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Ben Hayes - Charlton Athletic programme

The Northampton riddle


Northampton is a propserous and growing town in middle England, close to the M1.  Some of the countryside and villages in Northamptonshire is really attractive and houses built of honey coloured stone attract half the prices they would in the Cotswolds.

Northampton fans are a decent bunch, I met some of them when they came to Charlton last season.  The club went through a difficult time with allegations of financial impropriety surrounding a  £10.25m council loan to the club still under investigation.   Debts and players went unpaid for a while until a new consortium took charge.  The unfinished east stand at Sixfields is a potent reminder of the troubles that the club encountered.

I would never have forecast that the Cobblers would be a Chinese takeover target (mind you, I would have said the same about Barnsley where there seems to be further movement).  5USpoirt bought a 60 per cent stake in the firm in June.  They own a holding in the sports memorabilia site and brought John Terry to Gungzhou in 2015 in a football ambassador role.

Their intention is to use the brand and expertise of Northampton Town to expand their growing business in China selling football education programmes.   There is certainly a growing market in China for such programmes.

A representative from the club visited China in July to give presentations to local government bodies (who in practice have quite a lot of autonomy in China provided they do not stray too far from the party line).  He even encountered someone wearing a Cobblers shirt who had been at Northampton University.

Northampton fans are understandably cautious about the new owners.   Little is known about the money they have at their disposal.  Roger Averill, chairman of the Northampton Town Supporters Trust told The Times, 'It's a bit vague.  It would be nice to know more about them.'

I just hope that the majority shareholders didn't think they were buying into the northern part of Southampton.  However, the appointment of Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink as manager should help to raise the club's profile.