The integrity of Supporters Direct is at stake
1 June ~ When David Lampitt's appointment as the new chief executive of Supporters Direct was announced last week, it caused surprise at Portsmouth, where he was CEO until they went into administration in February. Earlier this month it emerged that money the club raised for charities before their slide into administration had not been paid, leaving the charities short of about £8,500 in total. This money was collected by adding a £2 administration fee to tickets bought on matchdays and the club's failure to pass the cash on was ultimately Lampitt's responsibility. He admitted as much and apologised to the local paper when they broke the story.
It was an extremely unfortunate situation, but probably not enough to call into question his suitability for the job at Supporters Direct. The story that emerged in the Daily Mail on Wednesday, though, most certainly does. Lampitt, along with fellow former directors John Redgate and Nick Byrom, have made claims to the Football League under the football creditors rule for monies owed to them. According to Portsmouth's administrators, the Football League is reducing its payments to the club as a result.
The creditors rule stipulates that football-related debts are paid first, while other parties – such as charities – are left with only a fraction of what they are owed. Seeing as the Company Voluntary Agreement (CVA) drawn up when Portsmouth came out of administration in 2010 offered non-football creditors 20p in the pound, any new CVA will almost certainly be worth less than that.
Lampitt's position is compromised because of his new employer's stance on the football creditors rule. In a paper published last year about how regulation should be developed to encourage supporter ownership of clubs, Supporters Direct states that: "The present method of ensuring football creditors are paid in full leaving others with less is... unsuited to tackling [financial instability in football] as it is morally indefensible."
When contacted for this article, Supporters Direct spokesman Kevin Rye said the organisation had no comment to make at this time and directed supporters to this interview with Lampitt on their website. How long this silence will last remains to be seen.
Lampitt is a long way down the list of those responsible for the current state of Portsmouth and, to be fair, he lost money when the club went into administration. He s a wealthy man by normal standards, but he does not live the affluent life of a professional footballer. One can see why he wants as much of his investment back as possible.
His use of the football creditors rule, though, is immoral. The missed charity payments happened on his watch – two of the games where money was collected even occurred before the collapse of Converse Sports Initiatives, the club's former parent company. He should not get all of his money back when the charities he failed to pay will not get theirs.
The integrity of Supporters Direct is at stake. One might ask if the organisation can really employ a CEO who is taking advantage of a rule it describes as "morally indefensible". Or, more importantly, whether football supporters of all clubs can trust Supporters Direct if it fails to act on this situation. James de Mellow
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