Terry Pierce - Plymouth on the brink of extinction

08 February 2011 09:46
Countless times over the last decade or so there have been tales of financial mismanagement in football. Stories of clubs on the brink of extinction, going in and out of administration, players not getting paid and the Football League handing out huge points penalties are far from rare.

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Yet someone - be it a supporters' trust, a local consortium or a mysterious foreign owner - always saves the day. But one day there will be no one there to bail a club out and a Football League side will go out of business. The day may be approaching, and the club may be Plymouth Argyle.

Plymouth have been struggling financially for a number of seasons, but their relegation to League One combined with a high wage bill, plummeting crowds, the failed World Cup bid and false-dawn foreign ownership have left the club teetering on the brink.

Before Christmas the Pilgrims were issued a winding-up order by HMRC and were handed a 63-day period of grace by the courts. That adjournment concludes on Wednesday, and Argyle must return to court to pay the latest instalment of their agreement with HMRC.

Advisor Peter Ridsdale has suggested the club will be in a position to make the payment despite the failure of the club's majority shareholders - Japan-based Yasuaki Kagami and George Synan - to keep a promise of a £2 million investment.

A combination of player sales, cost-cutting and a £300,000 loan from the Plymouth Argyle Supporters Training and Development Trust will allow the club to make the payment and live to fight another day. But Ridsdale will cut all ties with the club in response to Kagami and Synan's failure to invest, and the former Leeds Chairman has said that the club needs to find further monies if they are to see out the season and fulfil their fixtures.

Argyle's playing staff have not been paid January's wages, the third month in succession they have gone without their salaries, while a fans group managed to raise more than £2000 to help pay non-playing staff's December pay-packets.

The club is doing everything it can to raise cash. The January transfer window saw a number of players, including top scorer Bradley Wright-Phillips and talented young winger Craig Noone, sold. But another fund-raising avenue, a buy-back scheme that would have seen Plymouth City Council re-purchase Arglye's Home Park before leasing the ground back to the club was vetoed by the council, leaving the club with little option other than to continue to desperately hunt for new investment.

Ridsdale has suggested the club are at a very early stage of negotiations with a number of interested parties but, alongside cash, time is not a luxury Argyle currently possess. If investment from their Japan-based owners is not forthcoming, it does appear to only be a matter of time before Plymouth face administration and the continuation of the downward spiral.

The HMRC may be paid for the time being, but without Kagami's investment the club will struggle to reach the summer afloat. With their best players sold to meet the HMRC's bill, and the ones remaining at the club unpaid and struggling for form, on the pitch the future looks bleak for Peter Reid's side, and they are now firmly entrenched in a battle for League One survival.

But all of that is inconsequential to the long-suffering Pilgims fans. They are doing everything they can to help, but without hard cash finding its way from East Asia, the very existence of the club looks perilous.

Follow me on Twitter @telpierce

Source: DSG

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