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Last Updated: Wednesday, 26 January, 2005, 01:18 GMT
Swindon Town: One fine mess
By Chris Kelly
BBC News, Bristol

Swindon's County Ground
Swindon blame part of the problem on their old stadium
For a club that once won the league cup, beating Arsenal, you would think Swindon would not be short of a few bob.

But that could not be further from the truth.

This week, Customs & Excise served the club with notice of a Winding Up Order. They have until 2 February to pay the 600,000 they owe.

Major shareholder Sir Seton Wills says he will bail out - again - the club which is thought to be losing somewhere in the region of 1m per year.

Club director Bob Holt said the club was not making ends meet with its footballing activities.

"The club constantly needs to be underwritten by our major shareholder, the Wills family, and by our property partner St Modwen."

Mr Holt said the consequences of the deal going wrong would be dire.

Swindon's cavalry

"It doesn't bear contemplating. The club would go to the court and wouldn't have a defence. The club would be wound up."

Swindon's current problems, according to the board which is headed up by chairman Willie Carson, are down to where they play.

The County Ground, although in an ideal town centre location, does not offer enough extra revenue to offset a loss-making football team.

League One football simply does not draw in the crowds.

During last season's excellent run, which saw the side feature in the end-of-season play-offs, attendances were up to 10,000 for some games.

Please, please come to the games. We know its expensive
Swindon director Bob Holt

But this season has bought increased ticket prices - currently one of the most expensive in the division - and patchy form on the pitch.

This has left the club in a distinctly mid-table position - and the fans have voted with their feet.

Break even point was 7,000-people-a-game. Current crowds barely scrape 5,500.

"If we kept the ticket prices lower by 10 or 15% I doubt we would have had 10 or 15% more people at the games," said Bob Holt.

Swindon's current troubles may be down to be their ground, but the club got into most of its problems throughout the 90s.

Irregular payments

The club's "rollercoaster years" started back in the late 80s when like a phoenix from the ashes the club, under Lou Macari, rose up the divisions.

In 1990, Ossie Ardiles guided them to victory in the play-offs and secured them a place in the top flight.

Several days later this was ripped from the side when the Football Association punished them for irregular payments to players.

They were relegated two divisions - which was reduced to one on appeal.

Brighton's keeper saves a Swindon penalty
Last season Swindon lost out in the play-offs on penalties
It took them another three years, and another manager - Glenn Hoddle - to repeat the feat and gain entry to the Premiership.

The club secured its players on highly paid contracts and when they were relegated after one season the troubles in earnest began.

A failed attempt to get back into the Premiership and further relegation plunged the club into debt.

Swindon then entered administration - twice - the first club to have done so.

In their second period of administration, in 2003, they were just minutes away from going bust.

The current tax bill and winding up petition is the latest in the long series of financial troubles for Swindon.

The answer, according to Bob Holt, is simple: "Please, please come to the games. We know its expensive, but you have to if you want football in Swindon."




SEE ALSO:
Swindon face deadline on tax bill
24 Jan 05 |  Wiltshire
Stadium plans get council support
19 Nov 04 |  Wiltshire
Stadium plans shelved at meeting
22 Jul 04 |  Wiltshire
Swindon Town choose Shaw Tip site
22 Mar 04 |  Wiltshire


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