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Can I Have My Money Back?


By Mark Forster
August 21 2019

PEERING through my rose-tinted glasses at the sport I love, I remember it as a game of courage, passion, of values true to the Corinthian ideals.

Today, there's a bit of a stench surrounding rugby union.
 
It involves money, that famous - should I say infamous? - root of all evil.
 
But also officialdom, the authorities we, as supporters and followers of the game, should have absolute faith in.
 
Cash-strapped Carnegie avoided serious censure from the RFU after struggling to pay players, medical bills and creditors last season.
 
But, the Yorkshire club have started what looks like a costly recruitment drive ahead of the new campaign. Admittedly, they only have a handful of players to date, but they include Joe Ford, on a nice earner at Leicester although with links to the Leeds club, and Tom Varndell, the former England international who holds the record for most Premiership tries. Both move to Headingley from Welford Road.
 
Add in James Flynn, from Premiership club Sale, and the return of Sione Faletau, who moved to Bristol after a stint at Headingley, and you have four players who have enjoyed success in the higher echelons of the English game.
 
Not bad when the cupboard is supposedly bare.
 
There is a piece on the Yorkshire Carnegie Unofficial Board that asks the question: No One Likes Us. Do We Care? In it, The Bard Of B23 suggests the club has the title of the ‘most hated club in the UK’.
 
From my perspective, this is over-egging the pudding, the same kind of victimhood we see from the Orange One Across The Water. A simple tactic aimed at dismissing real concerns. I’m sure no Cov supporter would ‘hate’ YC, just baulk at the double standards of the club and the game’s authorities.
Carnegie have been in financial malaise for several years now. The talk of former players before the latest controversy wasn’t very good and suggested that Carnegie deserved everything they got.
 
Except they didn't.
 
If they hadn't overstretched in their vision of creating a Yorkshire Premiership team, maybe things would be different. Maybe attitutudes would be different.
Carnegie has been a club typical of modern times, from the merger of Headingley and Roundhay, to become Leeds, then Leeds Tykes, then Leeds Carnegie and now Yorkshire Carnegie. Sod tradition, sod the past, live in the moment, take the money and aim for the stars.
 
No cutting the coat according to the cloth for the Leeds bosses.
 
And they're not alone. Had a 'significant shareholder' not withdrawn support, the situation might not be as bad, but shows the knife-edge nature of money in rugby union and, indeed, all sport.
 
Look at how big money helped Bristol back into the Premiership, has made Ealing a force to be reckoned with and university cash, together with support from Premiership clubs, has helped keep Hartpury College in the second tier.
 
On the official Carnegie website, that illustrious knight of rugby, Sir Ian McGeechan says of the latest rebranding of the club in 2014: 'The team will have Yorkshire at the heart of its identity and I believe that this very special brand can help us achieve something that cannot be delivered elsewhere in England. Our vision remains to produce and sustain a Premiership team in Yorkshire, based on Yorkshire talent with Yorkshire support.'
 
On prima facie evidence, most union supporters would cheer that statement, especially given that Carnegie exist in a hotbed of league.
But to let down players and fans in such a manner leaves a bad taste behind. In settling their debts, Carnegie have been luckier than most in that while only 'offering a fraction' of what the club owed to creditors, they managed to strike a deal.
 
No penalty points. No punishment such as relegation. Just another tilt at Premiership glory.
 
Think of poor Rugby Lions, or London Welsh, unable to strike such a deal. Historic clubs from the Victorian beginnings of the game, proud clubs that had generated famous internationals and club players, forced by the RFU into the lower echelons of the game.
Or Coventry, docked 15 points in the 2009/10 season after going into administration. We survived, but still got hit with punishment. Relegation came after a particularly miserable campaign, and was decided rather by performances in the play-offs than the 15 points. Still...
 
That Carnegie have survived sans punishment and managed such high-profile signings since must rankle with their former players, especially those who weren't paid what they should have been, who would have worried about their medical bills being paid and managing to pay their own bills. Lest anyone forget, Carnegie finished sixth in the Championship, largely thanks to the heroics of the players it let down.
 
