Administration has hit Bournemouth hard, making relagtion secondary to financial survival, writes Steve Menary

Many Bournemouth fans will have mixed feelings when Harry Redknapp leads out Portsmouth at the FA Cup final. In 1986-87 Redknapp won the Cherries’ first ever promotion to Division Two, but the club he left behind four years later have never been in such a state. Bournemouth fans were braced for a grim 2007-08 when the team took just two points from their first nine games. After sinking into administration, a ten-point deduction made staying up almost impossible – despite a remarkable revival under Kevin Bond, who had won six games in a row as WSC went to press. But just staying afloat is the main target.

When the ubiquitous administrator Gerald Krasner arrived at Dean Court, he talked confidently about the rich people on the south coast who could step in and save the club. Krasner had clearly been watching Piers Morgan’s three-part TV series on the uber-rich resort of Sandbanks in neighbouring Poole. Morgan had even called in on Redknapp’s own mansion during his tour of the homes of the rich and Krasner was soon in touch with one of the programme’s other stars. Eddie Mitchell is a local property developer whose business, Seven Developments, knocks down old houses and replaces them with ultra-modern properties that he sells at massive mark-ups. Mitchell already has some football connections, having taken control of Dorchester Town, who were recently relegated out of Conference South. That hardly enthused Bournemouth fans; nor did Mitchell’s idea to sell Dorchester’s smart and relatively new Avenue Stadium to Tesco to provide the supermarket giant with a store car park.

Dorchester could ground share, suggested Mitchell, only for local rivals Weymouth to rule it out. This left Bournemouth as the only other realistic venue. If Mitchell owned – or had a stake in – both clubs, agreeing a groundshare would be much easier, but the Fitness First Stadium is not owned by AFC Bournemouth but by a property company, Structadene.

In 2002, the then club chairman Tony Swaisland tried to sell the ground to property company London & Henley for £4 million, but fans protested and he quit. There was a share issue under Swaisland’s more popular replacement Peter Phillips, but the club’s mounting financial problems meant that the ground was sold to the Structadene Group for a reduced figure of £3.5m. The club pay an annual rent of £300,000.

After becoming administrator, Krasner insisted that the asking price was £3m. In reality, a buyer of Bournemouth would get very little. This is a club with no assets and so few players that last October coach Rob Newman came on as substitute in a Johnstone’s Paint Trophy fixture for his first competitive match in six years. All Bournemouth have are the fans, who agree with defender Warren Cummings’s recent description of events off the pitch as “embarrassing”. Unlike Krasner, most fans accept there are no money‑laden saviours ready to jog off the beach at Sandbanks and come to the rescue.

Local carpet magnate Jeff Mostyn and his associate Steve Sly took over in February 2007. But instead of buying new shares for £750,000 as had been claimed, it later turned out that Mostyn and Sly simply loaned that amount to the club. After calling in Krasner’s administrators then failing with his own takeover, Mostyn talked about how he was a lot less trusting than before he took over as chairman. It might have occurred to him that the fans feel the same way.

As Krasner casts his net wide again for a buyer, there is talk, yet again, of Redknapp returning. Bournemouth’s most successful manager has occasionally hinted to the press that he might like to go back one day. But many will be aware that the club’s money problems first emerged after Bournemouth were relegated from the old Division Two in 1990. Having been unable to return his team of big earners to the second tier, Redknapp left and the club’s financial problems started to escalate. Next season Harry will probably be in Europe. If Bournemouth just have a club, that is enough.

From WSC 256 June 2008

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