HASLAM ANSWERS CRITICS
Under-fire chairman reveals future blueprint
CHAD website, 13 December 2005
THE latest twist in an eventful week at Field Mill saw chairman Keith Haslam finally reveal his new blueprint for the future.
That will involve paying back all his outstanding loans to the club and possibly even stepping down as chairman, though remaining the majority shareholder.
The new structure is expected to be in place in January.
And Haslam also challenged his biggest critics, supporters' group TEAM Mansfield, to make him an offer to buy the club.
On the field the side pulled off a crucial 2-1 win at Rushden and Diamonds on Saturday.
'Haslamgate' erupted at Field Mill last week after David Conn, Sports News Reporter of the Year, published a large article on Haslam's well documented loans in The Guardian.
TEAM Mansfield said they were delighted and surprised after the chairman then quickly apologised for taking the loans and admitted what he had done was wrong and in breach of company law.
TEAM Mansfield had already launched a legal action against the chairman a week earlier, insisting his latest loans were in breach of their investment agreement.
However, the chairman said the timing of the article was a co-incidence as he had been waiting for legal confirmation of his plans and also the outcome of a planned meeting with the FA last Thursday before he could comment. Now everything is in place.
Haslam said: "It was very strange timing as I couldn't comment on the loans and the restructuring until after my meeting with the FA last Thursday where we discussed the points and they accepted them."
Under the new restructuring:
The chairman's personal loans will be repaid in full.
There will be a dividend awarded to all shareholders, including Stags and TEAM Mansfield, and his holding company, Stags Ltd, will immediately put its dividends back into the club to repay its own loan.
There will be provision for a new chairman and further directors.
New investment will be sought which reduces Stags' (and therefore Keith Haslam's) voting control to around 51 per cent from the current 85 per cent. That will give the other shareholders significant control as many actions require a 75 per cent majority.
He said: "Obviously I regret earlier actions that brought about the criticisms which may have affected the club's credibility with potential sponsors.
"But I want to make it clear that plans were already in place to repay the loans prior to the recent media attention."
The Guardian article underlined he had taken £585,142 in interest-free personal loans on top of his £66,444 salary while the club also paid a further £583,449 to Haslam's holding company, Stags Limited, to buy land for an academy not yet built.
He had already written off a £239,297 loan to himself in 2003.
The Guardian article suggested the loans breached section 330 of the Companies Act 1985 which prohibits a company from making a loan of more than £5,000 to any of its directors.
He did dispute the figure of over £1m quoted in the article, but Mr Haslam (pictured right) admitted he was 'embarrassed, but not ashamed', promised the money would all be paid back and assured fans he had the financial capability to do that.
He said: "This outstanding loan was reported to the AGM. We've not hidden at all that money is outstanding and it is being addressed.
"It is a breach, I'm not denying that it was wrong to do that but I was not in a position immediately to repay that.
"At the AGM I informed the shareholders I was looking to address the situation by the restructuring of the football club.
"Now we are able to go ahead with that.
"I don't think Mansfield Town would have conducted itself in any different way if these funds had been in the club. That money belongs to the shareholders and will be repaid in full.
"I would never deceive anybody. It is in public record. I know it happens elsewhere but I'm not saying it is right, it is wrong to do.
"The club will also be recompensed for the tax paid."
An earlier outstanding loan which was written off will not come into the equation as he said that was necessary due to tax reasons.
TEAM Mansfield have vowed to fight on but Haslam said: "I really don't understand the purpose to TEAM Mansfield now.
"I have listened to them quite a lot these last few weeks, saying what they can and can't do.
"But they have moved away from the original idea that they were formed to work with and support the club.
"They have now moved into a hostile body that has no aim to work with the football club.
"Despite their press comments, I am still willing to meet them, provided they have the funds to purchase sufficient shares to have a meaninful input into the club's operation.
"If they are unwilling or unable to participate, I am willing to buy back their shares so they suffer no loss.
"I will then, if agreed with any new investor, consider placing those shares into a Trust for the benefit of Stags Supporters Associaition members.
"If a board is in place then it may be appropriate to ask them to nominate someone to come forward and join it."
Despite their increased pressure on getting Keith Haslam to quit the club, the chairman said at no point had TEAM Mansfield actually made him an offer to go.
"As far as I am concerned my shares are not for sale," he said.
"However, TEAM Mansfield have never come to me and made me an offer.
"Obviously everything has its price and I would listen if a serious offer was made.
