Laura Jones looks at how Northampton Town are dealing with allegations of fraud in League Two.
I had to cancel my credit card a few weeks ago, as apparently, someone was trying pay for something in The Jolly Hotel that cost £4.50. Your guess is as good as mine what costs £4.50 in a Jolly Hotel.
It may only have been under a fiver, but the thought that someone was trying to fraudulently use my details for financial gain was panic inducing, and for me, it became an all-consuming pursuit to get it sorted.
This is why Northampton Town have my utter respect for how they are carrying on after new investigations into the alleged fraudulent activity from their former chairman, regarding a loan of £10.25 million from Northampton Borough Council. I’ll be using the word ‘allegedly’ a lot in the article as the parties involved deny any wrongdoing.
At the end of January, former Chairman David Cardoza was arrested as part of a criminal investigation into “alleged financial irregularities”, and it’s safe to say that these aren’t small amounts on a credit card paid to a hotel that promises merriment.
The BBC Inside Out programme obtained papers filed to the High Court back in November 2014 that outlined where the £10.25m loan money from Northampton Borough Council had actually gone. The money should have been used on a new stand, hotel and conference centre, but none of those materialised.
The full article and link to the programme are here, but to give you the highlights, it’s alleged that the developer, former Chairman Cardoza, and a whole host of cronies took huge slices of the loan money in consultancy fees. In one instance, they paid the former Chairman’s father £2.05m and then £600,000 to rebuild Mr Cardoza’s house; again, this is something the former Chairman denies.
The Council are also being asked questions as to why the loan was agreed in the first place. The former leader of Northampton Borough Council, David Mackintosh, who admitted being a “formal consultee” on the Sixfield Stadium loan, was elected as an MP in May 2015. The developer under investigation made a large donation to the MP’s election campaign fund that was later declared as an “administrative error.”
With allegations like this hanging over the club, it wouldn’t be a stretch to say that concentration on the League might have been hindered. In fact, the opposite has happened. On the pitch, Northampton Town have been galvanised in their pursuit of promotion and getting the club out from under the shadow of the shadier side of football.
Northampton Town have the best form of any club in the English leagues – including the Premier League. Only Barnsley currently have the same amount of consecutive wins – six in total – but overall, the Cobblers have won 10 of their last 11 matches. They sit proudly top of League Two, five points clear of second place Plymouth Argyle, and with a game in hand.
With episodes of players and staff not being paid, the death of their inspirational fan-ownership champion Brian Lomax, and the criminal investigation hanging over their heads, it would be easy to be become distracted by off-the-pitch issues, but manager Chris Wilder and new Executive Chairman Kelvin Thomas have praised their staff and players for “working wonders” under such difficult circumstances.
Hopefully, the future for Northampton Town includes more talk of their football, rather than of fraud or their finances. Their fantastic performances deserve it.
Read more from Laura here
Follow Laura on Twitter @YICETOR