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Trust STFC chief wants football 'prenup'
FOOTBALLING prenups should be considered by the authorities in a bid to avoid a repeat of recent events at Swindon Town.
That is the opinion of Trust STFC chairman John Ward, who has called for the Football League to look into the possibility of making rich benefactors agree to their exit strategy before buying into a club.
Ward’s idea, which echoes the special arrangements made in law between a husband and wife prior to marriage which divide their estate in the event of a divorce, comes after Town’s former majority shareholder, Andrew Black, decided to withdraw his funding in Wiltshire - leaving the club with a frantic search for new owners.
Swindon’s future was secured by the arrival of Jed McCrory’s consortium, but Ward is anxious that clubs are not threatened with such precarious positions again.
“The whole Andrew Black episode made me go overboard in saying the generous benefactor model clearly doesn’t work. I think it could work,” he said.
“Let’s say that the new consortium comes out of the assessments of the Football League with flying colours, what is going to stop it from one or more of them getting cold feet two, three, four years down the line.
“It’s their money, it’s not somebody else’s, and they’re entitled to do what they like with it. What I think needs to be put in place, and it’s very difficult, is some sort of exit strategy so that somebody can’t decide as a big investor overnight that he’s bored with it.
“Of course they’re entitled to take that view, but there ought to be some way this can be phased - perhaps having to give notice. Then there’s the case of what sort of notice. Well, since footballers’ wages are the biggest item maybe it’s related to outstanding contracts of players so they can’t leave the club in the lurch but they can get out.
“A set-up like that is very difficult and it won’t be easy to get some sort of legal framework or even something in writing but I think it should be at least thrown into the debate of how we can avoid not just us but other clubs seeing the same sort of thing happening.
“They can be well intentioned consortia of total integrity who then after a bit isn’t willing to continue. How do we address that? Some sort of exit strategy, which is agreed on all sides, needs to be something where the Football League as a regulatory body makes clubs do this.
“I think expecting individual clubs to do it on their own, given the pressures, would be very difficult. Adopting this approach to the benefactor model would be something well worth exploring.
“It shouldn’t happen to Swindon again and it shouldn’t happen to other clubs again.”