Port Vale – the administration months

Here (sadly) is our comprehensive day-by-day guide to the twists and turns of the club’s spell in administration during 2012

If you’re a Port Vale fan, this document will, sadly probably not tell you anything new, but for visitors from other clubs and more occasional visitors to OVF, we hope it provides a useful, if distressing, overview of a traumatic period in the history of Port Vale FC…

Key:

  • BY: Bob Young, administrator from Begsbies Traynor
  • GK: Gerald Krasner, administrator from Begsbies Traynor
  • KR: Keith Ryder, potential new owner
  • PW: Pete Williams, chairman of Supporters Club
  • SC: Port Vale Supporters Club
  • FL: the Football League
  • MA: Micky Adams, Port Vale manager
  • GO: Vale player and PFA rep at the club

14th March:

Port Vale enter administration for the second time in their history The club ask for Bob Young, Steve Currie and Gerald Krasner of Begsbies Traynor to be the joint-administrators of the club.

21st March:

BY says two new bidders are interested in Port Vale, taking the total of interested parties to six. It includes Staffs firm IPP who made their interest public earlier in the month.

26th March:

BY claims five bidders are in the frame

29th March:

BY claims that three bids have been submitted

BY: “We have three offers already and we’re talking to three other parties with a couple of those likely to make bids.”

However, BY also announces that IPP have now withdrawn from the process.

3rd April:

GK says two bids are in the frame.

GK: “At the moment we believe the race is between two parties – they are not dissimilar offers, but they are of a slightly different nature. We considered them very seriously yesterday, will do so again today and we will hopefully reach a decision.”

4 April:

Keith Ryder is named as the club’s preferred bidder by administrators Begsbies Traynor.

27 April:

The club’s creditors approve Ryder’s bid to takeover the club

KR: “This was the biggest hurdle in the purchase of the club and I hope that we can complete all of the necessary paperwork at the earliest opportunity to complete the deal as swiftly as possible.”

30 May:

The Football League ask for more documents from Ryder’s business plan before the deal can be formalised.

BY: “It still looks as though the Football League will approve Mr Ryder’s takeover once he has the extra information they have requested. They have asked for some details that were not included with the original documents, but it shouldn’t be a problem. The League seem to be a bit jumpy about these things, and we can appreciate their position, but I am sure this is a hiccup, no more than that. I am confident it will be sorted out before the end of June.”

21 June:

The FL claim they are still waiting for a response to their 30th May request. FL spokesman Peter Hannon said: “There is no specific date for further discussions regarding Port Vale yet. The Football League Board requested further information from the prospective new owner and administrators at Port Vale at their last meeting on May 30. The Football League continues to await a response to the request, and discussions with the administrator and prospective owner are ongoing.”

The SC issues a statement imploring fans not to panic over the news.

PW: “From what we have been told there is no need to panic. Nothing has changed and the deal is going through.”

22 June:

Administrators and Ryder say the deal will be completed by end of June.

KR: “Deals of this magnitude will have the occasional stumbling block, but talk of the takeover collapsing is wholly incorrect. We are working towards completion and I am hopeful it will happen sooner rather than later.”

GK said they had always been working towards completing a deal by the end of the month.

Stoke-on-Trent city council’s Peter Bates, said: “We can confirm we have had dialogue with Mr Ryder this week. The city council has done all that it can to ensure football will continue at Vale Park. From a council perspective, we see no reason why the timescale for completion of the takeover by 30 June won’t be achieved.”

26 June:

BY says agreement has been reached with the council regarding the commercial use of the Vale Park stadium. BY says this covenant was the reason for the FL delay but that documents have now been submitted to the FL.

30 June:

KR has signed the contract to complete his purchase of Port Vale, but the FL were unable to say when they will be able to ratify the deal.

BY: “There is absolutely no indication to say there won’t be a positive outcome when they [the FL]  do, but we are now looking towards some time next week.”

14 July:

BY says Ryder’s takeover is on the brink of being approved.

BY: “The Football League has given us the go-ahead subject to a few alterations in the documentation. Nick Craig, their chief legal officer, called me yesterday and told me the takeover had been approved subject to the final changes that they want. The lawyers are talking, but it should now be done and dusted. I don’t see any obstacles.”

18 July:

BY says there is one last sticking point which needs to be resolved before the FL will give the green light to KR’s takeover

20 July:

BY says that KR could complete his takeover today.

24 July:

KR says he is now just one signature away from completing his takeover of Port Vale.

30 July:

Supporters Club statement express frustration over delays to the Ryder takeover and say that “time is fast running out” and that there are “serious questions to be answered” about the handling of the deal.

SC statement: “Whatever happens in the coming days and weeks it is our belief at the Supporters’ Club that there are serious questions to be answered over the handling of the takeover, the poor communication from all parties, the shabby treatment of fans and the status of investigations into former directors of Port Vale.”

