We’re still a month or so from the start of the new domestic football season, and perhaps already the bet of the year has been found.
Your chosen bookmaker will offer you odds of around 2/1 on Scunthorpe United to defeat Swindon Town on the opening day, and given the furore that has engulfed the Robins you’d have to argue that is fine value indeed.
A Premier League side less than 30 years ago, Swindon Town are on the brink of apocalypse.
Just 22 days prior to the 2021/22 campaign, they have just nine contracted players on the books, and have been forced to cancel pre-season friendlies – including one tie this weekend with Swansea City – simply because they are unable to raise a team.
With no money in the coffers, the Robins are struggling to bring new faces in – a matter made all the more complex by the fact they have been placed under a transfer embargo as well.
And so, it will be a variety of youth teamers and triallists that pull on the red shirt for the remainder of their pre-season games, and then….well, who knows?
It’s very difficult to sign new players when you aren’t paying the ones you already have. It’s been reported that Swindon’s squad hasn’t been paid in full since May, and backroom staff whose contract’s ran out at the end of last season have not been replaced.
There’s no coaches, no office staff and very little to speak of – Steve Mildenhall, who has taken charge, is operating almost solely on his own. He replaces John McGreal, who left the club after less than a month in charge last week after claiming his position was ‘untenable’.
As tends to be the case, the finger of blame has been pointed at the club’s owner – Lee Power.
He took charge in 2015, and has overseen good times – like the promotion to League One in 2020.
However, legal battles can – allegedly – be traced back to his door, with the Football Association seeking clarification on the state of the club’s finances and Swindon Town Council claiming they haven’t been paid rent on the County Ground since April 2020.
Defaulted payments to creditors and the HMRC have led to the FA issuing that transfer embargo, and now it seems the future of Swindon Town can only be secured by the man who wants to take over as owner – Clem Morfuni.
He is a minor shareholder battling to become the major custodian of the club, and he has the backing of the majority of supporters – who are boycotting games and refusing to buy merchandise while Power remains at the helm.
The battle between Power and Morfuni is now in the courts, and the latter has been going through the process of applying for the ‘fit and proper’ test that all prospective owners must pass.
The High Court has judged that Power must offer the sale of his shares to Morfuni’s holding company for an agreed price, however the current owner claims to have a preferred buyer lined up.
Scunthorpe United must be licking their lips ahead of August 7’s curtain-raiser….