Boyle puts Motherwell up for sale
The Times, Phil Gordon
25 April 2002
THE first victim of the new era of austerity sweeping through the Bank of Scotland Scottish Premier League was unveiled yesterday when Motherwell laid bare their insolvency
John Boyle, the chairman and majority shareholder, is walking away from Fir Park, which has swallowed up £9 million of his own money, and the club will now be put into the hands of administrators
The turmoil at Motherwell also engulfed Eric Black, the manager, and Pat Nevin, the director of football, who both resigned yesterday before Boyle called a press conference to announce the club's financial plight. Terry Butcher, the assistant, will take over Black's duties but the former England captain must feel like the captain of the Titanic
Nevin revealed that he has resigned in protest at Boyle's action, which could see players having their contracts torn up should the administrator decide. "I could not make that fit with my philosophy on how to treat people," Nevin said. "I have made promises to players here." The club's financial affairs will be frozen while it is run by an administrator and a buyer sought. There will also be redundancies, Boyle confirmed, among the playing staff
Motherwell's demise comes just weeks after the withdrawal of Sky Television as the league's main backer, and the collapse of plans for SPL TV, an in-house per-per-view channel, which Celtic and Rangers withdrew their support from two weeks ago
"I have personally invested £9 million into the club over the last few years and I am minded to write off most of the debt, which should be of some help to the club," Boyle said yesterday. "It will mean that it will be virtually debt free, something unique among SPL clubs.
Boyle, who has been at Motherwell for four seasons, blamed the collapse of television deals for prompting his decision to cut his losses. The millionaire businessman described his "despair" at the club's perilous financial situation, prompted by a spiralling wage bill which accounted for 97 per cent of Motherwell's turnover two seasons ago.
Boyle sanctioned signings of players such as Andy Goram, the former Scotland goalkeeper, and John Spencer from Everton, and while the club finished fourth in the SPL in 1999-2000 under then manager Billy Davies, the result off the pitch was a near-Pounds 4 million loss
Ashen-faced players left Fir Park yesterday before the club issued a statement which said: "The board of directors at Motherwell has decided to put the club up for sale. The directors also agreed to seek a court order placing the club in interim administration.
"This means an administrator will be appointed by the Court of Session in Edinburgh to run the club while a buyer is sought. It does not mean the end of Motherwell Football Club and the club is not in liquidation." The future, though, is grim, despite Motherwell insisting that there is no threat to the team continuing to play in the SPL and it will fulfil its last two remaining fixtures this season.
"A financial restructuring of the club will take place," the statement added. "Sadly, this will include redundancies in both the playing and non-playing staff, although it is too early to say how many jobs will be affected." The first two, Black and Nevin, chose to leave.
Black was appointed just six months ago as successor to Davies but could see no possibility of his plans coming to fruition under Fir Park's economic meltdown. The former Scotland and Aberdeen striker could move to the Nationwide League, where he has been linked to Coventry City as an assistant to Gary McAllister.
Nevin's involvement was more personal. A close friend of Boyle, it was he who persuaded the man who made his fortune in the travel industry to dabble in the more fickle world of football and now both have fallen out.
Sadly, Motherwell stubbornly refused to take off, despite Boyle's injection of cash to overhaul the squad. Cut-price ticket policies at Fir Park also failed to stimulate long-term interest by attracting new fans, and with the core remaining at 5,000 -which it has done for over a decade -there was precious little chance of merchandising or commercial revenue being hiked up.
That left Motherwell at the mercy of television revenue. The SPL's decision last season to turn down Sky's offer of Pounds 45 million over four years has rebounded now, with no alternative in sight. Boyle, reluctantly, has decided to bite the bullet and sell Motherwell.
Boyle said yesterday: "We have tried everything in our power to turn the club around, but it cannot continue to trade insolvently. Since I took over four years ago, everyone has been fully committed to Motherwell but we have watched with despair as the financial situation deteriorated.
"Dwindling gates, lack of sponsorship, reduced corporate support and continuing uncertainty over television income mean that the club, on its present cost base, is not financially viable.
"The issue of television rights has been particularly difficult for us. The failure to agree a deal with Sky and the collapse of plans for SPL TV were extremely bad financial news for us. There has been interest from potential buyers and hopefully there will be further interest in view of what has happened today."
Boyle said he believes Motherwell have a future, but as a "streamlined model, under a new structure and a complete restructuring of the cost-base, to meet the much reduced income, will have to be carried out."
