Deal Or No Deal?

Bees United members vote on club’s future

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Whilst there is a huge relief that Brentford FC now seems to have a more stable financial future, if Bees United (BU) members sign up to this deal, it doesn’t get the club out of a huge financial hole, just reshapes it. BU is the Supporters Trust that owns over 60% of BFC, a democratic organisation with nearly two thousand members and four nominees on the BFC Board.

Matthew Benham runs Smartodds Limited, a football gaming company, and is a Brentford supporter who has made interest free loans totalling £4.5million to the club. Matthew Benham will invest £5m in the club over 5 years, and after this time he either gets his money back or buys the controlling interest in the club. He will get his money back if BU can raise the £5m Mathew has put into the club. The chances of BU being able to raise £5m or thereabouts in the time period required is negligible. After all, if BU could raise £1 m per year it wouldn’t need Matthew Benham’s services.

Assuming therefore that BU doesn’t pay Matthew back what happens? MB can buy 75% of the club in return for converting his existing £4.5m loan into equity. Or he can do nothing, leaving the situation with him as minority shareholder and BU holding the majority of the shares but without the capital to run the club and still with a debt of £4.5m owed to Matthew on top of all the others it has to repay.

Brentford Football Club ended last year as champions of League Two after a few horrendous seasons on the pitch. Off the pitch management has seen the club sustain continued losses with much anger still felt towards the previous ownership for funding the club on debt, a strategy that BU has sustained.

Whilst there is no clear alternative to Matthew Benham’s proposal, other than Administration and a quick sink straight down to the Blue Square Conference, members of Bees United need to be very clear about what exactly they are signing up to and what the long term future of the club really is. Matthew’s new money means that BU is giving up the independence that it cherishes. This situation is further compounded by BU’s much heralded solution to the club’s financial woes, the new stadium at Lionel Road, slipping further and further into the future. Members must be starting to question how on earth Bees United, after its triumphant inception have ended up at this point.



July 31, 2009