, or indeed holding any assets. He was also, therefore, unable to fill out a fit and proper persons form when (finally) he was asked to by the FA. Azwar Majeed was then named as chairman."
"More money was wasted on bizarre projects such as a New Year's Eve party on the pitch, which was very poorly organised and attended and was reported to have lost up to £100k. A further £100k was wasted on industrial tribunal awards for employees that courts ruled were unfairly sacked including former MD Steve Duly and Francis Vines, the most successful manager in the club's 108-year history."
"A new management team of John Hollins and Alan Lewer came in on higher salaries than their predecessors and the club bought expensive players like Daryl Clare and Tony Scully, who were on exorbitant wages." These sprees had many wondering where the money was coming from.
The fans' worries quickly were proven to be well founded. "Bombshell number one was the announcement in February that wages were being cut by 50 per cent as "a silent investor had pulled out", later followed by the club going into administration."
"Bombshell number two then became the news that the club was £1.8m in debt and that half of that sum was owed to various SAG Group (Majeed) companies, for 'loans' rather than the investment they had promised to put in, not only had they not been paying the bills, they were now claiming the club owed them money."