Boyle is forced to sell Motherwell; Collapsing economy persuades chairman to cut losses at £11m
The Herald, Ian Paul
25 April 2002
SCOTTISH football was in turmoil yesterday, fearing a domino effect after Motherwell became the first Premier League club to fall victim to the collapsing economy of the game when they were put up for sale.
In taking this extraordinary step, the club chairman and chief shareholder, John Boyle, admitted defeat, acknowledging that the (pounds) 11m he has poured into the Fir Park vaults during his four- year tenure has been unable to stem the tide of inflation that has overwhelmed football in this country and increasingly more so abroad. It will mean major redundancies on and off the field and, quite possibly, a return to part-time football.
Even though his aide de camp, the club's director of football, Pat Nevin, resigned after opposing the board's decision to take this radical route in the hope of saving the club, Boyle insisted that he felt there was no alternative way forward.
He has waived his right to repayment by the club of his investment and effectively wiped out the club's debt, leaving the way clear, he hopes, for a local bid to take over and keep Motherwell FC as the centre of community sport.
Eric Black, the manager, also decided to quit in light of the impossibility of carrying on the game plan he had put before the players. Terry Butcher, his assistant, will take over as manager. Black is now expected to be appointed by Coventry as the No.2 to their new manager, Gary McAllister. He and Nevin, as well as the board, meantime, will carry on working with the administrator, who will be appointed today, while buyers are sought. How much they will have to stump up remains open to debate, but a six-figure offer should do the trick.
Even though Boyle argued that he and his board are confident that investors will come forward, Nevin reluctantly admitted that he had been doing a little sounding-out of companies in recent weeks and could not offer any encouragement in that direction.
Nevin believes that an alternative strategy, sticking with the current cut-back philosophy, with some further financial back-up by Boyle, would have got the club through the next two years to the time when every club in the league would have had to accept a new, cheaper product.
Boyle made it clear that he and his fellow directors had been persuaded by a number of factors that something radical had to be done, the last of which, the collapse of the SPL TV plan, had tipped the scales. Thus, he had an indirect swipe at the Old Firm, who, of course, scuppered the proposed self-owned TV project.
"First, there was dwindling attendances because of even less competitiveness," he said. "Then there was the loss of our sponsors, Motorola, who themselves had to carry out considerable redundancies; there was also reduced corporate support and, finally, the uncertainty of TV income.
"The failure to agree a deal with Sky TV and the collapse of the plan for SPL TV, in which I was heavily involved and we wholeheartedly supported, were bitterly disappointing and extremely bad news for us financially. I would add that Motherwell is still very much in support of the 10 in the SPL."
He remained optimistic that, with a new low basic cost, the club could survive and continue. "There has been interest from prospective buyers previously and, hopefully, there will be further interest. This is a very sad day for us but I do believe there is a future for a streamlined Motherwell but that must be under new leadership, and a complete restructuring of the cost base of the club to meet the much reduced income will have to be carried out."
Nevin, standing on the steps in front of the main door at Fir Park, said that he had spent most of the morning telling the staff, players, and office colleagues, the situation. "My feelings are with the people in there," he said, pointing inside the glass doors. "There are men and women in there with families and mortgages and it is them that I feel devastated for."
He insisted that he had no choice but to step down. "I intimated at a meeting yesterday, if we went ahead with this plan of action, I wouldn't be able to stay."
He readily conceded that he has believed for some time that the cull of players in the game generally was going to be horrendous. "Our budget for players last year was (pounds) 2.9m. This year we are down to (pounds) 1.4m and Eric Black, who was brought in to keep us in the SPL, did it with an incredibly small budget; in fact he did not spend his whole budget. Among the many sad things, Eric, who will be a spectacularly good manager, is going just when the base of the club, with George Adams and the youth policy, is so promising.
"My view was that, over the next two years - in fact we are a year into it - we could decrease the costs, but you cannot argue about the huge amount of money John Boyle has put into this club. I felt that it might cost (pounds) 2-3m more of John's money to give it a soft landing. I certainly told the board that should be done, even though I knew it was asking a lot of the man. They obviously disagreed and that is why I resigned. I have to say that you can't really argue with their case as a pure financial argument but, well, this is football.
