GLF 44: Black Wednesday

Derek Wilson looks back on the events of 24 April 2002

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Black Wednesday

Wednesday 24th April 2002 is a day Motherwell fans will never forget.Thankfully, as the day went on, it became progressively better.Which was a good job, because had it gone the other way, we probably wouldn’t have a club to support right now.

The Sun, calm and rational as ever, screamed ‘Well Bust’ on their back page and fans all over the country struggled not to choke on their cornflakes.The details were thin on the ground but the jist of the report was that the club was going into liquidation.There have been enough financial disasters in Scottish football recently to educate fans in monetary terms.While not knowing the exact details, it’s safe to assume that most fans knew that Motherwell being liquidised was a very bad thing.

Of course, once you began to think rationally, the worry immediately began to subside.To go into liquidation, it would take one of our creditors to demand a repayment that wasn’t coming.Our only creditor of note was John Boyle - surely he wouldn’t pull the plug?

Details slowly began to emerge during the day.Being a student, I was lucky enough to listen to Radio Scotland for hours whilst simultaneously reloading every relevant web page I can find.I have the utmost sympathy for those of you in the real world who could only get fleeting updates at tea breaks or lunch time.There was a press conference called for 1pm and it was already known that Eric Black and Pat Nevin would be leaving the club.What was also known though, was that this was the least of our worries.The Sun, even if it wasn’t correct, certainly wasn’t a million miles away from the truth.Having spoken to several fans since the event, the overwhelming feeling was one of shock and numbness.Every so often, genuinely important things happen in your life to remind you that football is just a game, no more.That morning confirmed that while not being more important than life and death, football was certainly more than just a game and the prospect of no Motherwell was horrific.

However, 1pm duly arrived and shortly after that, details were confirmed.We weren’t in liquidation - thank god - but we were voluntarily entering ‘interim administration’.Boyle was selling up and the management team of Black and Nevin felt it was in the best interests of the club to resign.After a brief panic about what interim administration was, a sense of relief set in.We would survive, but what form would we take?

After thinking rationally (makes a change, I know…) for a while, I came to the conclusion that this is can only be a good thing for us long term.It will hurt right now, but it’s something that needs to be done.We must live within our means - there’s no point in going bust just to try and stay in the top flight.Motherwell in the First Division is an infinitely better prospect than Motherwell not existing at all.The administrator can cut our costs and slash our massive wage bill.John Boyle announced that he would write off virtually all of his investment, so the new regime would take over a debt free club.Even better, there would be some sort of supporters trust or community based scheme who would work alongside the new owners.What had started off as a disastrous day was beginning to turn into a new dawn for the club.It was obvious that while we were in a bad situation, other clubs were also operating beyond their means.If we had to take drastic action, surely others won’t be far behind.

At the time of writing, I have no idea who the new owner(s) will be but it is clear that it will not be a multi million pound sugar daddy.That is no bad thing - to ensure Motherwell FC exists for a long time to come we must be self-sufficient.We have a while to get our house in order before the start of next season and by then we should have came out of the storm.

Derek Wilson

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