Following a football club home, away and in court.

Sheffield Wednesday avoided going into administration yesterday. Image sourced from Wikipedia Commons. Author Daniel Bagshaw.

On Wednesday my course pretended to be a radio station and obviously my sporting interest had been noticed – I’d been allocated sports reporter. BBC Five Live take note – landyjosh@gmail.com if you need me.

My mate Dan Kilpatrick (check out his blog) had nabbed the local option of heading to Wembley as the afternoon sports reporter, to get the fans reaction before the England v France game so within five minutes of entering the classroom I was on my way back out  – having noticed that Sheffield Wednesday Football Club (SWFC) were due at the High Court for 11.30 to hear whether they would be put into administration.

My knowledge of the case was reasonable, but I rechecked on my way to court. In short, Sheffield Wednesday owed the taxman £600k and had debts of £27m and despite supposed interest nobody had yet bought the club with the intention of paying off these debts.

Sheffield Wednesday were given a 28 day adjournment at the High Court London. Image is my own personal copyright.

The High Court

The outside of the High Court is fairly grand, so I was hopeful and expectant of something impressive upon reaching the court where the case was being heard.

It wasn’t to be. Straight ahead, round to the right, across a building, up four floors – by the time I’d got there I felt like I’d just finished a game on the crystal maze, I found Court 55, a small court that felt like it wasn’t meant to stage such high profile events.

I hadn’t anticipated being able to get into the court, but it didn’t prove too difficult, despite the audience of, I’d estimate, 40 or 50. Pretty soon I realised that the judge was just going through hundreds of companies and Sheffield Wednesday FC would be just one of them – it seemed such a minor setting for deciding the fate of a football club.

It’s probably not too often a judge looks up and sees a couple of fans wearing football jackets and scarves at the back, but it added to the tension in the room. Matt Slater from the BBC was busy tweeting blow-by-blow accounts of the scene and at approximately 12.30pm we reached the big moment.

The moment we’d been waiting for

I won’t bore you with quotes and details – you can read that all on the news piece I wrote. In short, Annette Prand representing SWFC said that the club was on the verge of being bought and therefore wanted 28 more days. The woman acting for the Co-op (owed £23.5m) said that SWFC have a bad record of paying and that they had an administrator waiting in the wings. She also revealed that the club owed £1.4m now, not £600k as had been reported.

The judge was taking certain cases ‘second time round’ if they weren’t immediately obvious – so, he said this would be one such case. This left us to assume it would which take place after lunch. I chose to wait outside and report back to my class.

Right place wrong time.

However, in a bizarre twist, it turned out the Co-op representative was double booked after lunch so the judge said he’d hear the case before lunch. Unknowingly, I was busy outside trying to speak to my course mate Dan to tell him the latest.

Matt Slater’s tweet broke the news to me, despite being in the building.

As I was heading back up from speaking to Dan I checked twitter to see Matt Slater has reported that SWFC have been granted 28 days. Oops. I guess he’s learnt not to leave such events!

Chief Executive Officer statement

I was soon outside the court but had expected more commotion. In reality there were just three other journalists loitering waiting to speak to Nick Parker, the CEO of SWFC. He was hiding round the corner but came back out and agreed to make a statement, which would later prove to be a dry run for the one he’d give on the steps of court to BBC and Sky Sports.

The three journalists next to me all scribbled down in short hand. Another reminder of the importance to keep learning it. I on the other hand, knowing my writing wouldn’t be quick enough, got my Iphone out and pressed record, it seemed more 2010. It was pretty much as you’d have expected from Parker but he didn’t fancy any questions. The audio can be heard below.

Getting the lift down

The other three journalists scattered off and left me with Mr Parker, the legal represenative, the media advisor and a rather snappy woman whose role I didn’t discover.

I got in the lift with them as they carried on chatting. Being with the CEO of a football club in the minutes after his club have been given a legal lifeline made me feel at the heart of Sports news.

I noted how the media advisor praised Mr Parker over how well his statement had been made – suggesting he says exactly the same when talking to BBC and Sky in a few minutes. Realising they weren’t alone, Parker stopped and asked me if I was a journalist.

Good question. I mean we’re all journalists these days – all you need is somewhere to spout your drivel online.

I told him I was, albeit a student journalist. Usually people then ask where you’re studying. He didn’t. How rude.

The media advisor was however more chatty, telling me that he was hopeful that another petition scheduled to be heard on December 1st would also be put back to December 15th so that the two petitions could be heard together – this would give the club the full 28 days adjournment.

I was half hoping they would sneak off via some back door to avoid the media, so that I’d have the only audio reaction, but of course they didn’t.

Nick Parker, CEO for Sheffield Wednesday spoke to journalists outside the High Court in London. Image sourced from BBC iplayer.

Outside the courtroom

I went ahead and warned the BBC and Sky people they were about to come out and as such stood right next to them, which meant I could get my Marantz recorder right in the action, as you can see in the picture. The little black microphone that looks particularly pathetic is my one.

I was keen to ask a question but in the end left it to the professionals for fear of ruining their live broadcasts. In hindsight I should have gone for it – the whole thing was later put on the BBC website and was being broadcast live by Sky – it would have been nice to get the name out. Next time.

Fans perspective.

After Mr Parker had scuttled off I chatted with Jeff Hatcher, a fan who had been in the courtroom all day and my thoughts started to turn as to how it must feel for this to be your own club. As football fans we’re so used to thinking that the fate of the clubs is decided on the pitch – the big games in the season, but for him and all his fellow fans, it was all about a courtroom and a judge being convinced to grant an adjournment.

So – they’ll be back in a month, hopefully having found a buyer who is willing to pay off their debts. Otherwise the reaction could be entirely different a month from now – I’m going to make sure I’m there to see it.

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