31 July:

BY tells the Sentinel that it is time for potential owner Keith Ryder to “put up or shut up” and that the preferred bidder has not yet lodged his payment for the club. BY says that if payment is not received by the end of the day (31st July) then the administrators will adopt “Plan B” and approach another interested bidder.

1 August

Pete Williams, chairman of the Supporters Club, expresses concern over KR after revealing to the Sentinel that “Mr Ryder is completely ignoring us now. We have worked closely with him, but all of a sudden he seems to have shut the door and doesn’t want to talk to us.”

Meanwhile, KR says he needs another 24 hours to complete the deal. The club’s administrators say that KR’s period of exclusivity is over and they are talking to other bidders although KR still remains a potential candidate.

The existing CVA means that Vale would not suffer any points deduction if another bidder is accepted at this stage. However, the future of the Vale Park players is less certain with most player contracts not signed (as they were expected to be completed when KR took over as owner).

2 August

The Supporters Club announce that administrators have told them that KR has still not completed his deal. Former interested party Mo Chaudry rules himself out saying that £1.3m is too much to pay for a club in Vale’s position. Stoke-on-Trent city council also express “disppointment” over the delays.

Meanwhile, another crisis rears its head with the news that Vale’s summer friendly games will be played behind closed doors due to the club being unable to carry out the “usual maintenance work.” However, the club statement assures fans that a safety certificate will be in place for the start of the season.

That news does not go down well with the Supporters Club with chairman PW slamming a “pathetic statement.”

PW: “This announcement today is a sad indictment of those currently in charge at Port Vale who frankly we wouldn’t trust to run a bath.”

The SC statement adds that the SC has the proceeds of the Vale Fighting Fund which could have been used to resolve this and that the club have never mentioned this problem during their regular meetings with the SC.

On Thursday evening, the SC have a meeting with the club administrators.  A statement explains that:

  • Administrators have received Mr Ryder’s contribution to the July wage bill and remain confident that he is serious about his takeover bid
  • In the meantime, two possible replacements have been identified and met
  • Mr Young denies that administration would cost the city council more than £1m, claiming that the club still haven’t reached the £450,000 mark
  • Ground closures for the friendly matches are, Mr Young claims, due to more stringent safety regulations
  • Supporters Club representatives will meet with the club to ascertain what can be done
  • There will be an appeal to the supporter base for fans (both skilled and unskilled) to assist
  • The priority remains getting the ground ready for the Burnley game, but opening a single stand for the friendlies may be possible
  • The Supporters Club will publish more details of what is required on Friday and will also hold a meeting soon

3 August

The Sentinel reports that the club have reassured fans and the FL that the ground will be ready for the new season. Meanwhile, BY continues to be optimistic on the takeover saying that he believes either KR or one of two new bidders will take over before the season starts.

BY: “We are progressing with the other two parties. They have not as yet come up with the money but they seem to be negotiating seriously.”

Meanwhile, the SC announce a meeting with the club to discuss any help that can be provided in helping the club pass its ground safety certificate.

PW: “We all have to pull in the same direction so hopefully the supporters can help get the game on. We have 1,600 members of the supporters club, including electricians, plumbers, builders and carpenters … and even a judge.”

Following the meeting, a club statement announces that fans will now be allowed into one of the friendly games – versus Tranmere after the SC’s offer of help.

PW: “This has been a frustrating situation for everyone because I believe that with better communication, this could have been avoided.”

Meanwhile, citizen journalism blog Potteries Eye claims the council are set to meet to discuss the Port Vale situation. An anonymous councillor said: “This is not looking good, not looking very good at all. Serious questions need to be asked of the whole process if this thing does go pear-shaped, especially the role of the administrator who it appears has let Keith Ryder call all the shots.”

6 August

Micky Adams tells the Sentinel that he will be able to field a team against Burnley. There were fears that player registrations would be withheld after the delays to KR’s takeover but that is not the case.

MA: “The Football League sent the contracts of those who agreed deals in the summer back to us because they had been agreed with Keith Ryder and obviously he is not recognised as somebody who runs the football club. Bob Young has now signed them on behalf of the club, and the Football League will accept them, so there’s no problem.”

BY tells the Sentinel that a third bidder is poised to make a formal bid for the club.

BY: “I saw another interested party on Saturday. They seem keen and are promising action this week.”

A SC meeting brings some rare positive news as Martin Tideswell’s blog posting explains. KR vows that he will complete the deal after “extreme family circumstances” caused the delay, there is go-ahead for the Roy Sproson statue, a temporary kit manufacturer and sponsor and assurances that the club will start the new season come what may.

7 August

The Supporters Club have launched an urgent appeal for fans to help out with stadium work ahead of the new season.

8 August

Perhaps unsurprisingly, there is *still* no update on KR despite his promise to deliver the funds within 24 hours.

In other news, it increasingly looks like Vale are preparing to start the new season under the control of the administrators. The Sentinel reports that BY has amended player contracts so that they are more secure.