"John has his financial advisors and they reckoned this is the way to go, as did each member of the board. I was the only one arguing differently. It was a difficult call, asking the man to put in a few more million pounds, but I felt the way the game is going - and it is easy to see that the figures it is costing to get players on board are going down all the time - it is going to be a much cheaper business to run in the next two years."
BOYLE: THIS CLUB WILL BE A GOOD BUY; SOCCER IN CRISIS: Fir Park owner declares Motherwell is no financial disaster
Evening Times, Matthew Lindsay
25 April 2002
MOTHERWELL chairman John Boyle today insisted that any parties interested in buying the club aren't walking into a financial disaster zone.
Despite putting the club into the hands of administrators, the Fir Park owner believes that the Lanarkshire club could still enjoy a bright future under new management.
After shelling out (pounds) 11million to keep the club ticking over during his four years at the helm, much of it in his first two seasons when he made a daring bid to install them as the third force in Scottish football, Boylewants out.
But he is willing to wipe the slate clean for whoever wants to take over. He said: "The fundamental reason we should be optimistic is that I will personally write off virtually all of the club debt.
"The club has no bank debt, which is fairly unique in Scottish football.
"The ability to inherit a club with virtually no debt on a much- reduced cost base, which reflects the anticipated income, means that this could be for a Lanarkshire buyer.
"That is the very essence of what we have tried to achieve - to make it attractive to someone and they will have a very different animal than it is now."
But Boyle insists their current move was the only option in the face of mounting financial problems at the club.
"The situation we have here is on a much higher financial plane than what will be required to keep the club moving forward in Scottish football," said Boyle.
"It is going to be very painful and very difficult, but it is the only possible way forward.
"It will be a slim-line Mother-well and that may have a chance of surviving in the current climate of Scottish football.
"The moment directors are unequivocally aware that there is no reasonable prospect of the club making anything other than a significant loss, you have a legal and moral obligation to call a halt.
"I was always prepared to support the club and invest if there was any possibility of us turning the corner and becoming self- sustaining.
"A football club is not just a business - it is a part of the community and it is unhealthy for a club to be over-dependent on one person in the long-term.
"I saw myself as the catalyst to invest in Motherwell and re- ignite it, but when a series of extraneous factors comes together you have an obligation to re-organise."
However, Boyle could not disguise his emotions as he informed the world of redundancies at his club.
The Fir Park supremo conceded the decision to place the club in the hands of administrators was "painful but urgent" as he attempts to turn around the financial fortunes at Well.
Manager Eric Black and chief executive Pat Nevin both stepped down from their positions as a result of the decision as former Rangers and England defender Terry Butcher took over as manager.
But the pain of the decision was etched across the face of the chairman, who was close to tears as he revealed the extent of the cost-cutting which is now required to save the 116-year-old club from extinction.
"This is my hometown club and I have given it my very best shot over the last four years," said Boyle.
"Nothing would have given me greater satisfaction than to see the club doing well.
"I must express the board's deep and sincere gratitude to the staff, the players and the supporters.
"This is a club with a proud history and we will do everything in our power to ensure its future in a new form is secure.
"I have invested (pounds) 11m in this club over the last four years and I was pleased to do so.
"But the financial situation of Scottish football in general has converged to make it clear that, on its present cost base, there is no realistic possibility of the club breaking even in the foreseeable future.
"When that stark reality is taken into account, one has no option but to look at the whole structure of the club."
Now Boyle's wish is that the people of Lanarkshire at long last come out to support the club by coming through the turnstiles.
Despite various attempt to tempt fans and families to come along on matchdays, attendance figures failed to pick up over a consistent period of time.
But perhaps what has happened over the last 24 hours might give fans a wake-up call and ensure more season tickets are snapped up.
Motherwell on the brink
The Scotsman, Stephen Halliday
25 April 2002
SCOTTISH football's spiralling financial problems claimed their highest-profile victim yesterday when Motherwell were put into administration.
On a dramatic and emotional day at Fir Park, club chairman John Boyle announced the decision to put the club up for sale.
Pat Nevin and Eric Black, who both opposed the radical financial restructuring which will make many of Motherwell's 80 staff redundant, resigned their positions as director of football and manager respectively.
Nevin and Black will remain at the club to assist the administrator, who will be appointed by the Court of Session in Edinburgh today, until the end of the season. Terry Butcher, Black's assistant, has agreed to succeed him as manager.
