If there’s one thing I’ve got used to in working for the Advertiser over the last 11 years it’s that things are never dull down at the New Manor Ground.
And that’s certainly been the case in the last week, with the start to the season curtailed by all sorts of goings on off the pitch.
When I put last week’s paper to bed it was full of chat about the first game of the campaign at home to Stafford Rangers and how it was felt Ilkeston might fare over the coming weeks.
Less than 48 hours later, and as I sat in the car park at Chesterfield’s Proact Stadium ahead of a press conference with their boss Danny Wilson, I read in disbelief that Ilkeston had been suspended from all footballing activity and had their licence suspended by the Northern Premier League.
As you can imagine, once I’d got out of the aforementioned press conference I was on the phone to whoever I could get hold of, which admittedly wasn’t easy given the no doubt frantic attempts by Robins officials to try and quickly rectify things.
Anyway, nearly a week later and as I write this on Tuesday evening, all I can really tell you is the following, although trust me, if I could say more then I would but so much of what I’ve been told has to remain off the record for complicated legal reasons that it’s really not worth me or anyone else getting sued over.
At first, like many fans, I was pretty dumbfounded and actually quite angry that something had happened which had caused the subsequent suspension.
With no explanation from the club to work with initially, I was left guessing as to what had occurred and also whether the future of the club was suddenly under threat, particularly once I then learned that player-coach Liam Hearn had upped sticks to Alfreton on Friday.
The statement put out by the club helped explain things a bit, and also emphasised that reports on the kind of figure Ilkeston were due to receive from the Che Adams transfer from Sheffield United to Birmingham were ‘way off the mark’.
I’d been led to believe by a number of sources that the transfer fee for Adams was around £2 million, and therefore that the Robins were due anything up to about £400,000 due to what I understand is a 20 per cent sell-on clause in Adams’ contract.
However, it since became apparent that the rumoured fee Birmingham paid United may well be a final figure, which will be made up in various increments once, I’d imagine, a certain number of appearances are made and goals scored, or such like.
Anyway, Ilkeston will therefore only get a cut of whatever the initial outlay is, and even then the money already paid by United when they originally signed Adams has to be taken into account, as well as a few other factors that mathematically are far too complicated for my mind to start trying to understand.
The Robins will still get a good chunk of money, make no mistake, even if not as much as was first reported, but having spoken to various sources it seems it’s this sell-on clause which has caused a few problems that have then resulted in a perceived breach of the rules and regulations the club has to abide by to be part of the Northern Premier League.
Still somewhat perplexed by the whole thing, I hassled Robins chief executive Nigel Harrop to try and get an interview or at least a chat, and to his credit he rang me at about 8.30 on Saturday morning to fill me in.
I was on the phone to Harrop for the best part of an hour and I was given a pretty thorough account of the workings of the transfer, what had caused the delays in getting the money Ilkeston were due into their bank account, and crucially what had caused the whole thing to go a bit crazy and cause the ensuing problems.
Harrop had asked for our conversation to remain off the record and therefore that’s where it stays. There are legal reasons for that and due to the nature of what had caused the NPL to step in, and various limitations on what Harrop is allowed to say that are frustrating for both he and everyone else, we’re limited in what we can print.
It is frustrating for me because as a journalist I naturally want to be able to say exactly what’s gone on based on what I’ve been told, and to be honest I’ve been left in little doubt that what’s been said to me is correct.
It seems the suspension has come about merely due to something of a technicality as much as anything else.
This does nothing to help the relationship the club has with the fans and a good few have understandably expressed their displeasure at what has happened, their anger towards those involved in running Ilkeston FC and their fears at what might happen to the club next.
Based on what I’ve heard from not only Harrop but also sources not officially connected to the club, this issue is not one that threatens the future of the Robins, indeed once the Adams money finally arrives (which may have happened by the time you read this) the future should really start to look quite bright - as should be the case when any kind of windfall drops through the letterbox.
If we’ve all been hoodwinked and the club disappears without trace in the next week then I’ll scrape the egg off my face like many others will, but I honestly don’t think that’s likely to happen!
Football is a complicated business sometimes and the various rules and regulations that are put in place, particularly when it comes to contracts, can often end up creating stumbling blocks when relatively simple and run of the mill things like transfers occur.
Yes, the club need to communicate better with fans and I’ve told Harrop that, and I’ve also said to him how important it is for him to quickly get as much of his side of the story out as he legally can due to the barrage of abuse and hatred he, and other club staff, are often subjected to - much of it unsavoury and unnecessary, I must say.
Whatever people believe to be Harrop’s faults in running a football club, the information I’ve gathered so far indicate the problems Ilkeston are currently dealing with are not of his nor Ilkeston FC’s doing, and I sincerely hope everything gets sorted very, very quickly so that the football can finally begin.