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Sunday, 24 October 2010

117 Not Out - Just.

Dundee Football Club Collapse
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Grievances of Players
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Proposed Amateur Combination
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Considerable talk was occasioned in Dundee yesterday by the decision come to by the Executive of the Dundee Football Club to wind up its affairs. The football public have during the season been keenly alive to the non-success of the club, but it was hardly expected the Directors would not continue the club till the end of the season. Not only were the devotees of football in the city taken aback by the information, but several of the players, more especially Leckie, Davidson and Lyon, who were recent importations to the club, have been practically thrown on their own resources by the hurried intimation they received of the result of the meeting, notice to attend which they only received that day.

In 1898, Dundee FC found itself on the verge of financial meltdown and much of what was reported at the time sounds eerily familiar. The above article from the Courier on Saturday 10th December 1898 goes on to say the named players stated that for the remainder of the season they would have difficulty in finding new employment and would happily leave the city should they receive the £3 to £4 they are each owed. These players seem to be the exception, however, as Keillor and the others all had employment and were only paid 5s per week “retainer” by the club. Keillor himself was asked to join Rangers. The article finishes by saying there is a keen interest in establishing an amateur team in the city – “a team such as existed at one time in Dundee, vix., Our Boys...no doubt the lovers of the game in Dundee, as well as some of the best amateur players, would at once come forward and help to keep alive what was at one time the principal game in the city”.


A few days later on the 13th the paper reported on a meeting of the SFL:

The Collapse of the Dundee
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The League’s Sympathy

A special meeting of the Scottish Football League was held last night in Glasgow to consider the position of Dundee. Mr J. H. McLaughlan presided, and there was a full attendance. For some unaccountable reason the Dundee Club failed to send a representative. The opinion of the representatives was that Dundee was too valuable a centre for football to allow its club to fall out. The club representatives present all promised full assistance, especially those involved in Dundee’s debt. It was ultimately agreed to wire the League’s sympathy with the Dundee Directors, and to ask them to send representatives to an adjourned meeting in Glasgow on Wednesday evening first. Meantime Dundee was instructed not to part with its players.
Yesterday two of the Dundee Club players secured situations, both Leckie and McDonald having agreed to transfer their services to Derby County. The suggestion to hold a meeting next week of all those interested in the game in Dundee has been well received, several prominent football enthusiasts doing all they can to have a representative gathering.

The following day’s edition reported that the Dundee directors met and decided to send a deputation to Glasgow to see what assistance would be obtained. Thursday’s paper reported that two directors and “two local gentlemen, who have come forward with an offer of assistance to the Dundee Club” met with the Scottish League in private. Offer of help to the end of the season was arranged- “It is understood the League clubs will liberally aid the Dundee”. Dundee were due to play at Ibrox that Saturday and Rangers offered to pay the expenses and wages of the Dundee men if they fulfilled the fixture. However, the directors themselves stated that sending a retinue of players to Ibrox was out of the question given the Directors’ decision to wind up the club. Furthermore the Directors stated they had not been approached with a view to send a squad to Glasgow and permission to use the name of the Dundee Club. They add that they are fighting to keep the club alive by handing the whole concern over to interested parties for a “certain sum of money”. A meeting with interested parties was to be held that day.

The “Dundee Football Fiasco” moved the former captain of Dundee Strathmore FC, who was then living in Edinburgh, to write a letter to the editor of what he called the “valuable and enterprising Courier”. “Many thousands like myself are vexed at the present crisis of the Dundee, and sympathy, I am sure, is next to world-wide. As one of the first Association players in Juteopolis, I only wish the public should see and realise the present predicament, and if not remedied first-class football will be conspicuous by its absence in Bonnie Dundee.”

Back to the Rangers game and the Courier on Sat 17th December indicated there was no movement on finding a buyer for the club or the formation of a new team. A shareholder meeting was to be held to determine whether to go into liquidation. There were many in the city prepared to travel to Ibrox as part of a new team made up of mainly amateurs. The Courier itself queries if this is in breach of League rules as the current Directors would have to give permission for players to take the field. As it was though “there was good reason for doubting the fixture being fulfilled.”

An ominous headline followed on 19th December- “Company to be Wound Up”. The Chairman is quoted at the shareholders meeting- “That it has been proved to the satisfaction of the meeting that the Company cannot, by reason of its liabilities, continue its business, and that it is advisable to wind up the same, and accordingly that the Company be wound up voluntarily, and that John Mess, chartered accountant, Dundee, be, and he is hereby, appointed liquidator for the purposes of such winding up”.