For Boyle, who took control at Fir Park amid a blaze of publicity and barrage of ambitious plans for his hometown club four years ago, it was clearly a distressing day and he was close to tears on several occasions as he signalled the end of his tenure. This was his first task after returning from a 600-mile charity cycle ride in Vietnam, and the contrast could hardly have been more stark.
"I do this with the saddest of hearts and it is a very painful decision," said Boyle. "We have been watching with increasing alarm the deteriorating financial position of the club. Assuming there is no further decline in income, Motherwell would lose between GBP 1.8 million and GBP 2.1 million next year.
"We would have been trading insolvently and that is obviously untenable. This painful decision has been taken because it has become clear that Motherwell, as presently set up, will continue to make heavy losses for the foreseeable future.
"The financial situation of Scottish football in general, as well as Motherwell's situation in particular, have converged to make it clear that on its present cost base, there is no realistic possibility of the club breaking even in the forseeable future.
"We had no option but to call a pause, bring in the administrator and see if the club is viable on a reduced cost base. I believe it is possible, although it will be very difficult and painful. It will be a slimline Motherwell and that may have a chance of surviving in the current climate."
According to Boyle, he has invested GBP 11 million of his own money in the club since assuming control at Fir Park. As Motherwell's sole creditor, he said he was "minded to write off most of my debt", making the club far more attractive to potential buyers.
Falling attendances, the loss of long-term sponsor Motorola, a slump in corporate support and the failure of the SPL to secure a new TV deal combined to take Motherwell to the brink of financial ruin and force Boyle's decision to sell.
"I can only speak for Motherwell, but I think football throughout the UK is undergoing a deep financial malaise for a number of reasons," he added.
"The TV issue is a significant, but not an exclusive factor in the decision we have made. When it became clear the club would have no guarantee of TV income, the directors had no option.
"I have spoken to the staff, which was very painful, and the hard fact is there will be redundancies. There is no way round that. By taking this decisive action, we will at least preserve a significant number of jobs. The decision is utterly urgent and necessary if anyone is going to survive.
"I have been weathering a short-term problem out of my own pocket for the last two years in the hope that a corner could be turned and income could be increased. But it has become patently obvious this is not a short-term problem."
Boyle admitted he has made mistakes during his four years in charge, a period which started out with grand visions of Motherwell become Scottish football's 'third force'.
"You make hundreds of decisions over four years," he said, "and clearly I made some mistakes across a range of matters. I don't want to particularly highlight anything. This is my hometown club and I have given it my very best shot."
It has been a bad month for Boyle. A fortnight ago, it emerged that the collapse of Servsoft, a Bellshill-based software house, would cost Boyle's Hamilton Portfolio investment firm an estimated GBP 300,000.
Nevin, a long-time friend of Boyle, tried to persuade him to continue investing in Motherwell as he was convinced the club would eventually emerge in a healthier financial condition.
"I told the board yesterday that if they went ahead with this plan of action, I would have to leave immediately," said Nevin.
"I was the only one arguing against it. It's drastic and I don't agree with it at all.
"I know it was asking a lot from the guy, and he has really put a huge amount into the club, but I felt we could have a softer landing if John had put a few more million into it over the next couple of years. I realise that purely financially, you can't argue with the decision, but I feel it is wrong," added Nevin, who had reportedly headed a consortium which failed in a bid to buy out Boyle.
Black, grim-faced throughout yesterday's press conference, declined interview requests and simply read out a brief, prepared statement.
He said: "In view of the board's decision today, I feel I have no alternative but to resign as manager. I understand the club is going through a difficult financial period and certain measures have to be taken in relation to this.
"The effect of these measures would therefore render it impossible for me to fulfil the obligations and commitments which I have made to the players, staff and supporters at Motherwell."
Football in crisis: Motherwell have not passed on - the club have been put on a life-support machine ; BOB SHIELDS arrived at Fir Park expecting a wake but found the patient was fighting for survival
Daily Record, Bob Shields
25 April 2002
A VAN from Anderson Flowers, of Windmillhill Street, Motherwell, sat outside the main entrance.
Along Fir Park Street, the huddle of sports writers could have been mistaken for mourners waiting for a coffin to arrive.
The sky was as grey as the faces of the few fans loitering with inquisitive intent. It was the kind of day you would expect for a funeral.
There was even a sombre silence as we trooped up to the Davie Cooper Suite for a short service of remembrance. "It's grim news," one journo whispered to a colleague.
Tom Cassidy, of Motherwell FC's public relations firm, Media House, ushered us in like a funeral director. Finally, chairman John Boyle strode in nervously to read the valediction.
