You know, there have been some dubious business transactions in the football world, but in recent memory, I’m yet to remember one as high-profile and farcical as this.
A deeper dive into the details of the Notts County takeover reveals a series of inexplicable events that really shouldn’t have happened. Without researching it back, I just remember this ‘they are the oldest professional English club’ nonsense being batted around constantly. With some added backdrop, it just serves as propaganda.
Taking a look at some of the other big deals from this time period (of which there were quite a few, btw), they each come with a range of their successes and failures. In the summer of 2008, you had Queen’s Park Rangers embark on their short-lived and ill-fated ‘Four Year Plan’, meanwhile the UAE ownership of Manchester City is still gathering pace to this day. So, maybe the lads in charge of the Notts County could (at least) aim for something in between these two examples. Well …
The story goes that these talks were instigated and progressed by a consortium led by the head honchos of Middle Eastern company Munto Finance – directed by Qadbak Investments. Given the high-profile nature of the aforementioned tales, it was widely theorised by the British media that they were parties of extraordinary means. Or, more still, were interested in having funds injected from further afield to make everything go as smooth as possible.
Instead of this, and unbeknownst to many of those involved at the time, the club were being cooped into one of the most scandalous stories of all time – where those at Munto Finance, though outwardly attesting to the much-wanted proliferation of the club on an international scale, were ill-equipped to achieve such a feat with what they had.
To get an idea of how story-like this implosion became, it’s since been made public knowledge that, at the heart of this projected Notts County takeover, was the velvet-tongued businessman-cum-fraudster, Russell King. Currently serving time for grand larceny and up to 25 undisclosed business fraud, he was (somehow) front and centre of many of the negotiations that The Magpies (not those ones) engaged in throughout this time.
Chief among which were to bring in a number of notable faces to make some sense out of the headlines. Unlike City or Rangers, only three figures – though of decent stature – were duped by King and the gang to join them on this journey to take the Meadow Lane club to the big time. All of whom would go along way to exposing to the regulators just how desperate the situation had been behind closed doors.
Every ship needs its captain, and in this case, the Notts County takeover would have a very familiar face in charge of their new era as far as English football fans were concerned. It would be none other than ex-England national team manager, Sven-Göran Eriksson. Apparently confirmed on a £2million p/year deal (one which I doubt has been fully paid back even now), his name carried some weight when it came to transferring some players in too.
Manchester City youngster Kasper Schmeichel (yeah, that one) and Invincible-cum-Portsmouth cente-back Sol Campbell would soon be drafted into ‘the oldest English club ever’ to drive them forward into prosperity. But this is where the wheels soon came off. To the untrained eye, this looked really exciting and exactly what you want to see at non-league level. But to those who are in the know – like the guys they brought in – it was clear that the wheels were falling off before they were even on.
Lo and behold, and pretty much as soon as it began, the club owed money they didn’t have and were crushed under the weight of their own expectations. A crying shame for the institution and an even worser scenario for the fans.