A number of the particulars of Ron Martin’s latest years as proprietor of Southend United — the winding-up petitions, the livid followers exterior his home, the toy rats thrown on the pitch at dwelling video games — are such that you just instinctively wish to decrease your voice when discussing them with him within the library of the five-star London resort the place he asks that we meet.Martin doesn’t appear overly involved about discretion, although. A person within the nook of the room feigns indifference to our dialog however he doesn’t depart his couch as soon as. And little marvel.Martin effortlessly charts his 25-year rollercoaster on the Essex coast — from beating Manchester United 1-0 within the League Cup to strolling down his drive to handle protesters on the finish of it. He needs to speak concerning the good instances. He skates elegantly and effortlessly over the dangerous. There’s a jarring incongruity about Martin being on this grand place, ordering cappuccinos and embarking on a dialogue which touches on helicopter journey and his £3million dwelling, when his refusal to pay HMRC on time has seen Southend dragged repeatedly to the Excessive Courtroom and now docked 10 factors. All that on prime of being relegated to non-league for the primary time of their 101-year historical past.Amongst many who’ve gone unpaid prior to now 12 months are St John Ambulance. Pressed on why he ‘didn’t pay the little individuals’, he replies: ‘Sure, that hurts.’ Properly, simply think about how they have to really feel. Condemned chairman Ron Martin pleads his case — you resolve if he deserves sympathy Southend supporters have nicknamed the chairman ‘Ron the Rat’ for nearly sinking their clubVirtually anybody owed cash by Southend has needed to chase them by the courts prior to now 12 months, from sponsors to electrical energy suppliers to the water provider. Followers raised £40,000 to make sure employees had been paid final Christmas, then introduced cleansing tools and paint to organize Roots Corridor for this season. No marvel Southend have been dubbed one of many worst-run golf equipment within the nation.‘That’s actually hurtful,’ Martin says, reaching for that phrase once more. ‘It’s not one of many worst-run. It would want more cash than we will afford. That doesn’t imply to say we didn’t give the identical consideration and a focus to it that we might do if we had cash. It’s only a shortfall of funds.’Most Southend supporters, who name him ‘Ron the Rat’, would put issues moderately otherwise.There have been loads of false dawns, but when all goes to plan Martin will this week promote as much as a 10-strong consortium and stroll away, hoping that he shall be remembered as the person who has invested £27million — through loans from his property firm — to maintain alive a membership which at instances has barely had a pulse. Martin seems to be on as Southend tackle Burton Albion within the League Two playoffs in 2014‘I’m much less rich now, by a protracted chalk, than if I’d by no means been concerned in soccer,’ he says. ‘You simply hope you get to a sustainable surroundings however you by no means know on the time.’ Sustainable it most actually isn’t. The membership and the stadium are on their knees.Martin thought of himself a winner earlier than all this. A exceptional picture captures him on the prime of a bobsleigh run with Nice Britain’s four-man staff in Winterberg, Germany, in 1980.It seems to be like a scene from Thunderbirds, with Martin, bobsleigh driver Main Jonnie Woodall and John Howell displaying very white tooth and spectacular physiques. Martin says they gained their race for the ‘GB1’ staff — happening to compete for Britain on the European Championships in St Moritz that 12 months.‘I used to be first reserve for the 1980 Olympics at Lake Placid,’ Martin says, relaying that he had been recruited from athletics by a GB bobsleigh talent-spotter.‘I needed to come again from Switzerland early for enterprise causes, so I used to be positioned within the ‘GB 3’ staff. I remorse that call in some ways as a result of to have competed on the Olympics would have been one thing. However the enterprise mattered most.’The enterprise additionally mattered most when he arrived at Southend United as a property entrepreneur within the Nineties, after the ailing membership’s chairman, Vic Jobson, a neighbour, had requested him for £400,000 credit score.He rejected the request, as a substitute buying half of Jobson’s 55 per cent share of the membership earlier than shopping for him out in 1998, when his property firm additionally purchased Roots Corridor from the membership.‘I recognised the chance to construct a brand new stadium and create a a lot better soccer membership than they’d,’ says Martin. He had by no means set foot within the place earlier than that and supported Liverpool, he says, as a result of his father had. ‘Once I walked into the membership, it appeared caught within the Fifties and I believed, “We might enhance this massively”. The entire surroundings was at nighttime ages. We might see that we might carry extra sophistication to it. I needed to make a much bigger stadium.’ Southend have been dubbed one of many worst-run golf equipment within the nation in recent times The membership stormed to a shock 2-1 win over Nationwide League leaders Chesterfield on SaturdayThat greater stadium has been the be-all and end-all of the previous 25 years for Martin. Property was the golden egg for an ‘investor-developer’ like him. He needed to maneuver Southend United to land he had bought at close by Fossetts Farm, leaving him free to construct homes on the positioning of Roots Corridor. However regardless of proudly owning each, he has tried and failed for 1 / 4 of a century to make these property developments occur.Roots Corridor — a stadium lovingly constructed within the Fifties by legendary groundsman Sid Broomfield with the whole £74,000 supplied by followers — fell into decline. Southend had their moments underneath Martin. There have been back-to-back promotions to League One and the Championship in 2005 and 2006, then the evening of all nights: that 1-0 win over Sir Alex Ferguson’s United — Ronaldo, Rooney and all — in November 2006, sealed by Freddy Eastwood. Each wall of the Blue Boar pub beside Roots Corridor is embellished with some artefact of that well-known win.All this introduced Martin a job within the Christmas lights switch-on, a friendship with membership legend David Webb and journeys up and down the land along with his son to observe Southend play. ‘Once you get into any membership within the trivialities that I did, you need to like it,’ he says. Even at that journey’s top, he was attempting to get the stadium constructed.Martin oozed confidence at moments which might have spooked much less ebullient homeowners. On the event, for instance, when his dwelling and Roots Corridor had been raided by police and he was arrested on suspicion of corruption in relation to a Gloucestershire property deal in March 2007.A vivid 1,000-word article, beneath his byline, adopted within the Southend Echo, detailing the police’s 7am arrival on his ‘shingle drive’, his spouse providing them drinks, and them arriving mob-handed. Martin denied any wrongdoing and was not charged. Martin admits to Mail Sport that being labelled as a ‘mendacity rat’ by followers is extraordinarily hurtful ‘Martin out!’: Pissed off Southend supporters take to the streets in protest of their chairmanSouthend’s one season again within the Championship ended two months later, leaving Martin to replicate on what might need been. ‘We modified seven gamers within the Championship and possibly had a greater staff spirit — a way of “we’re all in it collectively” — in League One,’ he says of that point. ‘Perhaps that was our error. We must always have solely modified three or 4 people.’Better storms had been to observe. There was the monetary crash of 2008. ‘Painful for everybody and since I depend on property revenue to complement the soccer membership, it was in all probability going to hit me worse,’ Martin relates.Southend had been relegated to League Two in 2010 they usually had been again within the courts, too: again to winding-up orders and switch embargoes.Phil Brown led the membership again up through the play-offs in 2015 earlier than all of it unravelled once more. Amid six ill-fated managerial appointments from 2018 — Chris Powell, Sol Campbell and Kevin Bond amongst them — there have been successive relegations from League One to the Nationwide League within the depths of Covid. That left Southend in non-League soccer with gamers on League One wages. And nonetheless the stadium was not constructed. All downhill from right here: Martin (prime proper) within the GB bobsleigh staff at Winterberg in 1980Some homeowners would have bailed, however Martin says he needed to get the membership again into the Soccer League first. He says he obtained a name from one of many executives who would assist Hollywood stars Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney purchase Wrexham, asking if he was excited about promoting.‘I mentioned no and that was it,’ he says. ‘I wasn’t tempted in any respect as a result of I needed to fulfil my very own aims, create one thing for the followers. Leaving it then, simply because somebody provided more cash? No, I didn’t wish to try this. I didn’t entertain it.’It’s unlikely any such deal would have transpired. The manager who approached Martin was engaged to work with Reynolds and McElhenney, and the Wrexham deal was nicely superior. Extraordinary, although, that Martin, the proprietor of a membership in such dire straits, was not even . The prospect of constructing that new stadium — the golden egg — was simply an excessive amount of.It takes an awfully thick pores and skin to remain on when supporters are disgruntled sufficient to throw missiles on to your driveway and scrawl photos of your face in black marker-pen on balloons which they burst at video games.For the house match towards Maidenhead in September, Southend had been right down to 12 out there gamers, had no match goalkeeper, had been docked 10 factors for non-payment of tax, and had appeared in magistrates’ court docket over an unpaid power invoice. They gained 2-0.Martin maintains his unruffled equanimity as all that is laid out earlier than him. ‘There wasn’t sufficient cash to go round,’ he says. ‘What are the alternate options? Put the membership into administration? Or for everybody to roll with us?‘The membership’s shedding £160,000 each month — within the Nationwide League, that’s lots to search out. We ran out of cash. We didn’t have the cash to do all of the work that was required. We didn’t do it intentionally. When you’re within the tax authorities’ focus — attacked in the event you like — you get no latitude, so while you go into arrears a (winding-up) petition comes rapidly.’The supporters describe it as one thing totally different — incompetence — whereas a number one authority on tax and accountancy laws sees an ethical chapter at play. ‘Courts don’t wish to bankrupt golf equipment as a result of they’re neighborhood property, and I believe this proprietor is aware of that,’ he mentioned. ‘There’s an ethical angle right here. It’s our taxes that he isn’t paying.’