The Chairman was seconded by Mr Wm. Ruxton. “He remarked that their action might be the means of keeping the League in Dundee. If the Directors of the Company had not had to take over the old debts about two years ago- which he understood were contracted in 1895- the position that day would have been different (Applause). It was hard lines that the present Directors had been saddled with such an incubus.”

The Courier article continues by giving a resolution to the Ibrox affair by saying- “the team’s appearance at Ibrox on Saturday was gratifying not only to footballers in the North, but also to the enthusiasts in the West.” We also learn of the “curious situation” that the players ran a risk of playing at Ibrox as they weren’t registered seeing as DFC were liquidated and they were now representing the “new club”. However, the Scottish League and Scottish Football Association kindly decided to look upon the new club as the same entity as the previous one “simply under different management”. This was dependant on the actions of the liquidator however- “Should he decide that the club must cease to exist, then naturally all connection with the Association is at an end…If he thinks the club should be reconstructed, and if gentlemen are found willing to do so…then matters are all right. Meantime the situation is very curious, and should afford plenty of talk for the meeting which is to be held in the Gilfillan Hall tomorrow night of those who wish to assist in the reorganisation of the club.” Curious indeed.

The steps to get the “new club” organised were reported on the 22nd and the Harbour Board were approached with a view to securing Carolina Port until after the end of the season. “so far as can be learned the gentlemen approached have expressed themselves in thorough sympathy with the movement to keep alive football.” The rest of that season’s fixtures were also guaranteed. Perhaps most interestingly, Leckie and McDonald, who left for Derby County were reported as being interested in a return as the Committee sought to assemble a strong a team as possible.

Dundee fans were given a Christmas present in the form of the headline from the Courier on Boxing Day 1898- it simply said “Dundee Reviving”. It is a far departure from the horror headlines of the previous days and the article itself described how Dundee went about a hard fought draw and a much needed point. Here’s hoping that Dundee fans of 112 years later can wake up one December Day to a similarly headlined sports article in the local paper.

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Another Fine Mess

Melville (left) and Brannan (right) with presumably a more viable alternative for director than either of themselves

At the time of writing my club stands on the edge of oblivion due to more boardroom ineptitude and egomania. My club-formed when Queen Victoria was on the throne when two clubs, Our Boys and East End- themselves formed 133 years ago, merged to ensure the city was represented in the new national league set up. My club-which has spent almost a century playing top flight football (over twice as long as Dundee United have been playing in the colours of a small citrus fruit) and is one of only 11 teams to win the top league. A team that despite what must be the most unfortunate cup draw in European Cup history (Champions of Germany, Portugal, Belgium and Italy respectively) managed to come within 180 minutes of being the first Northern European side to win the trophy and in doing so setting up a World Club Cup tie with Pele's Santos. A team that has played in the second highest attended match in European club football history- Barca v Madrid, Inter v Milan or Rangers v Celtic haven't seen a crowd as seen in the 1952 Scottish Cup Final. A team that has supplied players to the national team in 3 different centuries. A club that has survived liquidation in 1898; two World Wars; administration and Alan Kernaghan. A club that despite the last 35 years being the leanest, success starved periods in the club's history and in the face of the rise of our bitter rivals, has still managed to reach the odd cup final and hang on to a loyal fan base. That dark 35 year period has seen one stable, consistent factor however- the amazing ability of each subsequent board of directors to eclipse the incompetence and buffoonery of the previous incumbents.

Bob "lifelong fan" Brannan and Calum "Dundee are my second team" Melville seem to have brought the club to the brink by cheesing off the taxman by not paying a bill that amounts to roughly the same as the transfer fees paid for Harkins and Griffiths or, reputedly, the package given to the current management team. Quite how we've got here is no mystery-the benefactor business model- we are rather reliably told- is not the way to go. However, the nuances of the reason behind the change of heart are not yet known. What is known is that Brannan and Melville are less likely to be seen together than Clark Kent and Superman. What is also known is that despite very public boosts of his wealth and suggestions of half a million pound bids for United's Scott Robertson, Melville is unwilling, or more unlikely, unable to pay off the taxman in full, as they demand and perhaps more significantly unwilling to continue to meet the losses that are in part his own doing. What is also known that the magic 26% "veto" shareholding held by the group formally known as Dee4life means absolutely sweet F.A. when it comes to ensuring transparency and sustainability. What is also, sadly, known is that administration this time around will mean, at best, the end of any promotion bid, this, and many seasons to come or, at worst, the sad, feeble end to a once great club. There are some passionate Dundee fans in positions of authority at Dens Park working their asses off to get the club out of a mess not of their own making- here's hoping that they succeed for the sake of the passionate but tired, weary fans who continue to turn out in larger numbers than some of their SPL counterparts.