The Michael Wood Column

Thursday 23 May, 2002

Confusion clouds the City debate

Confusion is king in crisis. City stand accused of crimes that noone at the club has committed.

David Wetherall raged at the Bantams "If they only want to keep five players that is up to them, It is their problem, they must deal with the consequences. The players are not happy with the way they have been treated."

The PFA cried out "Clubs have contracts to follow which are sacrosanct."

Benito Carbone's lawyer spoke of legal action saying "We don't think the position Bradford have taken is a fair one and will look at what security the players have regarding their contracts."

Lets be clear on this. Regardless of your opinion on the issue of players contracts you have to acknowledge that although these acts are being carried out in the name of Bradford City, they are not being carried out by Bradford City.

Nicky Law, Ian Banks, Geoffrey Richmond. These people had no input into which of the players was shown the door yesterday and even the most vehement anti-Richmond protestor would not say with straight face that any of them want this to happen. No one at Valley Parade did.

This is the work of the administrators. Opinions on these people are best left unsaid at the moment. Their remit at City does not strech to running a football club, not even in the short term and does not guarantee a long term future.

City are the architects of their own downfall perhaps but what David Wetherall says, that "If they only want to keep five players that is up to them" is wrong. This is not up to City at all.

Even in the broadest definition of a football club, one that includes the chairman, the board, the manager, the staff, the community at large and the fans, one would not find a single person who had a hand in this decision. It was taken away from the club by people not interested in the club in any real sense.

Kroll Buchler Phillips have a legal necessity to act as they do, perhaps this is something that they should point out more in their statements. There seems to be great confusion on this issue. The administrators are letting people in football believe that Bradford City are sacking players willy-nilly. In everything other than the strictest legal sense of the word, this is not the case.

Hopefully within weeks we will have a buyer for the Bantams and a new company to be Bradford City. The fans will follow that company as Bradford City. The newspaper will report that Bradford City have been saved, not that a new company has take its place. For all intents and purposes the Bradford City that started May 2002 will still be around.

Yet Bradford City could be made to suffer for things done by administrators who were not Bradford City.

This is a moral distinction, not a legal one. Legally the administrators are Bradford City and we are it's customers. The Football League will make a decision based on which distinction they use. Is football about legality or morality? Are fans the heart of football or is the chequebook? If fans really are what the game is about then the League will put side the actions of the administrators as a necessary evil, and evil that we Bantams fans feel more than most, and let us get on with football.

If not, if the Football League punish Bradford City's fans, it's players (21 remain of 40) and the wider community with relegations or expulsions then they are making what for me will be a final statement on the purpose of football.

They will be saying something we say often but we do not believe. That money matters more than morality in football. This is not the case now, that is why I follow football closer than my stocks and shares, but if we are punished for the "wrongs" of administrators then that will be the conclusive statement.

Then I will be done with football.

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