Nobody wants to see a club suffer, and Coventry supporters know what it’s like more than most. We’ve been there, got the T-shirt, been there again, got another T-shirt, then a hoodie, shirt and tie set and blazer and slacks to complete the wardrobe.
 
Since the advent of the leagues and professionalism, Cov, for a club once feared, has slunk down the rankings as financial horror after financial horror hit us hard. Were it not for the grace of God – and Jon Sharp – who knows where Cov could be now.
 
We wasted money, cash we hadn’t really got, on marquee signings, glamorous names past their best, journeymen players at the expense of promoting rugby from within. We spent on survival, a hand to mouth experience that backfired several times. We struggled to pay wages. There was little planning for the future, little thought for relationships. It didn’t do Cov any good and further shows the wonderful work Sharp and director of rugby Rowland Winter have helped engineer in a very short period of time.
 
There was a lot to put right.
 
Above all, rugby should be sustainable. But we know in the Premiership that only Exeter Chiefs manage to post a profit. Where would Bristol be without Steve Landsown's millions? Or Saracens without Nigel Wray bankrolling them? Or Ealing without Mike Gooley?
 
The mismatch, the un-level playing field, has been there since the advent of professionalism, when the likes of Sir John Hall made Newcastle the first fully professional rugby union side, assembled a circus of top players and propelled the humble former Gosforth club into the top flight.
 
You can accuse the bosses, some foolhardy, some less so, but the blame ought to be put squarely – and fairly – on the administrators. The ‘Old Farts’, as English Grand Slam winning captain Will Carling dubbed them, at the RFU took a laissez faire attitude towards the mass change affecting the domestic game and saw a lopsided league system thrive.
 
Premiership Rugby has been equally as guilty, putting the fortunes of owners and the success that has brought, before the wider need of the game as a whole, what often is described as ‘rugby values’. Professionalism was supposed to be about rewarding players for their physical endeavours.
 
Saracens, the most successful in recent times, has flouted the salary cap. London Wasps became a nomadic club in its bid to survive. Bosses want an end to relegation from the top-flight
 
It's bad enough already that Newcastle, relegated from the Premiership last season, are expected to bounce back up, as London Irish and Bristol did, protected by parachute payments, keeping much of their playing squads and coming up against part-time squads. Richmond paid the price last campaign, slipping to National League One.
 
Of course, the RFU might be changing course for the betterment of rugby union, players and fans in its approach to Yorkshire. Somehow I doubt it. In my cynical mode, I'd suggest the contacts, reputation and nous of Geech might well have played a part behind the scenes for Carnegie.
 
On the Carnegie messageboard, The Bard Of B23 admits the club, formed in 1991, has led a ‘charmed, if somewhat precarious life’ before stating: ‘One thing is certain – the RFU has bent over backwards to keep us in existence.’
The Bard writes of recruitment: ‘I am with the other supporters, who, rightly, point out that we have suffered greatly over the years.’
 
Really? Think about Cov over that time period, of other clubs, too, who have really suffered in terms of recruitment. When Carnegie have been in the top half of the Championship table since their relegation from the Premiership in 2010/11? A club that sourced financial backers to keep it in the Premiership for eight of the ten years leading up to that relegation? A club that attracted international players and whose own ranks produced internationals? 
 
If that's suffering greatly, I'm sure many at Cov would endure such misery in a flash. I could think of quite a few others, too.
 
For the wrong reasons, all eyes will be on Carnegie this season. I doubt Joe Ford will have given up his duties with Leicester, despite their struggles in the Premiership, if there wasn’t a clear vision of success and prosperity at Headingley.
Varndell is at the end of his playing career, but would still command a considerable sum given his class.
 
When The Bard writes in his op-ed that the club might be ‘paying a few quid more than other clubs’, given all the players who have lost out financially in recent seasons, doesn’t he say something about the parlous state of professional rugby union and the administrators who, by inaction, are encouraging such actions?
And what if, say, Nottingham or Jersey, upset the form books and top the Championship table at the end of the season? What will the administrators say when the gates to the Premiership are closed to them?
 
It's happened before, don't forget. Rotherham Titans, the first Yorkshire club to win promotion to the Premiership, who were relegated and bounced back only to find themselves falling foul of the ever-fluid rules governing English rugby's top table. Perhaps there wasn't room for two White Rose clubs, as Leeds Tykes had gone up the following season. The future Carnegie found themselves rooted at the bottom of the table, but were the beneficiaries of Rotherham's woes.
 
