Another day, another administration. Football's fabric and a community ripped and torn by financial mismanagement. Again. This time it's the proud Dark Blue's of Dundee. Craig Anderson reports.
Having been suspended by his own company and with worries over personal finance, the last thing Aberdeen businessman Calum Melville needs are any other problems.
The 40-year-old millionaire was considered THE hope that could have saved Dundee FC from administration after acting as a “sugar daddy” since becoming involved with the Tayside club in March 2009.
In the summer of 2009, the Scottish First Division outfit spent big on top First Division players with one aim – promotion to the SPL and the riches associated with Scotland’s top flight. Dundee were the second highest spenders in the country at the time, with only Celtic spending more.
Now 15 months on, the Dark Blues are still stuck in the second tier and are in administration for the second time in seven years, with the taxman looking for his slice of unpaid monies, in region of £365,000. Melville was, inevitably, the only hope of helping them out of this latest financial pickle.
Fans of the Dens Park club, no stranger to suffering at the hands of financial mismanagement, are feeling a sense of déjà vu seven years after a debt of £23 million plunged them into administration. Back then, they were a club in the SPL and had attracted players such as Claudio Caniggia and Fabrizio Ravanelli.
The money coming through the gate didn’t get anywhere near what was being paid out and it soon caught up with Dundee, with the sale of Dens Park one of the primary reasons they survived the first time round.
The Dees cut their cloth accordingly and were reported to have been debt-free following a financial restructuring in 2006. They learned to live within their means as a First Division club, by this point with hopes of climbing out and returning to the big boys’ league as soon as possible.
So when Melville became involved and six-figure transfer fees were splashed out last year, it appeared there was no-one equipped to stop Dundee’s march towards the SPL. They didn’t count on one team that would halt them though. Themselves.
The first half of the season was a rampant charge, roaring into a 15-point lead over their nearest rivals and scooping the Challenge Cup, the knockout tournament for lower league clubs, beating Inverness Caley Thistle 3-2 in the final.
But as we got into 2010, the wheels came off in spectacular style as Inverness embarked on a 23 match unbeaten run to win the title, winning 12 in their last 13, including all nine of their final games compared to Dundee’s four victories in 17.
Manager Jocky Scott was hurriedly sacked in March during the run and replaced by Queen of the South boss Gordon Chisholm as the league seemed to slip further and further away from Dundee.
But Dundee’s decline seemed to coincide with Melville’s own business problems; his company, Cosalt, who he bought with his brother Stuart, saw their share value plummet as an internal review of its business practices was instigated.
When Melville offered to resign his position as a director of the club last month, the financial problems surfaced. HMRC handed the club a hefty bill and Dundee’s existence is now on a day-to-day basis.
The club felt that Melville was obligated to put his hand in his pocket and he was believed to have done so, reportedly to the tune of £200,000, to help them negotiate a favourable deal with the Revenue, but it appears this hasn't been enough.
Melville will, no doubt, walk away from this sobering experience much lighter in the pockets, but more worldly wise on the pitfalls of financially backing a football club single-handedly. There are many risks, but very little in the way of gain.
As for Dundee themselves, the Marr brothers were at the helm leading to the first administration and surely the signs of warning were there about men with supposed deep pockets and limited income. The same scenario has been almost identically played out here.
Once again, fans, players, management and hard-working staff will withstand the worst of whatever consequences that the cold hand of administration places on the club's shoulder. As well as players, manager Gordon Chisholm and coach Billy Dodds could walk away.
Whatever happens in the long term, should the club survive, you have to hope those at boardroom level will actually learn something.
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