"They say they don't know what they would be getting for their money. But surely if they are making the offer they should say what they wanted and how much they felt it was worth.
"As far as I know, no other supporters trust has bought a football club anyway.
"They generally work with them and only step in in a case of insolvency and administration.
"So I ask again - what is the purpose of TEAM Mansfield? We have not seen a single penny off them since they started while the SSA continue to support us for which I am grateful."
He added: "I have heard comments that TEAM Mansfield could move the club forward.
"Now I am not blowing my own trumpet but when I took over 12 years ago no one else wanted to take over.
"It was open to everyone in Mansfield before I took over. And there were several groups and consortiums - we all know them.
"But no one could see how to take Mansfield Town foward. The club was losing £400,000 a year and had bleak prospects.
"Now we have a magnificent £7m stadium, we acquired the land to build it, and we are healthy financially.
"Other clubs come here and tell me they see it as a miraculous turn-around in the direction of the club."
He added: "When do we get to see TEAM Mansfield's accounts and what funds they have available?
"They should tell the supporters their structure. They have joint chairmen that live about 150-miles plus away so I am not sure how many games they have watched this season.
"Do they have a board and who is on it? I don't know the answers - they are a bit cloak and dagger. So it shows there is no relationship between them and the football club."
The Guardian feature certainly stoked up a lot of debate and emotion in Mansfield last week.
Chris Vasper of TEAM Mansfield said: "We were really delighted with David Conn's article. We have worked a long time with him.
"The next thing is to make sure Keith Haslam pays the loans back and we don't want it to be a paper exercise.
"David Conn has assured us this was the first of quite a few articles he will write about the financial dealings of Mansfield Town.
"We continue to ask for the support of Mansfield Town fans and we will continue with our legal action until a resolution is achieved.
"We would welcome any donations supporters want to make and our solicitors will keep moving this forward."
But Haslam said "It was a slanted article by a so-called 'good' journalist.
"There was nothing in there that has not already gone on public record in the Chad and elsewhere. It wasn't new stuff.
"It is certainly not wrong on some of the loans. But some of the issues were completely wrong.
"On Keith Curle's comment about wages, he stated none of his players were on over £700 which is rubbish.
"I know one player was on £1,500 with £300 appearance money. We had others on £900 and hardly any on £700.
"They were being paid a division above's wages when Keith Curle took over."
Conn's article brought only one new fact to light, stating that the Football Stadium Improvement Fund had suspended Stags from receiving any grants for three years after concerns over the validity of a grant application.
Haslam said; "The grant was an issue about a toilet block in the West Stand. It has never been disputed by the old Football Trust or the new body about monies paid to Mansfield Town.
"With the new stadium we've not made any application in the last couple of years for funds from that body.
"The report also glibly spoke of me 'rebuilding a stadium.' but I'm proud of this stadium."
Haslam plans to stay on as chief executive no matter what happens under the new structure, unless someone comes in to buy the club.
"If I can find a suitable chairman to take over from myself as part of the restructuring I am quite willing to stand down in favour of someone else," he said.
"At this moment in time the club is not for sale. Nobody has come up with a price.
"I go round and round about these things. If there is someone out there wanting to buy the club all they have got to do is give me confirmation what their offer is with a bank guarantee that those funds are available, but that has not been the case so far."
Both the chairman and manager Peter Shirtliff are agreed that off-field politics will not affect on-field performances, perhaps underlined by Saturday's important win at Rushden.
"I am sure the majority of our supporters just want to get on and enjoy their football and the Christmas period as I do," said Haslam.
"Peter is doing a good job and we've had good runs in both cups, culminating in this mouthwatering tie at Newcastle."
Shirtliff added: "The players are paid to play football and this has nothing to do with that.
"If they do their job to the best of their ability, why should they worry about off-the-field activity?
"It certainly won't worry me. I was at Leicester when they went into administration so I have experienced quite a lot in my career. You just get on with it."
As Chad went to press the SSA Committee were preparing a statement.
And, doubtless TEAM Mansfield will be doing the same so this is not a debate likely to end with this week's exchanges.
Stags Chairman Answers Critics
The Mansfield Town Chairman Keith Haslam, has today revealed the details of his plans for the Club. Mr Haslam has already told shareholders at the AGM earlier this year that he had plans which would improve it's finances, allow more input from others into the running of the Club and, importantly, repay in full a controversial personal loan from the Club.