We non-partisan types wondered how a club in the Premiership one year could be rejected the next.
 
It stank back then, too.
 
Ed 'itter's Footnote: When Mark submitted this, he expressed some slight concern that it may be too controversial to publish. I disagreed, and published 'as is'. Hope you agree.   ABTC
 
 

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Can I Have My Money Back?
Discussion started by Unofficial Coventry Rugby (IP Logged), 21/08/2019 18:07
Unofficial Coventry Rugby
Unofficial Coventry Rugby
21/08/2019 18:07
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Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 2019:09:02:10:56:17 by AdminBTCov.

CharlieBravo
Cliff Bennett
22/08/2019 10:43
Very well put, Mark. Far from being controversial your assessment is absolutely spot on. It’s a very well thought out and presented point of view.
The only comment I would dare to add, if you’ll allow me, is as a follow-on to Geek’s statement that - “our vision remains to produce and sustain a Premiership team in Yorkshire based on Yorkshire talent with Yorkshire support”. The influx of players they recruited last season to maintain their Championship status were not exactly “Yorkshire talent”, were they? So what happened to those laudable rugby values?

HoboAl
HoboAl
22/08/2019 10:54
I think that is a fair assessment. It is crazy they have had no penalty for their mismanagement.

Diesel74
Diesel74
22/08/2019 12:36
I think there's a slight misunderstanding here. I think there is controversy in the subject, but was quite happy to publish under my own steam if there was the issue of causing problems for this board or for Cov RFC.

I am sure we will welcome Carnegie with open arms in the finest spirit of rugby.

Mark

diverkevod
diverkevod
22/08/2019 14:41
Well said Mark.... a fair summary. But I do wish some people could just be a little more gracious in some of their comments though. Almostatyke writes about this issue on the message board and has come in for some unfair earache in my opinion. Yes Leeds are in trouble but do we need to revel in their bother? Money is the root of the problem, and warnings are there in football for rugby. Look at Bury and Bolton now, and of course the Sky Blues. The administrators fail to apply the 'fit and proper' person test adequately in my opinion to those running sports clubs and the results are plain to see. I hope COV do not overspend in their quest for glory.

MESSAGES->author
SideStep
22/08/2019 16:28
Tykes fan here. (Not Yorkshire stupid rebrand)
You are completely right.
Over the last few years there are a lot of fans who would go to as many matches as possible who are finally turning their back on them.
It's become an embarrassment how the playing squad of last season has been treated.

The first Leeds Tykes child mascot...#leedswasps0203season. #cheersbentos

SimonG19
SimonG19
22/08/2019 18:51
Nothing wrong with YC supporters, everything wrong with YC management.

MESSAGES->author
leemingtyke
22/08/2019 23:29
A well written article but, like many of the other words I've seen written on the subject of Yorkshire Carnegie recently, it seems to me to be more than a little harsh.

Firstly, I should say that Chris Stirling and the squad he assembled for the second half of last season have every right to be aggrieved. They came half way around the world to play for us and they played superbly, culminating in a more comprehensive victory over London Irish than the final scoreline suggested. They then found out, very late in the day, that the financial situation meant that the final year of their contracts would not be honoured and a private medical company was chasing them for payment of medical bills for procedures they undertook at the behest of the club. Would I be @#$%& off in their shoes? Damn right I would, you just don't treat people like that and I'm embarrassed that the current custodians of the club I support allowed it to happen.

But,

Some of the comment I have seen and read seems to be based on supposition, assumption and, in some cases things that simply didn't happen. For instance:

I've seen it said that Carnegie refused to pay medical bills.

Not true. The private medical company could have had 15p in the pound along with the other creditors as part of the CVA. But THEY chose to reject that and activate a clause allowing them to pursue the players for full payment. The situation has now been confirmed as resolved.

I've seen it said that Carnegie spent money it didn't have.

