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Ridsdale is barred as director


Peter Ridsdale has been a controversial figure in English football.  Indeed, the Financial Times describes him this morning as a 'serial football club chairman'.  He is in the news again because he has been barred by the Insolvency Service from serving for seven-and-a-half years as a company director.

Ridsadle is best known for his involvement in what the Pink 'Un describes as the 'debt-fuelled era' at Leeds United.   He and his fellow directors 'lived the dream' at Leeds United, but instead of establishing Leeds as one of the country's top clubs they left it with financial problems from which it may only properly recover as a result of the takeover now in progress.

However, it was his time at Cardiff City that has led to his current difficulties.  An investigation by the Insolvency Service found payments from Cardiff City totalling £347,000 destined for WH Sports Group (WHSG), a sports and leisure consultancy of which he was a director, went into personal bank accounts in his name,

Mr Ridsdale failed to make the payments known to the administrator of WHSG, which went into liquidation in 2009 owing £442,000 to HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC).   He also failed to comply with statutory obligations to ensure WHSG paid tax.

Cardiff City under his chairmanship from 2006-10 was subject to winding-up orders from HMRC.  The club owed £42.8m when it was sold to a Malayisan consortium in 2010.

The Insolvency Service commented, 'As someone who has had many directorships, Mr Ridsdale ought to be aware of the responsibilities.'    They noted that the privileges of limited liability also brought with it certain responsibilities.  His wife, Sophie Ridsdale, a co-director of WHSG, was disqualified for a period of three-and-a-half years.  

Mr Ridsdale is currently chairman of Preston North End, but he is not registered as a director of the club.  It is understood that the Football League will examine exactly what his role is at Deepdale, but it is thought unlikely to lead to any action on their part.   He is, after all, not barred from acting as a consultant or adviser, and indeed, to the best of my knowledge, there is no legislation that could so bar him.   His undertaking to the secretary of state for business does, however, include managing or controlling a company.

Before he moved to Preston, a club which has encountered some challenges, he was involved in the rescue of Plymouth Argyle.  I will be looking into this phase of his career more closely for my regular Saturday morning slot on the Radio Scilly Sports Show, given that there are close links between Argyle and the islands.   My initial impression is that at least some Plymouth fans thought that his involvement had some positive features, but I would be pleased to hear from any of them.

Mr Ridsdale joined Argyle in November 2010, initially as an advisor to the Board of Directors before taking over the role of Chairman of Football Operations.   He guided Argyle through the administration process and at one stage was set to buy the club for just £1 in a deal with Kevin Heaney and the mysterious Bishop International Limited consortium which was based in Gibraltar. 

Heaney was also involved in Truro City, which of itself raised conflict of interest questions, and was recently declared bankrupt after his property business collapsed.

Ridsdale left Argyle in December 2011 after James Brent bought the club. Argyle's new owner was quick to praise Ridsdale's contribution during the administration process, he said: 'I would personally like to thank Peter for his contribution to Argyle as there is little doubt that, without his presence here during the period of administration, it is highly likely that this football club would no longer exist.'

Ridsdale formed Plymouth Argyle Football Club (125) Limited in July 2011, this company was intended to own the football side of Home Park for £1 following the proposed takeover by Heaney and BIL.   This company still exists but Ridsdale has now had his directorship terminated.