‘Object to Northampton Town winding up petition’ pleads former Cobblers general manager to the borough council

Cobblers fans line the edge of the Guildhall debating chamber during a special council meeting tonight.
Cobblers fans line the edge of the Guildhall debating chamber during a special council meeting tonight.

Pleas were made to Northampton Borough Council to object to the winding up petition against the Cobblers at a special meeting of the authority this evening.

More than 50 Northampton Town supporters packed the public gallery of the Guildhall debating chamber for a 30-minute debate around the current situation at Sixfields.

A Labour motion called on the council to “help Northampton Town Football Club and the supporters trust,” to retrieve the £10.25 million loan handed to the club and to ask the audit committee to review the council’s policies “in business arrangements of this nature” in the future.

It was unanimously approved.

But speaking on behalf of the Northampton Town Supporters’ Trust, former general manager of the Cobblers Tony Clarke, said the council had to do whatever it could to stop the League Two side from being wound up for £166,000 of unpaid taxes on November 16.

He said: “I want to know if a deal is not possible in this very short period of time then the council will lodge an objection with the High Court against the winding up petition and call for an adjournment.

“It would be wrong for the HMRC to take the club out of existence for its £166,000 when the council is owed £10.25 million.”

No firm answer was received as part of the meeting, though Conservative leader of the council, Councillor Mary Markham (Con, Park) said the authority is attempting to find out where the £10.25 million has gone.

“We have to understand that as leader,” she said. “My main priority is to protect the public purse and to retrieve the £10.25 million that David Cardoza and Northampton Town Football Club cannot account for.

“I give you my assurances, I will not rest.

“I will continue to badger and seek and find legal explanations to find where that money is.”

During the meeting both Mr Clarke and Labour leader Councillor Danielle Stone (Lab, Castle), who proposed the motion, reiterated calls to include the supporters’ trust and Cobblers staff in any “future negotiations” between the council, the football club and stadium builders Buckingham Group.

Councillor Sally Beardsworth (Lib Dem, Kingsthorpe) also reminded councillors of a cabinet meeting on July 17, 2013, which resolved to “approve the principle” of providing loans to Northampton Saints and Northampton Town Football Club Limited for stadium developments.

A report to that meeting read: “This council owes a duty to the many supporters of both clubs resident in the town to avoid providing finance arrangements to either club that they are not objectively able to repay.”

Councillor Beardsworth said tonight: “It took ten minutes for that paper to be decided. When we talk about these things, we really need to make sure we do the right due diligence.”

While tonight’s proceedings last little more than half-an-hour, Councillor Stone reminded the chamber a second such meeting is due after November 16, to seek more answers as to where the loan money has gone.

“We will be looking to see where the blame really lies at a later meeting.”