Not true. Our main financial backer said the money was there til the end of the forthcoming season which is why the payers we brought in were on 18 month contracts. A change in his circumstances then meant that he had to withdraw his backing with virtually no notice. If we were wrong to offer contracts based on promised money then so is every other professional sports club who has players on multi year contracts and relies on a financial backer. Geraint Thomas was 1 year into a 3 year contract with Team Sky when Sky unexpectedly pulled there backing, were Sky negligent?

I've seen it said that the RFU have colluded with Carnegie to ensure that we avoid punishment.

The RFU seem to have applied their rules to the letter. They've just been outflanked by Carnegie agreeing a CVA rather than going into administration or liquidation like other clubs had to do. As previously mentioned, Im not proud of this because of the situation it left last year's players in. I'm not quite sure what the history of these other clubs has to do with anything?

We seem to be getting grief for bringing players in from lower down the pyramid, some of whom may be under contract to those clubs. Yet this has happened to us for years. As soon as our former academy produduced a promising young player he was gone to the Premiership before we got any benefit. Jack Walker, Lewis Boyce, Paul Hill, Max Green - I could go on.

My point is that, whilst Carnegie have not covered themselves in glory during all this, they are also maybe not as bad as many would have you believe. I offer this as an alternative point of view from a Yorkshire Carnegie supporter who is glad his club is still there to support, but is uncomfortable with places the board had to go to to get here. If people want to keep throwing stones then let them, but do it having seen both sides of the story.

BackTenRef?
BackTenRef?
23/08/2019 07:08
Great post leemingtyke. I think what angers me is that the club, an employer, has messed players and their families around with no punishment. I understand that this was to some degree beyond the clubs control, but also with decent management and safeguards, wasn’t. It’s the latter that needs addressing to my mind, though it’s easy to say that as a Cov supporter at the moment when we have a main backer/owner who is investing in the club first so that the team is viable. It’s not always been like that at Cov, however the difference is we WERE punished by the rfu.

There seems to be no justice in the Carnegie saga and that’s what I’d imagine grates with the rest of us.

Nothing by sympathy and a touch of empathy for the tykes/Carnegie fans, but the anger where it exists really as at the rfu/ league

Diesel74
Diesel74
23/08/2019 08:31
Leemingtyke,

Thank you for your polite response.

I have to say, being able to speak to a couple of people more in the know than I, the issue was more damning than I have portrayed.

Your assertion that 'the private medical company could have had 15p in the pound along with the other creditors as part of the CVA. But THEY chose to reject that and activate a clause allowing them to pursue the players for full payment. The situation has now been confirmed as resolved.' is worrying.

The players, already losing out and stressed over their treatment getting chased by the private medical company that had been working for the club.

How this has been resolved is key.

And 'spending more than it had' - well that's simply the case when you can't pay your bills. And I don't mean offering 15p in the pound to pay for goods and services.

I wonder if Joe Ford and Tom Varndell have agreed to a contract where they get 15p instead of a pound on their contracts? This is the rub for many of us. When Cov went into administration, we didn't suddenly get a handful of Premiership stars on board for the new campaign.

Having said all that, I wish you guys luck and look forward to welcoming Carnegie fans to Butts Park Arena this season.

Mark

HoboAl
HoboAl
23/08/2019 09:07
The main point for me is Carnegie seem to have avoided RFU sanctions because they didn't go into administration. However by going through a CVA process they have basically done that in order to restructure all but in name. It is a sharp practice that should have been punished.

The Medical company had every right not to accept the CVA and did so because they had a clause to pursue individuals. Other companies and individuals I suspect accepted 15p in the pound because the alternative was potentially get zip all. Obviously someone connected to the club has settled that side of things up....however how do the ones who accepted the CVA feel about that. Could that have happened in Administration?

I remain unconvinced the owner wasnt aware that there was a high probability he couldnt honour some of those 18 month contracts. I suspect it was done to try and increase investment potential in the club or at least give the club saleable assets

Now Carnegie start with a clean sheet (as many businesses wrongly do in my opinion). My main hope is they learn and do not repeat. In fact I hope all clubs look and learn.

Chasing the dream is one thing. But I would rather see Covdntry remain in the Championship or National 1 rather than go through the dark days again.