And the Sentinel has a different spin on the ’emergency council meeting’ story (see 3 August entry) claiming that the meeting could be used to approve an alternative bidder if one is ready to complete their takeover. As the council have underwritten the administration they would need to approve any alternative takeover of the club.

Independent councillor Ann James: “If the deal doesn’t go through the administrators will also have questions to answer.”

9 August

The players respond to the new contract offer and it’s not the news that BY and MA would want. The players express concern over the legality of the new deals and whether a new owner would declare them void. So, rather than signing the new deals, eighteen players decide to take legal advice from the PFA.

Vale player and PFA rep Gareth Owen told the Sentinel: “We understand the seriousness of the situation the club finds itself in and we all desperately want the Vale to survive… No one has walked away, but players will have to consider their  futures. We are waiting to hear advice from the PFA’s legal experts.”

However, administrator BY tells BBC Radio Stoke that he doesn’t see the players’ concerns as a “major stumbling block” and that he would “expect the contracts to be signed in time to play the first league match.”

BY also claims that if a buyer cannot be found, the club can survive this season but: “If we haven’t achieved a sale by the end of this coming football season, clearly we’re not going to achieve a sale and, in those circumstances at that stage, we’d have to close the football club down.”

10 August

The deadlock over players’ contracts drags on with the Sentinel revealing that a squad for the Capital One clash with Burnley will need to be registered by noon on Monday. The players are set to meet with the PFA to discuss the contracts.

GO: “There is no debate on money, but there is concern over the security of contracts if and when we come out of administration.”

11 August

The Sentinel reports that the club are optimistic that players will agree to the new compromise contracts.

MA: “It is certainly not an ideal scenario, but hopefully we are moving forward.”

Later that day, the club reveals that David Artell is the first player to reject the new terms and leave the club. But to universal relief, it is later announced that the seventeen remaining players have agreed deals

13 August

Manager Micky Adams tells the Sentinel that he feels embarrassed after he believed Keith Ryder’s promises and that recent events have been “as poor as I’ve seen at any football club.”

MA: “I hope the football club has hit rock-bottom and we can start to climb again, but I can’t guarantee that.”

14 August

Micky Adams reveals that restrictions will mean he can only register a squad of twenty players whilst the club remains in administration.

18 August

In an interview with the Sentinel, BY says that a fourth bidder has shown an interest. Young says he will not be rushed into a sale as the club can still trade until April and that the door remains open for Keith Ryder.

BY: “All four [bidders] have good intentions, as far as I can tell, and they are all using well-known firms of solicitors. That’s a good sign and usually indicative that someone is serious about making a bid.”

31 August

A tweet by the SC says that in a meeting with BY, the administrator told them that six bidders were interested in the club.

1 September

BY says that three of the bidders are “very serious.”

6 September

The first regular fortnightly joint-statement by the SC and club administrators is issued to fans. It states:

  • The KR deal is regarded as ‘dead’
  • Encouraged by ‘calibre’ of new bidders
  • Praise for MA and team’s performances
  • 5,000 break-even figure not a definite number
  • Have listened to fans and made a number of improvements

 21 September

A further joint-statement reveals that the number of interested parties has increased to seven. The club also met with Staffs Police for several hours to discuss the conduct of the former directors.

Steve Currie, Administrator: “We continue to look at a number of areas where we may be able to recover funds – including the issuing of ‘nil-paid’ shares. These investigations are ongoing and the details cannot be made public at this time.”

In other news, OVF reveals that former CEO Perry Deakin is set to be a franchisee for the Chicago Rock chain.

26 September

Bob Young says that the club is in “advanced talks” with three leading bidders and that they are making “significant progress.”

4 October

Another joint update from the SC and the administrators reveals details of the CVA and the welcome news that a date has been set for the unveiling of the Roy Sproson statue.

13 October

The Sentinel claims that the administrators will reveal their second preferred bidder in a press conference on Tuesday but this is yet to be confirmed by the club.

14 October

The Sentinel claims that the preferred bidders are set to be named as “Paul Wildes and his business associate Norman Smurthwaite.”

16 October

Paul Wildes is formally confirmed as the preferred bidder at a Vale Park press conference:

16 October

Wildes outlines his plans for the club to be “sustainable.”

6 November

A press release by Paul Wildes states that the preferred bidders “expect the takeover will be completed within the next 10-15 days.”

9 November

A joint press release by the Port Vale Supporters Club and the club’s administrators states that they hope the Port Vale takeover will be completed on November 20th.

The statement says: “Last week the preferred bidders held very positive talks with the Football League and Mr Smurthwaite along with the administrators have also confirmed they have agreed a final completion of the sale by 20th November for the purchase of Port Vale FC.”

19 November

The Sentinel reports that Paul Wildes and business partner Norman Smurthwaite hope to complete their takeover within 24 hours.

The Wildes takeover completed on the 20th November. Thank goodness!

Editor’s note: if you spot any errors or anything missed out, please do get in touch via a comment or news@onevalefan.co.uk