Sunday, 3 November 2013

The liquidation lie

I first published this over two years ago, but since it's the most common lie Franchise customers still come up with I'm bringing it to the top of the blog again. Add in the indisputable facts from the recent analysis of Wimbledon FC's accounts from 1995-2000 and you have the full story as to why it always was a complete lie that the club was going to go bust. Here's the post from 6/9/11...

It's amazing that even now, one of Koppel's great lies is still doing the rounds and treated by many as fact - the lie that Wimbledon FC were certain to go into liquidation without the MK move. And it is a lie. We knew it then and it hasn't got any more true in the intervening years. One can only presume this particular lie is still around because the Franchise customers cling to it as their last desperate attempt to show it wasn't all about building a supermarket, but that there was a company and jobs to be saved. The trouble is, it simply isn't true and, all these years later, they are still clinging to this complete myth.

First things first... Koppel did indeed threaten the club with liquidation (this from May 2002):

"If it rejects our proposal we will have to look at the club's future. It'll be up to the administrator to decide whether the club is financially viable."
"He may decide there's no option but to liquidate."
Note the key word here - "may". Not a certainty, just a possibility. And why would it only be a possibility? Because there were other options open to the club. Even in this short statement Koppel is having to concede that.
And let's be clear, it wasn't even certain at this point that the club would go into administration, again this was just a threat Koppel made prior to the Commission. He was keen to talk up the financial difficulties as much as he could:
(NB Important to note here that this piece is from 1st May 2002 and Koppel is expecting to play the following season in Milton Keynes at one of the two temporary stadium sites. That is what was expected when the Commission's decision was made and that is why a Wimbledon club had to be reborm immediately. Accept no revisionism from those who have created the lie that AFC Wimbledon was formed too soon.)
So Koppel is threatening imminent financial meltdown. But that's something we have seen dozens of times previously, from football clubs in particular, accompanied by screaming headlines about 'X number of days to save the club' and so on. Certainly Wimbledon FC had some major financial problems to address, of that there is no doubt, but already we've seen that even Koppel was not saying the club would be liquidated, just that it was a possibility - there is a world of difference between those two things.
The last full accounts we have for Wimbledon FC are for the year ended 30th June 2001, and they do indeed make for poor viewing:
Operating loss: £7,069,128
Loss for the year: £6,607,816
Looks pretty bad, right? Well, it does until you realise this is a football club that had sold players on at considerable profit for its entire time in the top division. Look deeper and a different story appears. There's a note in the accounts that says:
"Post year end sales of player registrations amounted to £5,540,000."
Whoa! That's the loss for the year nearly completely covered. Dig deeper...
Intangible fixed assets - £8,179,007
This largely covers player registrations. It's an accounting procedure to reflect the value of their contracts within the accounts - and these are audited accounts remember. Even by this measure the club has an awful lot of valuable player assets on the books. And even taking Koppel's unaudited claimed £8m loss for the 2001-2 year (audited accounts were never filed, so all figures presented to the FA Commission remain questionable), that doesn't allow for the transfer fees for the likes of John Hartson, who was sold to Coventry in February 2001.
And even Koppel is admitting in the Telegraph article by Mihir Bose that massive savings can be made by cutting player salaries. Yes that would have major implications for the playing squad, but like Leeds, Plymouth, Portsmouth and any number of other clubs both before and since Wimbledon in 2002, savings could have been made and the club could have lived within whatever means it had.
Even a cursory study of these facts, conducted nine years later, quickly reveals that liquidation was certainly not inevitable and, in fact, highly unlikely... as I'll now explain.
Even if Koppel had gone through with putting the club into administration (bearing in mind we'd be talking about 2002 here and in a world where the FA Commission had refused permission for the move), then how likely is it that the administrator would have liquidated the club? And bear in mind we are already into the realms of supposition, so this idea of guaranteed liquidation is already a nonsense.
The reality is that an administration period at Selhurst Park probably wouldn't have gone much differently to the one that actually occurred, but with one major difference - the fans would have been on-board with trying to save a club that would by then be sure to remain in London. There would have been a fire sale of players, a new deal would have had to be struck at Selhurst Park (Ron Noades has already confirmed in his 2002 radio interview that this was easily done or another venue, relegation would certainly have been a likelihood. But there is absolutely no evidence that undergoing exactly the same process in south London would have meant any other outcome than similar to what actually occurred in MK. Winkelman didn't even come close to meeting WFC's debts with his 2004 CVA, yet still the administrator chose that instead of liquidation. Franchise customers will tell you that no other 'saviour' appeared in south London, but one never had the chance to, so it's moot. (Even Koppel's consortium was blocked during the actual events:

Bear in mind too, that with a move to MK thwarted, there is no guarantee at all that the Norwegian owners would have written off their investment by placing the club in administration. Faced with a reality of having to find a solution in London, there's simply no way of knowing what they might have done, but writing off a £30m investment by liquidating it is the last thing that any businessman would do, as the actual process of administration demonstrated - they even accepted a measly return on their investment from Winkelman's consortium rather than liquidate.

In the face of all this, we still have Franchise customers and others, who will blithely bring out the liquidation lie as if it's a fact - that's how pervasive Koppel's lies have become, and, as I've shown, even he never even said it was certain!

Of course, I guarantee you that those who still believe the lie will not be able to accept this or any other evidence to the contrary. It is they who have based their dogma on a lie and they who now can't accept it, because it would bring so much else of their world belief crashing down around them. The problem for them is, that most of the rest of the world can see the truth, thereby further isolating the Franchise customers who believe the lies.

And a message to those Franchise customers: We lost our football club in 2002 and we've been through the seven stages of grief: disbelief, denial, bargaining, guilt, anger, depression, acceptance. And believe me, we've done the lot, but some of you are still stuck on stage two - denial. What you lost in 2002 was the ability for Milton Keynes to create a proper football club for itself. What you are grieving over is the fact that MK's chance to make a local football dream happen died along with Wimbledon FC becoming Franchise FC and moving to Milton Keynes. But in order to move on, it's you that has to get past your denial of the truth before you'll ever reach a level of acceptance for how things really are. We aren't the ones propagating lies about the move - you are. Whether you mean to or not, that is the truth.

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