Carnegie is a great example that a large empty stadium is pretty worthless and only increases unnecessary outgoings. This is something I have expressed before about how Coventry develop the Butts. For me Carnegie, Wasps and Irish offer a poor rugby experience compared to Bedford, Doncaster or Jersey. Any expansion needs to be done sympatheticall keeping a sensible balance between increasing revenue and improving customer satisfaction and capacity.



Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 2019:08:23:10:28:02 by HoboAl.

MESSAGES->author
leemingtyke
23/08/2019 09:11
Thanks Mark, and BackTenRef

To answer your question on how the issue with the medical bills was resolved I'd refer you to this from Gary Hetherington, posted on our message board. Dan Temm later confirmed that the medical bill were paid - [m.rugbynetwork.net]

With regard to spending money we didn't have, if that's how you see it then that's fine, but every other pro sports club operates that way. I don't know if Cov have players on longer than one year contracts, but if you do then those contracts were offered and signed on the understanding that your main backer would continue to bankroll the club. He/She won't have already put the money in the club's account and if He/She suddenly pulls out you'll be in the same boat. Spending money you don't have.

Finally, you mention when Cov went into administration. Carnegie didn't go into administration.

Best of luck for next season.

HoboAl
HoboAl
23/08/2019 09:30
Thanks for the update Leemingtyke around the medical bills being paid by Mr Annonymous.

To me it confirms there was jiggery pokery around the CVA...as it says "The rules of the CVA made it illegal for the club to act during the period of the arrangement."

It also says the financial crisis became aparent at the begining of the year. So not long after those 18 month contracts had been handed out.

I cannot help but feel Carnegie have been treated differently to other clubs in similar circumstances by the RFU. That's the fault of tbe RFU not Carnegie.

MESSAGES->author
leemingtyke
27/08/2019 23:36
Hi HoboAl, apologies for the late response to your initial post.

I'd agree that Carnegie have avoided sanctions because we didn't go into Administration and I'd also agree that the creditors who accepted the terms of the CVA (and don't forget that this includes the players) probably did so because there was a good chance they would get nothing through Administration. So basically, it was a stark choice between Administration with inevitable RFU sanctions and creditors probably receiving nothing, or agreeing a CVA which falls within RFU regulations and ensures that creditors will at least receive 15% of what they are owed.

You say that the Medical Company had every right to not accept the terms of the CVA which of course is true, but likewise, Carnegie had every right to go down the CVA route.

MESSAGES->author
OldNick
28/08/2019 00:06
Three types of financial insolvency event when a company can’t meet its debts.

Administration - result: major RFU sanctions and bond required to continue.

Liquidation - result: expulsion from RFU, survive a season outside then rejoin RFU at the bottom of the pyramid.

CVA where all creditors get (in this case) 15% under the threat of getting nothing at all if they don’t accept it - result: no RFU sanction at all

Leemingtyke. Are you surprised that people are disgusted by the management of your team taking this third route, especially when the primary creditor was the company that owns your business, and horrified that the RFU has left, and encouraged the use of this gaping loophole in how it deals with failed businesses?



Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 2019:08:28:09:56:53 by OldNick.

HoboAl
HoboAl
28/08/2019 09:29
And I see no difference between a self imposed CVA and going into Administrstion? Both should incure the same sanctions by the RFU.

MESSAGES->author
leemingtyke
28/08/2019 16:42
Quote:
OldNick
Three types of financial insolvency event when a company can’t meet its debts.
Administration - result: major RFU sanctions and bond required to continue.

Liquidation - result: expulsion from RFU, survive a season outside then rejoin RFU at the bottom of the pyramid.

CVA where all creditors get (in this case) 15% under the threat of getting nothing at all if they don’t accept it - result: no RFU sanction at all

Leemingtyke. Are you surprised that people are disgusted by the management of your team taking this third route, especially when the primary creditor was the company that owns your business, and horrified that the RFU has left, and encouraged the use of this gaping loophole in how it deals with failed businesses?

Whether I'm surprised or not is irrelevant. If people really are 'disgusted' then that's up to them. The fact is that the alternative (administration) would have seen creditors receive nothing, with the CVA they at least got something and as I've previously said they (the creditors) have every right to be angry. When your main backer pulls out and you can't find another, what else are you supposed to do?

