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opposition player was “inappropriate”. This is incorrect – it would have been inappropriate for the fan to ask Grealish when best to remove the old stems of herbaceous perennials. The fellow was,

of course, just being rude. You would hope a man like Leslie who lives by the spoken word were more precise with his language. It is an entertainment in itself, listening to commentators setting Luton up as a cuddly one-eyed teddy bear in the Hamleys of the Premier League, while figuratively stuffing their finger in the dam to hold back the Bedfordshire bile.

Cameron Carter

Torquay’s Plainmoor home is owned by the supportive local council

Sharp end CLUBS IN CRISIS

Torquay have had a rough ride since relegation from the League a decade ago and are in the mire again after owner Clarke Osborne announced his intention to put the club into administration late last month, claiming he could no longer fund the club and was resigning as chairman.

Osborne, a property developer, has through his company Riviera Stadium Ltd loaned the club an estimated £6 million since taking over in 2016. But he has a history of unmet stadium development promises at Swindon and Reading speedway clubs as well as the dog track at Milton Keynes, and talk of a new stadium for Torquay has come to nothing. Also of concern is the source of those loans to the club – Riviera, a subsidiary company of Osborne’s Gaming International, has an unsecured debt of more than £4.5m due to Torquay United and its other sources of funding appear to be minimal.

The Torquay United Supporters Trust has been raising money for its contingency fund (the club have their own fundraiser), which it could possibly use to team up with prospective new investors, set up a community share issue or establish a phoenix club. There are said to be three interested parties, but with the administrators in the building (though

Rochdale chairman Simon Gauge

Blackburn keeper Aynsley Pears clears tennis balls off the pitch against Newcastle not yet formally appointed), time is running out.

Torquay fans can at least take heart from the response to the crisis – almost 3,500 turned up for their recent National League South match at home to Aveley, and the freehold to Plainmoor being owned by the supportive local council offers some protection in the event of a fire sale. But administration, and a tenpoint penalty, brings the risk of a drop into the seventh tier.

Rochdale raised the spectre of liquidation last month but on February 29

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a new prospective owner, the American firm World Soccer Holdings, signed a letter of intent to buy the club. Dale’s chairman, Simon Gauge, had warned on liquidation earlier in February, having reached his own “credit limit” with Dale after putting in £566,000 since taking over in 2021 when fans saw off a hostile takeover attempt (see WSC 414).

To unlock the new investment and approve the takeover Gauge says shareholders need to agree a restructure at an EGM on March 7 that would enable nine million new shares to be issued, making a 90 per cent shareholding available to the new owners. Rochdale’s ownership currently consists of a range of small fan-held shareholdings (the fans’ trust owns 13.9 per cent and 42.8 per cent is split between more than 500 individual supporters). But the Dale chairman says the restructure, which would heavily dilute fans’ stakes, would enable outside investment of around £2m. Surrendering such a large stake in the club comes with its own risks and the supporters’ trust has questioned whether such a large new share issue is needed to draw in investment.

Blackburn fans’ protest at their televised FA Cup tie against Newcastle drew attention to the latest downturn in the club’s troubled ownership by the Indian chicken company Venky’s, whose

SCENES FROM FOOTBALL HISTORY No 386

D AV E RO B I N S O N

WSC 7

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