The Michael Wood Column

Thursday 23 May, 2002

What are City getting away with?

Reading's Chief Exec Nigel Lowe wants City thrown out of the league for last week's sackings. I am flabbergasted.

I will not go over the ground covered in my article Confusion clouds the City debate that worried that people were getting the actions of Bradford City and the actions of three men in grey flannel mixed up although Nigel Lowe clearly would not agree with the analyse of the situation presented there.

Lowe says "Football League rules say if a club goes into administration it must honour players' contracts and it seems to me that this is a deliberate ploy not to pay. If Bradford can't get themselves sorted out then they should be thrown out of the league. If one club is allowed to get away with it then they all will." This begs one question: Get away with what?

If Lowe things that this is a ploy to not pay player then he is a fool. Geoffrey Richmond has already "got away" with not paying the players and in doing so he has lost his investment in Bradford City and his half of the £13m debts to the board, a figure that probably would have been more than the cost of freeing the squad. Even now I do not thing Geoffrey is that bad a businessman.

So what could City "get away with"? Releasing all but three of the players in the squad who had ever played a competitive game? That must be the crime of the century! One can imagine that Manchester United will be itching for the chance to axe most of their team leaving themselves odds on favourite for the prize of this year's Stockport County. Lowe's suggestion is ludicrous but does allow us to address a point on the City fiasco that needs clearing up.

City are not cheating.

We are not being dishonest. We are not pulling a fast one. We are not trying it on.

On the field there is no happy end to this. We have no team for next season. We have lost some of the best players in the club's history in the last week. This is not us trying to get one step ahead, its us falling a few steps behind.

The attitude of Nigel Lowe and others who would persecute City is telling. We were never the most popular club when we got to the Premiership. We were not the idealistic Ipswich or the romantic Bolton. We were Bradford City getting out of line with a chairman who led the step.

For a lot of people in football this is us getting our comeuppance. This is payback.

The fact is that City have broken financial rules, not football ones and we broke those rules trying to get on in the game. You could form an argument about how our financial management gave us a leg up and so on but if you did you would be arguing against teams trying to improve themselves. You would be arguing that a club like Bardford City or Bolton or Ipswich or whoever should never trying to rise above themselves and mix it with the big boys.

Financially we dropped the ball, but we did it trying to play ball in the Premiership.

If the league and the likes of Lowe want to punish us financially then they hit out at every team that tries to take a chance and get above itself. They say to the lower clubs "Stay lower, don't forget your place". That's not football. That is an argument against football.

City never fixed a game, City never threw a game. We have not cheated. We made mistakes and we have paid for them, we only have three players who have made league appearances on the books which surely constitutes enough of a handicap. That is punishment enough for a team that's crimes are procedural. Other clubs guilty of financial misdemeanours have not been punished as harshly as is the situation at Valley Parade.

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