As for the CVA being a 'loophole', I'd suggest that you'd only see it as a loophole if you were hellbent on punishing the club. If Carnegie hadn't got 100% agreement for the CVA then sanctions would have applied. They did get that agreement so what is to gain from further punishment? Don't forget we were left with no management team, no squad and the same bunch of people in charge who got us into this mess in the first place. We are almost certain to be relegated, probably with a 0-22 record, and that's if we make the start of the season at all.

I'm a fairly fierce critic of how Carnegie has been run since relegation from the Premiership. But some of the stuff I've seen written about this particular episode is, IMHO, rubbish written largely by people who want to use it as a vehicle for their preconceived dislike of Carnegie.

Diesel74
Diesel74
28/08/2019 18:58
Leemingtyke, the club owners have treated its players - the people who make things happen - abysmally. No arguments.
But I remember the days when Cov players weren't being paid, or at least, paid all that was due to them.
My ire is really for the RFU.
But also, if you ever read any of my rubbish, you'll see I'm not a fan of money in the game because I think it's stolen a soul of the rugby I still believe in. In the world of rich benefactors and companies that have played a key role in the success of a number of sides, other clubs are left playing catch up, often investing at an unsustainable rate, especially given some of the attendances.
How Hartpury is funded is interesting for all the wrong reasons. They get sub 1,000 crowds, largely bolstered by the travelling support and huge support from Premiership teams. I know Hartpury has helped some players onto the world stage, but...
A forthcoming blog will talk about the ever changing world of English rugby. It's happened all along.
As I live in Cornwall, I don't get to many Cov home games, but if I make the Carnegie one, I know the reception for the supporters will be warm.
Mark

MESSAGES->author
leemingtyke
28/08/2019 19:11
Mark,

The rubbish comment wasn't aimed at you, just a general comment on the vast majority of comment I've seen across multiple social media platforms. What's your blog called and I'll look out for it?

EdGray
EdGray
28/08/2019 20:04
My feeling is that Carnegie spent even more money than they possessed in the middle part of the season in a desperate attempt to stay up and knowing that a CVA/Administration would be the likely result. That decision came at the expense of Richmond who had always done things properly. It doesn't feel right. Then after the CVA to sign Ford and Varndell just rubs salt into the wound. Demotion to N1 should have been the right result, as a minimum.

MESSAGES->author
AdminBTCov
28/08/2019 20:13
Quote:
leemingtyke
Mark,
The rubbish comment wasn't aimed at you, just a general comment on the vast majority of comment I've seen across multiple social media platforms. What's your blog called and I'll look out for it?
It's an article that Mark's referring to, rather than a blog per se (although he does have a personal blog too).
The article (if it's the one Mark mentions, and I think it is) is in my in-tray awaiting publication a bit nearer the SN 'go dark' point.

captainscarlet
bigm/ mark harrison.
29/08/2019 07:15
One question.....what happened to covs bond money and why was this form of security only used on one occasion. i really dont understand why leeds supporters think everyone dislikes their club and where that stems from. Hartpury and Ampthill have far more things to be annoyed at.

Jean H
Jean H
29/08/2019 09:10
If we remember correctly,we were also deducted fifteen points,but the Coventry faithful dug deep
into their pockets and many others and we survived.Why are Yorkshire Carnegie not being penalised in some way?We always thought Will Carlings assessment of the RFU was spot on and it doesn’t appeared to gotten any better!

Diesel74
Diesel74
29/08/2019 15:20
Quote:
leemingtyke
Mark,
The rubbish comment wasn't aimed at you, just a general comment on the vast majority of comment I've seen across multiple social media platforms. What's your blog called and I'll look out for it?

Sorry, wasn't suggesting you had. My words for my stuff. I've even been accused of 'clickbait', a crime that old journos take awfully to heart smiling smiley
My own personal blog tends to tackle various subjects, good and bad, from a personal perspective - also good and bad.
I write on request for this board about issues pertaining to Cov RFC and sometimes wider issues, in rugby that have a Cov leaning or interest, and also tend to write a few interviews for the Supporters' Club website.
The blog post I was talking about will hit over the weekend on this site, so I'm led to believe.
And it concerns money, domination of the game - and level playing fields.

Mark

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