But it's not a funeral after all. Motherwell isn't dead. It's on a financial life-support machine. And relatives have been informed.
The club is expected to make a slight recovery after fiscal surgery. But it will never be the same again.
It was the day Scottish football's know-alls had predicted for years. Even the know-bugger-alls could see it looming. But finally, someone had to stand up and spell out the harsh realities of our national game's parlous state.
The game's a bogey. The baw is on the slates. It's tea is oot.
That the first head over the parapet should belong to Boyle is a surprise to those know don't really know him.
He's quiet, shy and even slightly awkward among strangers. If, unknown, he struck up conversation in a bar, I'd wonder what his game was. Football wouldn't be top of my list.
You can imagine him losing his hankie more often than his temper.
Yet he is a boardroom lion. He's made, lost, then made again bigger fortunes than even lottery winners dream about.
He's a happily married father of four.
And he's also the man who has blown the whistle that the SPL is a modern day Emperor's New Clothes.
Honest ... there's nothing there.
His rise to wealth was as quiet as it was spectacular. He started and built holiday companies Falcon Leisure and Owners Abroad in quick succession.
But even that track record couldn't convince nine banks to back his dream - a cut-out-the-middleman holiday company. He called it Direct Holidays.
The Royal Bank of Scotland finally risked pounds 1million and got back pounds 16million when Boyle sold out to Airtours for pounds 88million three years later.
He decided no one should have to wander around with a begging bowl. He's now a venture capitalist, studying risks and deciding whether to back them.
His decision to back his home town side may have been made more with the heart than the head. The club was his father's favourite and John was asked if he would help out when a local butcher put it on the market.
At yesterday's press conference, his voice wavered twice.
Perhaps his thoughts turned to his father when he mentioned taking over the club four years ago. And he fought back tears when he spoke of telling the staff that jobs may have to go.
Boyle tried all his travel trade tricks to market Well. Family packages, two for one deals - even free transport to woo fans from other parts of Lanarkshire.
He knew his club would never stand shoulder to shoulder with the Old Firm. But he didn't see why it couldn't look them straight in the navel.
Well paid big wages, hired big names and the players drove big cars. But Boyle never got the big crowds he needed, although he tried everything.
A Highland youngster once wrote to every SPL chairman asking why he should support their club.
Some never replied. Jim McLean wrote back saying Dundee United weren't worth supporting.
Boyle sent a personal letter, autographs, a jersey and invited the lad's family to join him in the directors' box.
His millions could have bought him anything ... but not a crystal ball.
When team sponsors Motorola pulled out - they could hardly back a team after sacking 1800 workers - the writing was on the wall.
The loss of TV money from Sky and the failure of SPL TV convinced Boyle his dream was over.
While Rangers and Celtic squabbled with the majority, Boyle was in Vietnam on a sponsored cycle ride to Saigon. It was his 50th birthday and he was raising cash for an orphanage he founded in Romania.
Some would say the pounds 11million he lost at Motherwell might have been better spent there. But that's not the point. Motherwell was a challenge.
One of Boyle's favourite stories is the day he was ousted as a chief executive in a boardroom coup by a holiday firm.
His mother told him: "Well, that's life son. One minute you're a peacock - the next you're a feather duster".
Boyle will wake up this morning feeling like a duster.
But don't bet against him strutting his stuff soon.
Motherwell launch rescue campaign
The Herald, Darryl Broadfoot
27 April 2002
MOTHERWELL yesterday launched a campaign to rescue their ailing club from the threat of extinction. Well Worth Saving, as it will be known, is a variation of an old theme: namely trying to persuade more punters through the turnstiles.
Quite what former owner and chairman John Boyle made of it all yesterday remains a mystery but those now charged with the task of preserving the Lanarkshire club's future will encounter the same difficulties which prompted the travel tycoon to cut his considerable losses after four fruitless years spent trying to overcome the local Old Firm obsession.
With a four-pronged attack - comprising the club's hitherto anonymous secretary, Alistair Barron, fans' representative Keith Brown, Terry Butcher, and the man who will ultimately decide the club's fate, interim administrator Bryan Jackson - Motherwell set about selling their club not just to prospective buyers but the community who have, until now, been largely ignorant to their cause.
While confirming that there have been five expressions of interest to the administrators, plus communication from Holland revealed in The Herald yesterday, Barren also revealed that "10 clubs" have shown their support in their hour of need.
