Plymouth in trouble

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.

日本の企業に踊らされた!? イングランドの3部クラブ









2 Responses to “Plymouth in trouble”

  1. 1 David Winchester
    March 10, 2011 at 7:07 pm

    Dear Mr Carrol.
    First of all, let me thank you on behalf of every Argyle supporter in the world for your actions to date.
    Plymouth Argyle are in administration and are now in the precarious position of not paying staff/players/creditors for the third successive month. Also, 15 backroom staff have been laid off this week due to lack of funds.
    The success of the past few weeks has proved that the footballing side of the club are giving their all in preventing relegation to the fourth tier of English football.
    If the Main shareholder of Plymouth Argyle had sent the ‘promised’ monies, then Argyle would not be in this shambles. He isn’t the only culprit in this sorry state of affairs, but as the main controller of Plymouth Argyle he has to accept responsibility for the actions of the board.
    We, as ardent supporters of the Pilgrims, are at this moment in time fully aware of the negative attitude(silence) of Mr Kagami, Mr Synan (who is the mouthpiece of the aforementioned) is a laughing stock, this reflects badly on the Japanese people who, on the whole, are very honourable people.
    If Mr Kagami and the K&K Shonan Corporation have no interest, Let Mr Risdale know so he can move forward.
    This state of affairs has left a nasty taste in the mouth of supporters of Plymouth Argyle, you only have to go http://www.thisisplymouth.co.uk and read what the supporters think of Japanese investors.
    Mr Kagami you have let this proud club down, shame on you.

  2. 2 Bryan
    April 17, 2011 at 8:19 am

    For years now I’ve suspected that this may be just another small piece in a very large investment portfolio for Mr.Kagami. The amount involved here isn’t a lot of money in investment terms, so it might be as ‘trivial’ (and ridiculous) as Mr.Kagami’s fund manager making decisions.

    Follow my logic on this. One business man from 8000 miles away goes around the world looking for an investment opportunity to balance out his portfolio, and happens to find in the middle of nowhere in England an opportunity which turned out to be a football club called Plymouth Argyle. To me, that sounds too elaborate and most unlikely. The more realistic explanation is that a prospectus landed on his lap, and whatever it said must have looked attractive. This, in my view, is really the only way 2 completely unrelated parties can find each other under somewhat bizarre set of circumstances. Had Mr Kagami been French or German, maybe there would be other ways, but as it stands I don’t see this any other way.

    If you want to get to the bottom of this, I suspect the first thing you must do is to find out HOW Mr Kagami came to know about Plymouth Argyle and its investment opportunity. Once you find that, you will know who was the middle man or agent who made the prospectus.

    The weird thing about this is that the more I think about it, the more I can see that Mr Kagami might very well be another victim alongside the club in a much bigger scam. If so, the language and cultural barrier would make a dialogue difficult; he’d be hating this as much as the club hating him. The irony is (possibly) both parties may very well be after the same boogeyman.

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