Thursday 7 March 2024

Fleetwood owner got 13 years in prison

We've had some rum owners at Charlton but none of them has actually sent an audio message rallying fans from his prison cell.

Last summer, the owner of Fleetwood Town, Andy Pilley, was sentenced to 13 years for ripping off small businesses and charities up and down the UK via his utilities companies, stealing money from vulnerable people and becoming rich in the process.

Yet, overlooking the halfway line at the club’s Highbury Stadium, there is still a shrine to the man who was also imprisoned in 1998 for conspiracy to steal from the Post Office and last year was convicted of crimes which a judge described as a “sordid tale of squalid lies, greed and fraud”.

“There’s only one Andy Pilley,” — a phrase chanted by Fleetwood fans at away games this season — says the banner put up by fans just outside the stadium grounds.

Pilley oversaw six promotions at Fleetwood, taking the club from the 10th tier to the third in a decade, despite the north-west town (population: 26,000) being the smallest with an English Football League club.   In purely footballing terms, Pilley has been an excellent owner.

Pilley paid for Fleetwood’s Highbury stadium improvements as well as a state-of-the-art training centre at Poolfoot Farm, which was opened by Sir Alex Ferguson in 2016, with the media reporting the cost at £8million.

“We’re on a peninsula,” Pilley said in 2015. “We can’t get any more fans from the north, the east or the west because we are surrounded by water: river and sea.”

Almost half of its neighbourhoods are in the 10 per cent most deprived in the UK according to official government statistics. It is an isolated coastal town without a major employer or industry — meaning BES Utilities and Pilley’s other companies are a big deal, alongside the town’s other notable company, Fisherman’s Friend, a throat lozenge developed for fishermen working in the freezing Atlantic waters.

Despite resigning as a director of the club’s parent company immediately after his conviction, Pilley still owns Fleetwood Town.

EFL rules required him to divest his shares after the “disqualifying event” of his lengthy prison sentence, but nine months after his conviction, this has not happened.

The club says it is in a “continued dialogue” with the EFL about a change of ownership. “Andy Pilley (is) in the process of divesting of his shares,” a spokesperson said. “Mr Pilley resigned as a director of the club shortly after the verdict.”

The issue with Fleetwood Town is not what the money is being spent on or how the club is being run, it is where the money came from in the first place: companies owned by a man who has now been jailed for serious crimes.

However, the future looks uncertain regarding Pilley and his companies, with legal action bubbling against his company BES.

Pilley was the man who turned Fleetwood Town from a non-League minnow into an established EFL club, but his crimes mean he now has to follow their fortunes from a prison cell.


No comments:

Post a Comment