These plans had been put together by Mr Haslam and his advisers in early September, but Mr Haslam has not been able to reveal the details because he first needed to ensure their practicality and, having done this, discuss them with the FA. Mr Haslam's advisers have now confirmed that the plans are practical and the full details have been given to the FA. He met with the FA on Thursday 8th December to discuss them further. The FA have indicated that they have no opposition to the plans which will now be implemented as soon as formalities can be completed, probably early in the New Year.
There has in the last few weeks been intensive interest in the Club, mainly due to speculation over loans made by the Club to Mr Haslam and to Stags Limited, the Club's holding company which he controls. Much of this has featured comments from Team Mansfield, alleging breaches of agreements made and further fuelling criticism of the loans to Mr Haslam and Stags.
As well as his announcement at the AGM, Mr Haslam had separately informed Team Mansfield that issues were being addressed and dealt with. Unfortunately Team Mansfield have been unwilling to wait until Mr Haslam was able to announce details of the plans and have commenced legal proceedings.
The main features of the plans are:
- All loans to Mr Haslam will be repaid in full.
- The Club will make a dividend payment to all shareholders, including Stags and Team Mansfield. Stags will put these funds immediately back into the Club to repay in full its own loan from the Club. It will then be up to Team Mansfield and the other shareholders to decide if they also wanted to re-invest their funds and, if so, at what time.
- Mr Haslam intends appoint new directors to the board of the Club, including a new Chairman. The board will have extensive powers over the running of the Club.
- New investment will also be sought for the Club, which would reduce Stags's voting control from over 85% to around 51%. This is significant since many actions of the Club require a 75% vote in favour from the shareholders.
The Clubs Chairman has expressed disappointment that Team Mansfield appear to have been fuelling media attention on an issue which they are aware is being dealt with. What's more he feels that, whilst he regrets his earlier actions which gave rise to the criticism, the adverse comments have affected the Club's credibility with potential sponsors and is undermining the ability of the Club to do the very things that he and the supporters want to achieve for the future.
In contrast Team Mansfield have the self-admitted aim of gaining control of the Club, and have suggested that this would produce improvements in league performance and financial security. There is no evidence to support this. What's more Team Mansfield have said that "..they are not a fund raising organisation for the football club &". If that is the case, the question needs to be 'What are they and what benefit will the Club gain from them?' Indeed it should be recalled that special Community Shares were set up in the first place that Team Mansfield indicated that this would result in substantial extra support and sponsorship. To date, the only investment by Team Mansfield has been the £33,000 paid directly into the Club's bank account for their shares. He has himself gained no benefit at all from this, and to suggest otherwise is mischievous. So far as the Club is concerned and contrary to the impression given, no additional sponsorship and no additional support of any other sort has materialised.
Driving forces behind Team Mansfield seem not to understand that, in order to obtain control of the club in the manner they appear to want, the shares held by Stags would have to be purchased at a commercial price with the funds being paid to Stags, not to the Club. This means that additional funds would then be needed if Team Mansfield were to invest in the Club itself. To his credit Mr Haslam wants to ensure that any new investment goes directly into the Club, and is not seeking any personal gain from this.
Never the less he has stated that if Team Mansfield want to be part of the new plans, he is willing to meet with them and to discuss this, however his plans include a meaningful investment into the Club in exchange for meaningful input onto its operations, factors which Team Mansfield will need to show that they have the funds to participate. Mr Haslam has also stated that, if Team Mansfield are unwilling or unable to participate, he is willing to personally purchase their shares so that they suffer no loss. He would then, if it formed part of a new deal with any new investor, consider placing those shares in a new trust for the benefit of the Stags Supporters Association, a much larger supporters' grouping.
In conclusion Under Mr Haslam's control, Mansfield Town have become one of a very few profitable and secure football clubs, with substantial cash resources and excellent facilities for fans and players When he took control 12 years ago, the Club was losing £400,000 per year, had poor facilities, had lost control of its ground, and had bleak prospects. Mr Haslam concluded deals which resulted in gains of such magnitude that the Club was able to regain control of its ground, build a new £7 million stadium, clear all its debts, give a level of security to people employed by the club and still retain substantial cash resources. Many of these deals could have been done by Mr Haslam for his personal gain however he chose to give the Club the benefits.
Following the restructure of the Club and its finances, a powerful board will have access to the resources built by Mr Haslam and which will be needed to move to the next stage. However, the financial security of the Club has to remain paramount and the funds will be used responsibly with the aim of using the financial strength in the best way to develop the Club.
Latest | December 2005