Friday, 24 February 2012

Hurrah For HMRC

Before some suspect that I have lost copious marbley things, bear with me. I've been following the somewhat protracted administration problems at Portsmouth Football Club closely. They were the first Premiership club to go into administration and they've gone into administration for the second time recently - demonstrating once again that many football clubs are living beyond their means. But my main reason for following their plight closely is not because I have any particular affinity with them (yes good luck to them), but due to one man -  the administrator Andrew Andronikou.(pictured above - this is a bit of a personal post)

For those who are not familiar with the man, Andrew Andronikou works for chartered accountants UHY Hacker Young which in their words are: of the UK's Top 20 accounting and auditing firms
Mr Andronikou's profile can be found here:
He has extensive experience in Bank receivership and investigation assignments, and also liquidation appointments. He is particularly interested in undertaking corporate reconstruction work, such as Administrations and Company Voluntary Arrangements. Andrew has headed a number of high profile appointments including the recent Administration of Portsmouth Football Club, the first premier league club in history to enter Administration.
Hmm "extensive experience" eh? Not that implies any level of competence of course, and rightly so. A substantial part of Mr Andronikou's experience was being the administrator during the deeply entrenched money problems at Swindon Town. In summary, for long time until December 2007 we were a financial basket-case - and we were the first club to go into administration twice.

However according to Andronikou - when he was appointed at Portsmouth - he was the 'saviour of our club', as he became the only administrator arrogant enough to sign autographs:
This makes me think Portsmouth's administrator Andrew Andronikou (the only accountant in the country who signs autographs) isn't quite as media savvy as he imagines he is.
Yet describing him as Swindon’s saviour is a historical revisionism on a scale that the Ministry of Truth would have been proud of. Having been involved during that time, and witnessed first hand Andronikou's role, (and I'm not sure how to put this nicely), but his actions left the deep suspicion that his mind was not entirely focused on fulfilling his legal obligations to the professional standard that would be expected.

Now I should mention at this point that he also had a close relationship with Swindon Town's 'advisor' Mike Diamandis at the time. Diamandis was appointed as an 'advisor' despite being banned as a director for trading whilst insolvent. Yet in truth it was apparent that de facto he ran the club as a Director, some would say potentially illegally
He is the man who - behind-the-scenes - has effectively run the football club for the last five years.
Diamandis and Andronikou have had a close personal relationship in the past, their business record is indeed deeply suspicious. Andronikou was often appointed to a number of Diamandis' businesses which had gone into administration and no questions were apparently asked - it won't do to investigate rigorously whether a company was trading insolvently.

Unfortunately for them football fans tend to be a different kind of customer - ones with years of an emotional attachment that far outweighs concerns of finances. So as a consequence, and almost altruistically, awkward questions get asked, much to the discomfort of those with vested interests:
"I have an issue with the supporters trust as well as they could have caused untold damage if we had not ignored them. Their self importance genuinely put the club at risk. I think we all agree a supporters trust is healthy but for the right reasons. I think they have got out of hand. I think it represents about 20 people and that has to change quickly.
The Swindon Trust's response being:
"The comment about the 20 or 30 busybodies finding something else to do has caused a great deal of anger among fans," said Davis.
"We (the Trust) have over 950 members, all of whom are extremely concerned about the way the club is being run and the way that Mr Andronikou is supervising the CVA.
So...far from being a saviour, he took our club to within 24 hours of being wound up and didn't sign off our Company Voluntary Agreement for years after it should have been. Previous to that this was the man that always had 'mystery buyers' lined up which never materialised, ignored genuine buyers to the detriment of the creditors because it didn't apparently suit those in charge and blamed everyone else when things didn't go according to 'his plan'.

Not only that he took it upon himself to, despite being someone appointed to look after creditors’ interests, tell the creditors what to do (my emphasis):
"I have the discretion to do what I think is right for everyone. That is where it starts and ends really.  No matter what some people say, as long as I think it is in the interests of everyone to extend the deadline then I can extend or vary it as I see fit."
So it's no surprise to see Portsmouth experience the same 'incompetent' man:
Mr Andronikou was the preferred administrator - which sparked alarm among Pompey fans.
And as a result it comes as a source of great amusement to myself as a result of HMRC action that I learn this:
A High Court judge today refused to allow Andrew Andronikou’s firm to act as Pompey’s administrators. Mr Justice Alastair Norris ruled UHY Hacker Young will not be in charge.

The decision came despite Balram Chainrai’s firm Portpn Ltd offering £500,000 to the club if Mr Andronikou or another administrator it approves of was appointed.
And the Judge was pretty damning:
Mr Justice Norris added: ‘What’s proposed this time round seems to be exactly what was proposed last time round without addressing the real underlying problem. One would think that the real emphasis should be on reducing the trading losses of the club to turn it into a viable trading business. Perhaps a fresh view is called for.’

‘The general body of taxpayers, the ordinary consumers who do pay their energy bills and the ordinary traders and professionals who provide services such as, coach hire, catering, medical services, ground care and maintenance, must wonder why they should be subsidising the club’s energy bill and why it is that they are involuntary lenders to the club over their outstanding bills and why they will only get back pence in the pound for the services they have provided.’

And with that he blew the final whistle saying: ‘I will appoint Mr Birch and his team to be the administrators of Portsmouth Football Club.’
In other words the least of Andronikou's concerns was the small business creditors. But we knew that all along. Sometimes HMRC gets things right - albeit like a stopped watch still being correct twice a day.


  1. Lets hope so as the Pompey fans could use some good news, although a Southampton fan I know is happy but that's just footie for you.

  2. I know it's the only way TBF - but Plymouth was run by the administrators and it turned out, IMO, to be an unnecessarily drawn out and costly affair.

    I wish football would go back to the days of the team sharing out the gate money (mind you, going on Argyle's gates of late they'd all be begging on the street)

  3. So...far from being a saviour, he took our club to within 24 hours of being wound up and didn't sign off our Company Voluntary Agreement for years after it should have been. Previous to that this was the man that always had 'mystery buyers' lined up which never materialised, ignored genuine buyers to the detriment of the creditors because it didn't apparently suit those in charge and blamed everyone else when things didn't go according to 'his plan'.

    Was looking for the punchline.

  4. Love the quote about the stopped watch still being right twice a day. It does provide a wonderful image.

  5. It's time the role of administrators/receivers was scrutinised more closely. On the whole, and despite their legal obligations to look after the interests of all of the creditors, they are really only looking after their own interests.

  6. We were relieved when AA didn't get the job. He was hated by the club staff last time and definately seemed to be in bed with Portpin. Trevor Birch has been far more honest and straightforward and is doing his best, it's a shame he's had to get rid of some players, the likes of Lawrence, Huseklepp Henderson and Mullins will be greatly missed. We too have the'mystery buyers' lined up all of whom miraculously failed to appear. The worrying thing is that there are many more clubs out there teetering on the brink. It's probably about time football clubs went back to being precisely that, clubs owned by the members. It looks like Paolo will take you straight back to league one and I hope he does. I don't think we'll stay up but I hope we're stil around to play you next year!

  7. @Phil Jones Thanks for your comment re Paolo. Hope we play you next year if only because it means your club still exists and I've never visited Fratton Park before :-)

    Re: AA, Penny Mordaunt MP for Portsmouth North rang up members of Swindon Trust, when Portsmouth returned to administration, to ask for background information about Mr Andronikou’s performance at Swindon.

    She was supporting HMRC's attempt to have a different administrator appointed.

    Am pleased for you that AA has been removed.

  8. Thanks BF, hopefully you can come and see us, I'll even buy you a pint!