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October 2004
   

Can J. Maguire Show Us The Money?

Jon Maguire caused a storm of publicity with his proposal to buy out Bristol City and find £30 million of investment to take the club into the Premiership within three years. The supporters immediately started to debate the viability of Maguire's proposal and question his motives

We caught up with Jon and asked him a few questions that many City fans feel need answering before they pass judgement on his proposals.

Is Jon the man to take the club to the top division or is he a pie in the sky self-publicist? Read on and decide for yourselves.

Q. How long have you supported Bristol City ?

A. Since my son joined their school of excellence in 1991

Q. Are you a season ticket holder?

A. No

Q What was the last City game you went to?

A. The Div 2 play-off final in Cardiff last season

Q. What led you to make this bid?

A. It is not a bid. It is to place City firmly in the market to be acquired

Q. Why did you decide to release this plan the day before you went on holiday?

A. Because the season is collapsing on us and I still think that if the Board are put on the spot they will:

•  Not sell our key players (Coles in particular, who is being targeted by Premiership sides)

•  Start to think about loan players to catch the imagination of fans and to fill Ashton Gate (self-financing). Goater up front with Lita, Marcus Stewart playing just off them?

Q. Why did you go to the press before approaching the current board of directors at Ashton Gate?

A. Because I felt that given a chance they'd just rather not listen. They have to now

Q. Some fans feel this is a publicity stunt with little actual substance, aimed at raising your profile whilst causing disruption to what the current board are trying to achieve. How would you respond to that accusation?

A. Exactly what are the current board trying to achieve? They are trying to get to break-even by cutting the wage bill and selling players. I don't care about my profile. I'm just fed up of Bristol being some little footballing backwater. We have to grow up and start to realise just how big we can be. We are completely devoid of ambition, other than pathetic comments like “We ought to be in the Championship.” Why should we be there? Don't we get it – we aren't good enough! We don't pay enough to get players who can get us promoted. We just keep our fingers crossed that lady luck will get us out of jail. Well that's just bollocks. Call that a business plan

Q. The way you have announced your outline proposal has caused a large amount of unrest, anxiety and uncertainty amongst the fans and at the club. Do you think that was a particularly helpful way to go about putting your assessment of Bristol City 's position forward?

A. Disagree. Scott Davidson has written apologising for the EPost piece. We hope to meet soon. I am talking a different language, one that makes success not some pie in the sky piece, but something attainable. Ambition that walks the talk. Getting stuffed 4-1 by Bradford causes me more angst than this. Being nowhere near the top six in a crappy Div 1 makes my blood boil. Thinking that Tinnion has a helpless thankless task and may get blamed for it makes me highly concerned about just what is going on at the Gate

Q. Your analysis of Bristol 's catchment area seems to take in Devon and Cornwall . Are you convinced that Plymouth fans would travel all this way to watch Premiership football rather than watch their local team?

A. Well Plymouth will never get there! Don't forget that people will travel to fill the away end too; it's not just about City

Q. What sort of investors will you bring in? Individuals like Abramovich who are just looking to get money out of Russia or have some fun, or corporations who are likely to want a return regardless of success?

A. Are you lot actually happy with the Club? As long as any new owner has a long-term plan and doesn't jeopardize the Club in event of failure then let's go for it. If you want to watch this Division then why not go and watch the Rovers

Q. How much of the £30 million you claim you can raise do you already have in verbal agreements from potential investors?

A. Hang on. Is the Club for sale? You can't approach VC (venture capital) if shareholders aren't selling. I have connections to VCs and Private Banks. They have the super-wealthy and know those looking to get a stake in the Premiership. We have to get them to think of Bristol City – no mean feat but for heaven's sake let's give it a go. You might have missed it but City actually made the City pages of The Times and Telegraph this week.

Q. How many investors do you think will be involved?

A. Depends. Could be one. Could be a consortium. Could be an equity/debt IPO (initial public offering)

Q. Will every investor have a seat on the board? If not, how many Directors do you envisage there being?

A. Would like to see Colin Sexstone and Richard Gould join the Board. Other than that it should be a clean sweep

Q. Will you be the Chairman?

A. Unlikely, but think it would be hard to perform any worse than the current Board

Q. How much of your own money will you be putting in?

If it's an IPO with performance targets and I have a direct say in how the Club is run then enough to hurt me financially

Q. The plan depends on City getting to the Premiership in about three years. What happens if that fails?

A. At least we'll be playing well in the Championship (Leeds, Wolves, West Ham rather than Torquay, Stockport, Chesterfield )

Q. Can you guarantee the club won't go bust, in the event of Premiership football not being achieved?

A. Yes. You don't have to go mad.

Q. Will you ensure the investors are willing to take the hit rather than stripping the club's assets, should the club fail to reach the Premiership?

