Paul Taylor: Nottingham Forest need somebody to make a 'declaration of insanity'
"GIVEN football's self-destructive economics it is – to my friends, family and business colleagues – the closest unqualified declaration of insanity they will ever see."
On Tuesday April 30, 2002, this was the statement made by Nigel Doughty, as he officially announced his position as the new chairman of Nottingham Forest.
Given that, at that point, his investment in the club already totaled something close to £20m, it is easy to understand his point of view.
Just three months before, Eric Barnes had revealed that Forest were £11m overdrawn with NatWest and that the club would have been insolvent if the bank had called in that guarantee.
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And, to gain full ownership of the club, Doughty had been made to jump through numerous, considerable hoops.
He not only had to invest an incredible amount of money, but also endure a lengthy battle in the High Court, after former directors Irving Scholar and Julian Markham claimed Doughty's initial £6m investment was unlawful and had greatly reduced the value of their own 25% shareholding.
And Doughty did all of this in the full knowledge that he would almost certainly never make a penny from his investment.
He might have recouped some of it, had Forest ever made the step up in to the Premier League. But he knew what he was signing up for was essentially nothing more than an expensive hobby.
It was never a money-making venture, but a labour of love.
But this is not merely a random attempt to heap more praise on the shoulders of a man whose sterling contribution to Forest should never be forgotten.
Because those events a decade ago have more pertinence now as ever before.
Because Doughty was a man with a great love for Nottingham Forest.
His interest in the club was born out of memories of European Cup runs he had witnessed as a young man; of special days watching Brian Clough's side make history from a seat among his fellow fans, in what was then the Executive Stand.
Doughty's investment was always an emotional one, that stood in total contrast to every other calculated, astute business decision he made as a incredibly successful venture capitalist.
Today, the sad fact is that Forest find themselves in a position where they need to find somebody who is willing to invest similarly mind-boggling amounts of cash on the same basic premise.
And there has to be a unique driving force, a personal motivation for somebody to do that.
Because football, more than ever, is not an industry you invest in to make money.
Yes, it can be a vehicle used to raise profiles; to bring prestige and kudos.
There remains a sense of glamour to being involved in Premier League football; to mixing in the highest circles of a field that is now as much celebrity as sport.
But Forest are not in the Premier League. Doughty, despite his best efforts, never got to fulfil his dream of seeing his beloved Reds back in the top flight.
And, to be painfully blunt, the biggest question that now lingers over the City Ground is that, beyond finding somebody else with a simple, heartfelt love for the club, who else is going to buy it?
Doughty's initial investment was £20m. Now, as his estate look to find a buyer for the club, the total investment is something in the region of £80m.
With the best of intentions – and largely because of complex tax laws – that investment came in the form of loans.
When he was alive, it was Doughty's habit to extend the repayment date of that debt by another year every season – and he frequently insisted that he never intended to seek repayment at all, referring to it as a 'community investment'.
How his estate – the affairs of which are now being handled by a legal team – views the situation is unknown.
It is not unreasonable for them to expect some sort of return on that; they will have a price tag in mind for the club.
Several – very much unconfirmed reports – have suggested that this figure could be in the region of £20m.
Given the intense veil of secrecy that has surrounded any potential takeovers, it is possible that such numbers have simply been plucked from the air.
But given that, on Friday March 9, chief executive Mark Arthur confirmed that the club were in talks with 'several parties who have expressed an interest in acquiring the club', it would suggest negotiations since have not perhaps run smoothly.
And such stumbling blocks are rarely down to anything other than money.
But realism is required.
The figure of £20m – hypothetical or not – is certainly far more than anyone is likely to pay for a club that, besides a proud history, does not have much in the way of assets.
The club does not own the land on which the City Ground stands. And the stadium itself is badly in need of updating.
If Luke Chambers, Joel Lynch, Paul Anderson and Paul Smith, among others, opt to follow Garath McCleary out of the exit, when their contracts expire, that is conservatively £2m to £3m of talent that would be lost for nothing.
Beyond that, the potential value of the likes of Dexter Blackstock, Lee Camp, Chris Cohen and Radi Majewski is drastically reduced by the fact that their contracts expire in 12 months time.
And this is all at a time when the club is still poised to register a loss of £12m for last season, largely because of their wage bill.
Given the series of events that took place last season, Steve Cotterill did a creditable job merely keeping Forest in the Championship.
But, with every day that ticks by now, the chances of staying clear of League One again in the future become slimmer and slimmer.
With only one senior defender currently under contract it could, in fact, quickly become an impossible task.
Particularly being as that player, Chris Gunter, is arguably their most saleable asset.
On April 27, John Pelling said the club would seek to clarify, with the Doughty estate, what their budget for next season would be.
At that stage, this situation would not have been unusual at any club.
Now, a month down the line, it is a major issue. Cotterill has not been informed of what budget he has to work with.
He has not been allowed to tie up any potential free transfer signings, nor to offer contracts to Chambers, the club captain, or Anderson – another player the manager hopes to keep.
And, while speculation continues about Canadian, Arab and American consortia lining up to buy the club, the uncertainty has never been more damaging.
Often in life, you find yourself properly appreciating what you have, only once it has gone.
That is certainly the case with Doughty, as Forest find themselves looking for another person to make a 'declaration of insanity', by investing millions into a football club.