Trust Letter

Friday, 26 October 2001, 0:01
3 mins read

1st Floor, St Helen’s Road, Swansea, SA1 4BE

David Burns, Chief Executive, The Football League, 11 Connaught Place, LONDON W2 2ET 25 October, 2001

Dear Mr Burns,

Re: Swansea City Football Club

We write to you, not only as concerned supporters of Swansea City F. C. but also as representatives of the Supporters Trust here at Swansea, representing over 1000 members. This Trust was formed under the auspices of ‘Supporters Direct’, an organisation, we note with approval, you have publicly endorsed.

We look to follow the example of supporters at Lincoln City and Chesterfield Football clubs in managing the club in a professional manner, ensuring strong links between the club and the community and being committed to honouring our commitments and obligations with fellow clubs and partner football organisations.

We hope that it has not escaped your notice that, control and ownership of Swansea City F C, recently passed to a Mr Tony Petty, an Australian-based businessman, following its sale by the previous owner, Mr Michael Lewis.

After assuming control and within a matter of days, Mr Petty set about decimating the playing and coaching staff, through a series of sackings and reduction in contract terms. This action has placed the very existence of the club in doubt and placed the club’s continued league status in jeopardy, so much so that it has been reported that the League might consider possible expulsion, were the club unable to fulfil its fixture obligations. Whilst this might all be speculation, it does point to the fact that the current crisis is severe enough to warrant speculation on this level.

According to Mr Petty, the action taken was deemed necessary, to ensure the club’s financial survival. However, the action was taken with scant regard for British employment law and it is already well documented that the Professional Footballers Association (PFA), has already suggested that such actions may be illegal. We also understand that it was conducted with similar disregard for your own regulations which are quite clear on the subject of termination of contracts. Furthermore on the day of the sackings Mr Petty rejected an offer from the PFA to meet the players’ salaries for a month, whilst a solution to any problems could be discussed.

The very existence of our great and much loved club, has, in our opinion, been placed at grave risk by Mr Petty’s unwarranted actions. He purchased the club for just one pound sterling and, following the subsequent public outrage at his actions, has declined an offer of £50,000 to place the club in the safe hands of its supporters. Given the offer represented a return of £49,999 to Mr Petty for less than two-weeks involvement with the club, it is not surprising therefore that there is speculation as to Mr Petty’s possible motives.

We therefore ask, that you, as the competent authority, initiate an investigation into the sale of Swansea City FC and seek a thorough explanation from Mr Petty as to his plans for the club. Whilst the PFA will no doubt be taking such action as they see necessary with regard to the interests of their members, we look to you to protect the interests of our members, the supporters.

We understand from your regulations that save for issues relating to dual ownership or interest, the League has no involvement in the issue of ownership of member clubs per se, and as such, the League has no formal powers to investigate or enquire. In our view, Mr Petty’s involvement at Swansea clearly highlights the flaws in the current situation.

That an individual is able to purchase a football club for £1 without even notifying the League out of courtesy and is able within days to have brought the club to its knees is a sorry indictment of the current regulatory powers available to the League. We have heard the argument made that the clubs are freestanding companies that are able to be traded freely, and as such, the League has no interest in the trading of clubs. We are sure that this is not your view.

The good name of football depends on the actions of all its stakeholders. Supporters, players and managers and officials are subject to rules to enforce specific football-related punishments regarding their behaviour when it is considered to have brought the game into disrepute, yet owners are seemingly unencumbered.

We mention above the supporters at Chesterfield, and hope that we too do become the last-resort for a football club that has been brought to its knees by an unscrupulous owner, along with the difficulties it caused for the League. We have already galvanised support for this condemnation, not only from our own fans, but from supporters of similar clubs, who rightly fear that such action may set a precedent at clubs such as theirs, with resultant dire consequences for this game that we all love.

We urge you therefore to initiate an immediate investigation in the interests of the supporters, the players and ultimately, yourselves. There have been many examples of unscrupulous owners in recent years and each successive example acts as a stain on the reputation of football as a whole.

We look forward to receiving an acknowledgement of this letter and indication of your proposed action.

Yours sincerely,

On behalf of AGM Focus Group Swansea City Supporters Trust

cc. Nic Coward, Company Secretary, The Football Association David Collins, Secretary-General, the Football Association of Wales Malcolm Clarke, Chair, The Football Supporters Association Ian Todd, Chair, The National Federation of Football Supporters Clubs

Images courtesy of Getty Images, Athena Picture Agency and Swansea City Football Club.

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