Football: League probes Palace deals

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The Independent Online
THE FOOTBALL LEAGUE is investigating allegations that pounds 400,000 from the sale of a player from Crystal Palace was never received by the club.

It is understood the transaction forms part of pounds 2.7m which creditors claim is owed to Palace by its former chairman, Mark Goldberg. The south London First Division club is currently in administration with debts of pounds 20m.

Correspondence seen by The Independent reveals that the club's directors and a company owned by its former owner, Ron Noades, have asked the administrator, Simon Paterson, to examine a series of transactions including the sale of club cars and the payment of wages from Crystal Palace's bank account that should allegedly have been reimbursed by Goldberg.

In March 1998, Palace and Goldberg signed a contract under which the chairman agreed to buy Sasa Curcic, a Yugoslavian international, and personally pay his wages.

However, a letter sent last week by Altonwood Ltd, Noades's company, to Simon Hume-Kendall, a Palace director, said the Curcic contract "clearly indicates sums of not less than pounds 1,463,000 due by Mr M Goldberg to CPFC so as to finance the Curcic transfer. We understand that no such money has ever been paid to CPFC."

In the same contract, Goldberg agrees to waive his right to 25 per cent of the proceeds from the sale of another player, Neil Emblen. Emblen was sold later to Wolverhampton Wanderers for pounds 1.2m to be paid in instalments.

According to club documents, however, the last instalment of pounds 400,000, understood to have been paid by Wolves, never reached the club's coffers. All transfer payments between clubs should go via the Football League to ensure transparency.

Peter Rowe, a spokesman for the League, said yesterday: "We are investigating certain transactions brought to our attention by the administrator." He said the League could make no further comment.

Other club documents demonstrate concerns dating back as far as last January. Then, David Borland, Palace's financial controller, wrote to Jan Keeling, accountant for Goldberg's company, Mark Goldberg International, detailing payments from Crystal Palace to MGI since Goldberg took over the club in June 1998.

They included a "management charge" of pounds 450,000, "image rights" amounting to pounds 330,000 for the Italian international striker, Attilio Lombardo, and a pounds 450,000 loan dated 25 September.

In the Altonwood letter, David Waddington, finance director, wrote: "Given the size of the deficit of CPFC, together with its continuing indebtedness to third parties, it may well be that from possibly as early as December 1998 onwards, CPFC was trading whilst knowingly insolvent. If this is the case, it could amount to either fraudulent or wrongful trading ..."

He added that Altonwood, which owns the freehold to Palace's ground, was considering referring the matter for investigation by the Department of Trade and Industry. Neither Goldberg nor Paterson could be contacted yesterday.

The Sheffield United chairman, Mike McDonald, yesterday vowed to resign from the First Division club as he is becoming increasingly disillusioned with life at Bramall Lane.

McDonald, who returned to United in the summer as joint plc chairman, said he would walk out again if he had the chance.

Part of his desire to leave is because of hostility from sections of supporters. "Sheffield fans are fickle," McDonald said. "If just 10,000 turn up then players will have to be sold, but it won't be me selling the players, it will be the fans."