On Friday, Sevco has its AGM at the Clyde Auditorium. King will have at least one “big” announcement; he has to. There’s no way he can go there and present these fans with nothing. There’s still work to be done in neutering all dissent in the stands.
I fully expect that he’ll pull a rabbit out of the hat for appearances … a big fluffy one, which is to say whatever it is will be quite insubstantial but it’ll look mighty impressive for those desperate for good news. No-one should take it seriously.
The agenda for the meeting has already been flagged in some of the press, and all are pretty well agreed that there’s not going to be much to see. Awkward questions about Sports Direct can be waved aside and the board can hide behind “ongoing legal proceedings”. Concerns about what happens on the pitch are being mooted as more important, and that’s where I wholly expect King to produce some ersatz promise for them.
Discussion over concerns about the club’s financial future will be avoided where possible too; where they have to be had they’ll be tacked to the resolution that the board wants passed which will allow them to issue fresh share capital to existing shareholders for cash.
And that’s where the problems lie, because this is setting them up for the scam to end all scams.
This is the one King has been nurturing for over a year, and the recent share trades have been about moving pieces into place so that, first, the board wins the vote this time (they lost it last year) and secondly, so that one organisation in particular is poised to pick up the slack.
That organisation is Club 1872.
This is going to go just like we always said it would; the fans are going to have to pay for the upkeep of the club. There’s no magic chest full of money buried in the basement or under the centre circle. Dave King will not suddenly find his own fortune stuffed in a mattress. The fans will have to fork out for it all, and over all of it will hang the spectre of another liquidation if they don’t part with the cash that keeps the whole thing running.
Sevco fans recently found out that they are paying for the highest priced season tickets in the country. That’s no joke, especially when they’re watching sub-standard guff. Can they really be happy about paying more than Celtic fans, who get to see the champions, a settled team, have a top manager and regular access to Europe?
How long will they keep doing it?
As long as King can make them.
Because he has actually spelled this out to them before, but they are just not getting it in their heads; on 22 July last year he said;
“The supporters have consistently, for more than a century, spent more money in supporting their club than any other team in Scotland. They have outspent Celtic and that’s why we have been the number one club over time. If we can’t get the supporters back to outspending the Celtic supporters and I put that simply, we will be the second biggest club in Scotland.”
Season ticket price increases have broadly reflected that intent. They better get used to having the most expensive in the country, and now the real screwing starts, the one where the hand goes deeper into their pocket than it ever has before.
It’s no coincidence, for example, that Phil is writing about links between the club and the Lionbrand off-shoot who had no qualms about putting a military charity on some of their replica tat. King wants them to become an alternative retail arm, all the better to squeeze cash out of the fans who are boycotting official merchandise.
But the real prize is Club 1872, the vehicle by which he’ll raise every penny from the ordinary supporters, by encouraging schemes like the one they’ve proposed for a monthly direct-debit from fans. That project is a certainty to get the green light sooner or later, and if the resolution allowing shareholders to swap cash for equity goes through he might have a short-term funding answer which lets the club pull that stroke over and over again.
The only thing is, as he’s well aware, the more you do it the less valuable your shareholding becomes and on the day the club finally has to go looking for outside investors – if they can ever get a motion like that passed with Ashley still owning nearly 10% – it becomes almost worthless.
This is the Long Con and it always has been. In the end the fans are going to own enough of the club that he can essentially walk away; on paper it’ll look like some version of fan ownership, but what will they have got for all the money? A club making ruinous losses, with a dilapidated stadium that barely scrapes a safety certificate and a team on the park miles behind us and which is beholden to former directors to whom it owes tens of millions.
This guy isn’t walking away though until he gets paid. This was, as he always said, an “investment.” Anything he’s put it (and it’s not much) he wants back … with interest. They don’t have a sugar daddy owner here – that much has sunk in over there already – but I don’t think they realise just how ruthless and mendacious their chairman actually is.
On Friday he’s going to start the long process of bleeding them dry.
And they can’t say they weren’t warned.