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Volume 6 No. 212


Australian Football League Essendon Chair David Evans "has resigned from the club," according to the AAP. Evan's health "has emerged as a key reason for the stunning resignation." Former Essendon player Tim Watson, the father of current captain Jobe, said that "there was no doubt the club's anti-doping crisis had taken its toll on Evans." Watson said, "I just think he's completely and utterly burnt out. From what I now know to be true, David has been struggling with his health for some time -- he's exhausted. He needs to get away, he needs to have a break." In a statement released on Saturday night, Evans said that "work and family were key reasons for his resignation." There was "no mention of his health in the statement" (AAP, 7/27). In Melbourne, Mark Robinson reported the "shock resignation" of Evans was "prompted in part by a physical breakdown in the changerooms after Essendon's match against Hawthorn on Friday night." Evans "was treated by club medical staff after complaining of breathlessness, having a light head and struggling with his vision after the match." Evans' "resignation has left Essendon reeling" -- it now has lost its CEO and chairman within a matter of months. Evans said, "I strongly believe that the best thing for the club at this stage is for a new chairperson in order to see through the next phase of this challenging and difficult time for our club." AFL CEO Andrew Demetriou said Evans had been a "great chairman" and said that he was not shocked by Saturday's news. Demetriou said, "I’d obviously spoken to David on a number of occasions. He’s made a decision that’s taken into account his family, his professional career and obviously he’s personal well-being and so we respect that" (HERALD SUN, 7/28).

HIRD HANGING ON: Also in Melbourne, Quayle & Murnane reported "all indications are that Essendon coach James Hird will hang tough in the face of extraordinary pressure resulting from the Bombers' supplements program, which has already accounted for five key personnel departing the club." Hird "is steadfast in his belief that he has done nothing illegal and that players have not taken any banned substances, although his version of events is expected to be challenged by former high-performance head Dean Robinson in an interview due to be screened on Channel Seven this week." Within the club, there is "enormous support for the coach, as well as frustration that what staff were told would be a six-week investigation has stretched to almost six months." One of Hird's former teammates, who preferred to remain anonymous, said that "he could not see him leaving." He said, "I can't see him quitting, no way. It must be taking a toll but there's no way he'd walk away from it" (THE AGE, 7/29). In Melbourne, Caroline Wilson wrote Hird "is standing firm as the dominoes fall around him." Perhaps "he still sees himself as Essendon's saviour." Hird "threw his chairman under a bus as well as targeting the AFL just weeks before the investigation into the club was at its end." His camp "did not back off all weekend, implying to anyone who wanted to listen there was more to come." Where "it heads now is anyone's guess." What we described on Friday as ''Hird Inc'' more closely resembles ''cult Hird'' where his disciples' blind faith prevents them from seeing what sits so clearly in front of them. It "has been a strategy closely resembling the corporate governance at Essendon" from late '11 until late '12 -- scattergun and reckless (THE AGE, 7/29).

Liverpool FC owner Fenway Sports Group has "rubbished speculation that they are trying to sell the club," according to James Pearce of the LIVERPOOL ECHO. One report suggested Principal Owner John W. Henry was "looking to end FSG's three-year reign at Anfield" with the Reds on the market for £350M ($538M). The report "also claimed that a Saudi oil company and two American billionaires were interested." An FSG spokesperson said, "Like so many rumors in the past about a sale of Liverpool Football Club, there is absolutely no truth in this. We have had no meetings with anyone about a sale, we don't know who the source of the rumor is, and any suggestion of a sale is fabrication" (LIVERPOOL ECHO, 7/27). The PA reported The Sun newspaper claims Liverpool "is 'unofficially' on the market." The Sun also reported that FSG received a takeover proposal from Saudi Arabian oil firm Saudi Aramco recently, and "states that City banking sources claim two American billionaires could also be potential buyers" (PA, 7/27).

Former League Championship Leeds United Chair Ken Bates "has severed his ties with the Yorkshire club, by stepping down as president," according to the BBC. In a statement on the club website, Managing Dir David Haigh said, "Ken Bates has ceased to be president of Leeds United FC. Mr. Bates will now no longer have any role within the football club." Ex-Chelsea Owner Bates, 81, became club president on June 30, "having remained chairman after the sale to Middle East-based private equity group GFH Capital" (BBC, 7/26). In London, David Conn reported Bates said that "he was abruptly sacked from his tenure as the Leeds United president by the new owners, GFH, after he entered the club into a contract with the private aeroplane company 247 Jet that could be used to fly him to Leeds from his Monaco home." The cost of this contract to which Bates committed the Championship club, which is under financial strain, is thought to be £500,000 ($770,000) over three years. Previously Bates "has been flown by private jet." The costs of use of a private jet to the club is understood from sources who have seen the Leeds accounts to be around £120,000 ($185,000) a year. A "key sticking point with GFH is that Bates did not gain the approval of the board for the new, three-year private jet contract." Describing his treatment as "despicable," Bates said that he is considering suing. GFH said that "there were confidentiality agreements in place, and declined to comment" (GUARDIAN, 7/27). The London DAILY MAIL reported the news "is sure to please a number of Leeds' fans who spent long periods of his reign protesting at a perceived lack of investment." Leeds entered administration under his stewardship in '07 and "had to start a season in League One with a starting points tally of minus 15" (DAILY MAIL, 7/26).

ACCOUNTING GAME: In London, Conn reported in a separate piece that a deal done in Dec. '11 with a company, Lutonville Holdings Ltd., connected to Outro, by which Lutonville paid £3.2M for preference shares, "involved a regular payment by the club to Lutonville." Leeds paid a "set-up fee" of £100,000 to Lutonville for the £3.2M, which "was used to repay creditors, principally Caddick Construction." They were paid £10M by Leeds for "developing the centenary pavilion and conference and banqueting facilities in the Elland Road east stand." Under the terms of the agreement, Leeds United paid Lutonville a "monitoring fee" of £40,000 every quarter. When Bates sold Leeds to GFH in December, the £3.2M preference shares were repaid at £4M, an £800,000 profit. Leeds United's published accounts state that "Lutonville Holdings is a related party by virtue of its connection to Outro Limited." However, Bates said that Lutonville "is not in fact his company." Of the monitoring fee payment, he said that "he could not comment because he did not have the details in front of him" (GUARDIAN, 7/27).