Last week I focused on the current troubles at Plymouth Argyle for my Weekly Soccer Magazine column. Below please find the English and Japanese versions of the article.
Plymouth Argyle currently sit 19th in England’s League One but at the moment they are fighting for more than their place in the league.
The club were recently served with a winding up order after their Japanese investors – Yasuaki Kagami and George Synan of K&K Shonan Corporation – had reneged on an agreement to provide much-needed funds, and although they were just about able to cover their bills by the most recent deadline on February 9th, next time they may not be so lucky.
In December Mr. Kagami and Mr. Synan signed an agreement to provide £2,000,000 to the club in four installments, the first of which was due to be paid on the last working day of December and the second on the last working day of January. Neither payment has arrived.
Peter Ridsdale – the former Leeds United and Cardiff City chairman who has been brought in as an unpaid ‘football consultant’ at Plymouth – warned that fans should not get too excited about the club’s most recent escape, and highlighted how dire the situation is when he told BBC Spotlight that.
“It was good news in the sense that we’ve paid the petition debt and are up to date with the revenue, but that’s just the first hurdle we’ve got over. Today isn’t a day of celebration, today is just a sober reminder of the fact that we’ve still got a lot of people to pay money to.”
So how did things get to this point? Well, in April 2008 Mr. Kagami made his first investment into Plymouth – which was then a Championship club – acquiring 20% of the club’s shares. Then, In July 2009, he formed a consortium with Sir Roy Gardner (former chairman of Manchester United) and Keith Todd and increased his stake to 51% (Mr. Kagami owning 38%, while Sir. Gardner and Mr. Todd held 13% between them) – making K&K Shonan the majority shareholder.
This investment was purportedly to form ties between Argyle and football clubs in Japan and the U.S (Mr. Kagami’s co-investor Mr. Synan is American), to turn Plymouth into a Premier League side within five years and to complete the development of their stadium, Home Park.
To achieve an impact in Japan the club appointed the legendary Yasuhiko Okudera as honorary president – although he has declined to comment on his involvement at the club entirely – and soon set about trying to recruit some Japanese players.
While visa issues meant that this was far from easy (they failed in an attempt to secure Akihiro Ienaga, for example), they did manage to sign former Japan U17 and U23 goalkeeper Akihiro Hayashi (who couldn’t be registered outright and so instead became the first (and so far only) recipient of the ‘Plymouth Argyle International Scholarship’).
Unfortunately things have not gone according to plan though, and, after three managers in as many years and experiencing relegation to League One, Plymouth now found themselves on the brink.
As fans of Tokyo Verdy, Oita Trinita and, of course, Yokohama Flugels can attest to, these are stressful times and you do all you can to help save your club.
With that in mind, Andy Hancock – a Plymouth supporter who studies in Yokohama – decided to take advantage of the unique position he was in and launched a petition to force K&K Shonan Corp. into paying up.
In just two weeks he gathered 6,023 signatures from fans of 69 different football clubs in 84 countries, but found nobody involved at K&K Shonan willing to receive it. He made numerous attempts to arrange for a civilised handover to either Mr. Kagami or Mr. Synan which were all rejected, then found nobody willing to accept the petition when he tried to deliver it to the company directly.
Indeed, the investors have been anything but familiar faces since they became involved at the club and when I visited Home Park in January 2010 a member of staff commented on the fact that Mr. Kagami had never actually attended a Plymouth game, something that is still the case.
As it stands, Plymouth – who have frequently been unable to pay players and staff on time of late – are due to settle their next tax bill on February 22nd but at the time of writing they are still to receive any of the promised funds from Mr. Kagami or Mr. Synan.