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A number of followers took the chance to protest the mismanagement of the membership when Day by day Mail photographer KEVIN QUIGLEY attended Southend’s league conflict towards Barnet in MarchAs Southend have struggled, a fanbase led by the Shrimpers Belief have watched Martin intently. There was a lot speak of him having use of a helicopter, with the membership’s title emblazoned on the aspect.‘I discovered to fly helicopters once I was in my 20s so I’ve a pure curiosity in them and yearly, on my spouse’s birthday, we go to Ascot,’ Martin explains. ‘An image (has circulated) of me taking our two sons and their wives to Ascot on my spouse’s birthday.‘We don’t have a helicopter. You may rent helicopters and we did that yearly for 40 years. The membership’s title on the aspect was an commercial for the membership.‘Folks exterior our home needed me to promote my dwelling. “Your home is value £3million. Why don’t you promote it? Why don’t you promote your automobile?” You must cease someplace and that’s unfair once I’ve put thousands and thousands into the membership for a protracted, very long time. If I used to be a fly-by-night, that’s totally different, however 25 years going to each match and being as dedicated to the success of it as they’re?’He insists he has by no means charged Southend lease on the stadium, regardless of invoicing the membership for it. An insolvency lawyer, who has labored at a number of distressed soccer golf equipment, suggests this has tax advantages. Martin hasn’t been to a Southend match since December. ‘When there are chants of, “We wish Martin out”, it’s going to detract from the soccer,’ he says.So now he’ll depart for good. A consortium, led by Australian IT entrepreneur Justin Rees, will purchase the membership, Roots Corridor’s freehold and the coaching floor for a nominal £1. The indignant indicators of protest have prolonged to the roads and pavements (pictured in July 2023) Non-league outfit Southend have been underneath a switch ban since September 2022 and had been deducted 10 factors firstly of this season after failing to clear a £275,000 HMRC debtIt may also tackle Southend’s future working prices and money owed believed to be in extra of £2.5m. Martin will write off his loans to the membership and contribute £20m to the refurbishment of Roots Corridor, the place the membership will keep.As all the time, the membership finds its future inextricably linked to property offers. Planning permission has simply been granted to an organization, owned by Martin’s son Jack, for a considerable housing growth — minus the brand new stadium — at Fossetts Farm. There shall be 1,300 houses constructed, together with 500 which had been to have gone up at Roots Corridor, had the stadium swap materialised.Councillors heard the membership’s sale was contingent on planning for the houses. ‘We gained’t construct the stadium and haven’t bought the price of that, however we’re placing the equal a refund into Roots Corridor,’ Martin says. His household will do extraordinarily nicely out of the deal, although.The protests haven’t affected Martin or contributed to his determination to go, he insists. ‘It was essential to have safety on the home, however did it disrupt our lives? No. We continued the identical approach.‘I’ve tried to grasp the followers’ emotions however I believe the narrative that has existed in latest instances isn’t any reflection on what we, as a household, have finished for the membership.‘I’m promoting on the unsuitable time for me and my household however I had no selection. I used to be 70 and my weekends had been nonetheless dedicated. I used to be considering, “What number of years have you ever bought to go?”’The insolvency skilled suggests Martin is promoting as a result of issues are so dangerous he’s in a really tight monetary nook. ‘It doesn’t make sense to maintain it entering into that league, pumping that cash in,’ he mentioned. Southend at the moment are 14th within the Nationwide League, having completed eighth within the league final season Southend United face a extreme participant scarcity, naming solely two substitutes for a matchMartin has put the Nationwide League on discover for a authorized problem towards the 10-point deduction and expects the membership to obtain a date for that in six to eight weeks. However the squad have performed their approach out of issue. They’re 14th within the desk underneath their glorious supervisor, Kevin Maher, after Saturday’s dwelling win over league leaders Chesterfield.‘There have been nice instances, such actually nice instances,’ Martin displays because the interview attracts to an finish and he prepares to hold out different enterprise within the resort’s elegant environment. ‘I might do all of it once more. I wouldn’t overlook the good instances due to the individuals standing exterior my home.‘It’s been an amazing journey and we’ve created some great recollections.’The cataclysmic latest years are one thing that Southend followers would moderately neglect.IT’S ALL KICKING OFF! It is All Kicking Off is an thrilling new podcast from Mail Sport that guarantees a distinct tackle Premier League soccer.It’s out there on MailOnline, Mail+, YouTube, Apple Music and Spotify.
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