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12 November 2006
Jim Rodwell is an amoral man. One minute, in February 2002, he was playing for Dagenham & Redbridge in the middle of a promotion battle to get them out of the Conference. Rodwell was on loan from Rushden, with a fee agreed for the transfer to be made permanent. But then Rushden mysteriously recalled him, citing an injury crisis. Blow me down, they even more mysteriously let him go on a "free transfer" the very next day. The next thing we know, Rodwell scores a last-minute equaliser for Boston at home to Barnet, earning a precious point which ultimately got the Pilgrims promoted – at the expense of Dagenham & Redbridge, who finished one place behind them on goal difference.
Money talks, and no money talks louder than cash. Four years on Jim Rodwell is the 'chairman' of Boston United and is happy to retain Steve Evans as his manager despite the latter being named and shamed and finally, grudgingly, admitting his criminal complicity in defrauding the public purse to the tune of £323,000.
Boston committed this fraud to gain promotion to the Football League. Dagenham & Redbridge calculated that it cost them a minimum of £350,000 the season after Boston went up instead of them. Boston got found out, and in July 2002 were fined a paltry £100,000 by the FA and docked six points. Even then, those six points were not applied retrospectively – instead they were deducted from the Pilgrims' tally for 2002–03, their first season in the fourth division – so the situation was not restored to that when the fraud took place. Boston were in the League and Dagenham & Redbridge were out in the cold. Six points docked is more than manageable. Clubs going into administration get ten taken away – so clubs that are financially inept get a harsher punishment than clubs that are criminally fraudulent.
Evans said that he is so scared of jail that he swears that he will never be naughty again. The Boston fans have been dignified and stoic, acutely aware of the shameful behaviour by the crooks running their beloved club. But Rodwell and his equally amoral predecessor Jon Sotnick are probably feeling pretty pleased with themselves, thinking that the fans 'will get over it, won't they?' There were some boos at home the other Saturday, but a spirited fightback and a creditable home draw took the sting out of those by the end. The FA has said that, because it has already imposed its punishment on the club and Evans, it will not re-examine the matter. The club has avoided any serious financial punishment for gaining a critical sporting advantage over its rivals. Result.
Hoping that it will all blow over now, Rodwell has said that a substantial amount will be invested in Boston United within a matter of weeks (now that they are off the hook). Steve Evans has said his job will be on the line if Boston United don't start winning matches (yeah, right). Colin Woodcock has resigned his directorship at Boston, saying: "The decision to retain Evans as manager made Boston United a laughing stock" (yes, right).
The former chairman of Boston, the aged and infirm Pat Malkinson, has taken the financial rap: he has been ordered to personally repay all the money owed to the Revenue. He will have properties confiscated to raise the funds and will lose his gaming licence due to his conviction. But Malkinson and his brother own the Boston United ground and the clock is ticking on the lease. The murky Lavaflow consortium that owns Boston (of which Sotnick is still the ringleader, despite now working at Darlington) is proceeding to fine-tune its multiple dependently linked planning applications to buy from the Malkinsons and develop York Street for housing, to do likewise with Boston Town's ground, and to build two new football grounds: one for the Pilgrims at Boardsides and the appropriately named Cuckoo Land for Boston Town. There are a whole raft of planning issues with that lot, believe me. But we would never dare to suggest that palms would be greased, would we?
It would be easy to conclude by saying Boston should be kicked out of the league for all these dastardly shenanigans. That, indeed, is what I will do. But there is a sting in the tail. For as rotten and amoral as Evans, Rodwell, Sotnick et al have been, some might perceive parallels with our beloved Grimsby Town. The Boston crew are not fit and proper people to be in charge of a football club. They are obsessed with acquiring a new ground which will indirectly benefit them. It is a matter for debate as to how much it will benefit Boston United.
So they defrauded the Revenue and were caught. At what point does failing to pay the tax bill become an offence? Procuring credit when you do not have the means to pay your bill is usually illegal, yet trading companies do it all the time and are all too rarely prosecuted. Ask the poor sods who paid their Christmas hamper monies all year only to see the money disappear in a puff of bankruptcy. If you ask me, companies that cynically concentrate the majority of their debt with one creditor and then plead poverty are as amoral as any other corporate criminal. You think losing a manager and a few home games is important? In the grand scheme of things it is nothing compared to the massive financial mismanagement that goes on in football today. Give me a well-run club over a successful one any day.
Have your say on Boston's shame using the legendary Cod Almighty feedback form. Our thanks to the brilliant impsTALK for the cartoon.