A. What assets?

Q. The club is currently looking at relocating to a new stadium or redeveloping the existing stadium. Would you intend to follow these ideas through?

A. No to a new one for now. If we can get into Premiership the City Council would be under a lot more pressure to come up with a site, and not just for 40.000 either. Why not 70,000? Ashton Gate needs attention – the Wedlock is going to fall down shortly so there's £6 million blown. Which is a pain, because you don't want it out of action if we get into the Championship but c'est la vie

Q. How would the redevelopment be funded?

A. Out of incoming cash, plus there are deals to be had with sponsors/brewers/caterers and possibly some corporate hospitality facilities – did you see that Arsenal intend to let corporate boxes for 10 people at £150,000 per season? Can we all start thinking bigger

Q. If you were Chairman tomorrow, what would be the first major change you would make?

A. Give Tinnion £40,000 a week to improve wages to our homegrown talent; TommyDoc, Coles, Lita, Brown – they are all class; and to pull in 4/5 other players on loan from Championship/Premiership. Goater and Stewart would be A1 loans and I think they'd love to come. We need a real ball player in the middle to spray the ball around once Tommy's nicked it. We need a commanding center-half. What we don't need is a player from Gillingham – if they don't want him, why do we? Phillips needs to grow three inches!

We'd stroll this Division and have an FA cup run.

Q. How much money would be made available for player transfers?

A. Don't need any. The loan market will do for now

Q. Would you look to bring in your own manager? If so, who?

A. I'd like to give Tinnion a season with extra cash (see 21 above.) It might be he's a better coach than a manager. But now he's got the job, let's see. If it doesn't work out then I believe Brian would recognize it first and do the right thing, but I still think he has the Club at heart and we should recognize his loyalty to the Club with our loyalty to him

Q. You have spoken of bringing in players from higher divisions, citing Denis Bergkamp as an example. How many of the current squad would you keep?

A. I think that any player who you feel would struggle in the Championship should be released. This is fair on them as well, but you obviously have to have a full squad!

Q. In the annual review of football finance, it was decided that players' wages should be kept below 70% of the club's turnover. Where is the extra income coming from to sustain your proposal to bring in players from higher divisions, who will, inevitably, be on much higher wages?

A. Um. Is it just me who sees all those empty seats at home games? Hull get 16,000 at home. We have 8,000 spare seats. If you had a side down at the Gate worth watching then you'd increase attendances. Tinnion's extra £40,000 a week is based on an extra 5,000 attending.

Q. Even if the money is available, Bristol is traditionally a difficult place to attract players to and player transfers can be extremely difficult to bring to fruition. What makes you think the players you want will come to the club?

A. Because if we all started believing in the Club's franchise you wouldn't write the sort of nonsense you just have in your question

Q. Steve Lansdown is generally well liked and trusted by the fans to do the best he can for the long term future of our club. He has worked hard to get the finances of the club under control and bring security to the Bristol City . Why should we trust you?

A. I believe that the Board still wants to cut running costs i.e. wages, and sell players to help break-even. What is their policy towards empty seats? You don't have to trust me. You will have to trust whoever comes up with the money, if anyone does.

Q. Are you prepared to jeopardize the future of our club, in gambling on achieving Premiership status?

A. Hang on. Are you prepared to sit in this crappy Division? Who says it's a gamble. Charlton? Bolton ? Southampton ? Norwich ? Yes, we all know about Leeds goldfish but you can plan properly and not come a cropper

Q. If attracting £30 million pounds in six weeks was as straightforward as you seem to feel it is, don't you think the current Chairman would have moved to bring in that sort of investment himself?

A. Ask him. Once we have a formal offer document then this can be fired into VCs and we'll know very quickly. I will start warming a few up once I have completed high-level financial plan

Q. How much money do you personally put into the club annually at present, through sponsorship, tickets or other investment?

A. Other than attending games etc. I completed a marketing review for the Club last year for free. Pip-pip

Q. Would you be prepared to work with the existing Board, bringing in your own investment to add to that of the current Directors?

A. They wouldn't cope with me. I don't like wasting opportunity and I believe at the moment they are.

 

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