Thursday, July 03, 2014

London Bulls Make Call For Boycott

The following is a statement from London Bulls:

At a recent meeting, the London and South-East supporters group London Bulls called on Hereford United owner Tommy Agombar to clarify his position with regard to the future of the football club, and to make good on promises to pay all outstanding football creditors. We note that neither has happened, despite further recent assurances that cheques were ‘in the post’. Consequently, as stated on 15th June, we have no option other than to call for a boycott of the club. 

This includes attending any match at Edgar Street, any function associated with the club,  any subscription to media or fund-raising initiatives, any sponsorship of a match, player, mascot or similar, and any advertising on perimeter board, or matchday programme.  We feel that withdrawing all support of the current regime will benefit the club in the longer term, and that a season without watching football at Edgar Street is a necessary price to pay. It is also morally, the right thing to do. 

We deplore the actions of Mr Agombar, who came into the club just a few weeks ago, vowing to embrace the community and restore former glories, including a three-year plan to regain football league status. Promises were made that in our opinion, he had no intention of honouring; the shameful treatment of long-serving club staff, almost all of whom have now left their positions at Edgar Street speaks volumes. To hear accounts of how hard-working and loyal Herefordians, some of them good friends of ours, have turned away from the club they love is painful. If Mr Agombar had the best interests of the football club at heart, he would not have stood idly by and watched the heartbeat of his club walk away. 

Just one example of the cavalier attitude in which the current owner has treated his staff is that of former employee Leigh Renton, who is still  apparently, owed £1200 of statutory maternity pay.  Is this how a ‘community football club’ should behave?  Not according to officials at Ledbury Town, Weobley, and Belmont Rangers who have all cancelled or declined friendly matches against the club. Hereford United is in danger of becoming a pariah in its own county. 

Another recent development to cause concern is the temporary de-listing of Mr Agombar as a company director. This was only for a few days, but it was surely no coincidence that during this period, the Southern League accepted Hereford United as a member of its Premier Division. The FA’s Fit and Proper Person test may have noble ideals, but if it is side-stepped this easily,  it would appear to have very little value in practice. 

We also hear with interest that a CVA has been applied for by the current owners. This is in our opinion,  an unequivocal admission that monies owed to football and non-football creditors (including many local businesses), HMRC, and others either cannot, or will not be paid. 

Struggling football clubs are sadly not an uncommon phenomenon in this country, but neither is unscrupulous businessmen looking to profit from their travails. One might note the recent experiences of our friends at Chester and Newport, stark indications of how poor ownership can irreparably damage a football club of our size. 

We are of course, unable to say with certainty what Mr Agombar plans for our club – he has been very quiet of late – but given the serial failure to deliver even a fraction of what was originally promised, we have genuine cause for concern. That he almost immediately upon purchase requested that the City Council transfer leases on the Edgar Street site to his own company is in itself alarming.

In a few short weeks, Hereford United has been relegated two divisions, and will probably start the new season with a points deduction. It has lost almost all of the backroom staff, and similarly with the playing squad. The Starlite Rooms has been converted into a dormitory, as young players, desperate for a career in the professional game, bed down on camp beds.  
Mr Agombar, as far as we can gather, bought this club for two pounds. That includes the debts. Despite his stirring words of renewed glory, every action since that day appears geared toward spending as little money as possible, with no regard to the consequences. He could have kept us in the Conference Premier – he didn’t. He could have paid and retained his staff – he didn’t.  He could have settled with football creditors, and avoided a winding-up appearance in the High-Court – he didn’t. 

Not only do we have grave concerns with Mr Agombars ownership, but also with the team of advisors he has brought with him. Accompanying Mr Agombar to the council meeting was Andrew Lonsdale, President of Bedfont and Feltham FC, a man with a less than stellar reputation in his own backyard, including a conviction for illegal waste-disposal on a green belt site.  Mr Agombar has also appointed two new directors, resident in north-west England and both of whose business experience appears to lie in waste management and disposal. Once again, if Mr Agombar does genuinely have the best interests of our club at heart, we would be interested to hear how these appointments add value to our club.   
As a group we have modest and realistic ambitions. We want a club that values honesty and integrity above all, a club which prizes stability and prudence over short term gain,  a club at the heart of our community, and of which the community can be proud. 

We are hugely concerned by recent developments at Hereford United. To turn away from something so close to our hearts is incredibly difficult, but we see no other option. Under present circumstances we cannot support the current regime. Unless there is a dramatic change in how the club is run, we reluctantly see liquidation and a supporter-owned and run Phoenix club as the best outcome. 

On a final note, we would again ask Bulls fans to express their protest respectfully, and without resort to personal insult or vindictive language. We note that the club has arranged a charity match next week in aid of Help for Heroes. As a group we feel it would be both inappropriate and counterproductive to demonstrate at this fixture. There will, without doubt, be other opportunities to show our displeasure at future matches. 

Any supporters who would like to make a donation to Help for Heroes can do so via the excellent HUST website.