Friday, January 28, 2011

Letter To Viv Pengelley

I have just sent this email to Plymouth City Council leader Vivien Pengelley:

Dear Mrs Pengelley,

I was desperately disappointed to hear that the council had no intention of helping Plymouth Argyle on the local news tonight.

I assume that you must be aware that the club is in imminent danger of being liquidated and closed forever and the publicising of your decision has seriously weakened the position of the club when it returns to court on Feb 9th which is regrettable in itself.

There is plenty of precedent for the council in Plymouth helping in the provision of leisure facilities and both the Tinside Lido and the Theatre Royal are examples of council tax payers' money being used to subsidise minority interests. There is also the Life Centre immediately adjacent to Home Park currently being built at a far higher expense to us all. It would not be hard to make a similar case for assisting Argyle in some way should you choose to do so.

The valuation of £7m you placed on the ground is highly questionable. Something is only worth what somebody is prepared to pay for it and there is no indication that anybody is trying to buy it at that notional figure so it was disingenuous in the extreme to use that figure the way that you did. I believe that the freehold was originally sold for £2.7m so that might be a realistic price at which to buy the land back and it would secure the club's immediate future. It would also leave a neutral cash balance on the two transactions and you would be buying an asset for the city that you claim to be worth £7m. If that is true then the council could sell it on and profit nearly £4m or recoup the money via rent on an asset likely to appreciate further over the coming years. It is not only a good decision because it saves the club but it is a good business decision too. A competent, passionate and visionary politician should easily be able to sell a similar plan to the naysayers within the city as being a deal that is good for everybody even in these difficult economic times.

The money involved is relatively little in comparison to the sums spent on the Life Centre and there is more than enough land adjacent to Argyle for an ice rink to replace the one that will be lost at the Pavillions which would also offer an opportunity to simultaneously keep the pledge made to provide the city with an ice rink within its boundaries, offer the chance for recouping some of the expense involved in the purchase of the land and replace a potentially rotting, derelict stadium lowering over the Life Centre like a wrecked tombstone with a number of vibrant facilites including, maybe, the hotel that you long ago gave the club a green light to build if they could. Well they can't so another opportunity arises to sell a parcel of land, recoup more finance, and gain yet another complementary facility to the Life Centre. It would also have zero impact on Central park's green space.

Plymouth Argyle is probably the most regular driver of publicity that there is for the city both nationally and internationally. It is a massive understatement to say that Plymouth's status as a city will not be well served by allowing the club to fold. We might as well take out adverts in every national media outlet and proclaim that the city is a complete economic basket case if the worst was to happen. Of course that would be further nuanced by the publicity gained from Plymouth being the largest city in all of Europe not to have a professional football club in it. As leader of the council it is your duty to protect and promote the city; doing nothing to stop Argyle going out of business completely fails to do the job that you were elected by Plymothians like me to do on our behalf.

As leader of the council you would always be associated with the shame and stigma of not having done enough to stop the club from folding. Something must be achievable by the council if all parties mount a cross party campaign which highlights the number of jobs saved at the club, the security offered to local businesses which trade with the club, and hence help to preserve even more jobs, and the income generated in and around the city by the fans who visit on matchdays. All it takes is somebody with the courage, foresight, innovation, skills and passion to make something happen. Is that person you?

When/if I get a reply I'll put it here.