There was no need to name the Old Firm, to whom a portion of blame for their current predicament was blamed after their vetoing of SPL TV.
Kilmarnock have offered cut- price tickets for today's game at Rugby Park while Dundee have played middle-men to set up a Fir Park friendly against Serie A's surprise package, Chievo of Verona, on May 9.
Barren chose to speak of the club as a sick relative in need of help and support from its "family" and was confident there will be a significant depth of feeling to see the club pull through after being placed on life support.
The operation has begun in earnest, with Jackson admitting that a painfully thin squad will require further pruning. While Tuesday has been suggested as the day of reckoning for those who will have to leave, Jackson has allowed the players to prepare for today's game before instigating the squad cost-cutting exercise.
Reports of 60 redundancies out of the 80 people employed by the club were dismissed as "untrue" and there was also a refusal to confirm or deny contact from the former Celtic general manager, Jock Brown, who is understood to be heading a consortium bidding to take the club over.
"Playing and non-playing redundancies will be necessary, but they will be kept to an absolute minimum," he said.
Barron, for his part, flashed the Well Worth Saving banner at every photo opportunity and declared that "it may be time to take the club back to the supporters". Roughly translated, he suggested that it may be a prerequisite for any bid to promise a supporters' representative on the board.
"We need the fans to return. We are a provincial club with talented young players coming through and if we can convince the support to return, then they will become used to the triumph and tragedy," he said.
On the subject of potential buyers, Barron added that Boyle has left a team unique to the SPL in that it "is not saddled by debt" but those who have hinted that they may be willing to meet the modest asking price will doubtless carry out a risk assessment before entering into the fickle business of football.
Well Worth Keeping? Only time will tell.
WELL WORTH SAVING ; KILMARNOCK V MOTHERWELL, TODAY 3PM Would-be saviours line up to make Boyle an offer.. with Dutch trio at top of queue
The Daily Mirror, Iain Campbell
27 April 2002
CRISIS club Motherwell may look across the North Sea once again as they battle for survival.
The Fir Park outfit's fortunes improved when they imported Dutch players like Luc Nijholt, Mitchell van der Gaag and Sieb Dykstra in the 1980s and 90s.
Then they also brought in Harri Kampmann as manager, along with countryman Simo Valakari, from Finland.
Now, along with interest from five local businessmen, the club has identified three new possible saviours from HollandForeign ownership may not be the preferred option of outgoing chairman John Boyle, but as the club mounted a "Well Worth Saving" campaign yesterday, no potential help was being turned away.
As offers of support came in from the SPL Gang of Ten, Italian club Chievo and various fans groups, there was clear evidence that the club is not going to slip quietly into oblivion.
Motherwell director Alisdair Barron said: "Three Dutch guys are saying: "We're interested". There's no doubt that we're getting a reaction from people.
"The moves from Holland involve consortiums of people and are three separate approaches."
With millionaire Boyle settling most of the club's debt, whoever buys into the Lanarkshire club will get an outfit in a strong position to go forward.
But the fans, whose absence from games has helped provoke the sale, will have a major part to play if long-term survival is to be achieved.
Around 30,000 fans supported Motherwell when they lifted the Scottish Cup in the most dramatic final ever seen at Hampden in 1991, and it is those fair weather fans who have to be brought back into the fold.
Motherwell fans and directors alike know that too many people leave the town to follow the Old Firm every week.
But Barron believes the club can still eventually win the numbers game. He said: "We're a family club and still see that as the way forward. Sometimes you don't go and see a well-loved member of the family enough, but when that person needs help you're there."
"There are 650,000 in greater Lanarkshire and while a lot of those will support the Old Firm there are still more than 250,000 who could turn in the direction of Fir Park."
Fans chief Keith Brown has been press ganged into service so quickly that he doesn't even have an official title.
But he believes the missing fans can be brought back, saying: "In times of adversity people come to the fore. But other clubs who have been in trouble found that when they appealed to the fans they got a couple of bumper crowds then it fell away. We want to keep the momentum going."
Suggestions that ex-chief executive Pat Nevin and former Celtic general manager Jock Brown are ready to buy the club have not materialised into concrete offers as yet.
But caretaker boss Terry Butcher says he would relish the opportunity to work with Nevin again, saying: "We have a big season coming up and I'd would welcome Pat back here."
As it happened FirParkCorner 2002