By Jacob Sznober.
LAST season, Bangor City enjoyed a particularly fine season in comparison to their campaigns in recent years before it.
They emerged from the cold and managed to clinch fourth spot in the and qualified for the UEFA Europa League after beating Cardiff Met Uni 1-0 in the Welsh Premier League Europa League Play-Off Final.
The Citizens had been languishing in the lower half of the WPL for consecutive seasons since the 2014/15 season, where they fought for league survival. They last finished in the top half in 2013/14, where coincidentally they also finished fourth and qualified for the Europa League via the play-offs.
However they now seem to be on the rise again with the backing of new owners, and the fact that they have experienced ex-Football League players such as Gary Taylor-Fletcher and Daniel Nardiello in their squad. Rising prospect and Young Player of the Year Henry Jones adds a certain flair to the side and the young and exciting new manager Kevin Nicholson, could provide a fresh new outlook on the squad.
Adding to all this, is the revelation that some of the Bangor players will soon be training with the club four days a week, a crucial and positive step in a division where there is only one professional team.
One can only hope and assume that it will not be long until Bangor City become a full-time professional club, so that they can truly compete against TNS to see who will become the best team in the division.
Are Bangor therefore heading for a bright and prosperous future?
Well I have one underlining concern; the involvement of Stephen Vaughan Sr as main sponsor and investor.
To have uneasiness over someone who does not even own a stake in the club may be nonsensical, but looking into his history in sport ownership leads me to think that only
apprehension is the right feeling of the clubs future if he continues to be associated with it.
So what is Stephen Vaughan’s history in football ownership?
Vaughan’s first foray into ownership came in 1995 when he bought Barrow A.F.C in the Unibond Premier League, the 6 th tier of English football. He invested heavily into the club, resulting in the construction of a new all-seater grandstand and promotion as champions into the Football Conference in the 1997/98 season. But this success was not to last.
Indeed, in 1998 Vaughan was investigated by Her Majesty’s Customs and Excise due to suspicions of money laundering.
Not long after he left the club as chairman without finding a new owner, therefore putting Barrow into crippling financial difficulties. But the controversy did not end there. It had transpired that Vaughan had bought the clubs stadium, Holker Street, through a company that Vaughan owned called Northern Improvement Ltd. in exchange for the investment he put into the club whilst chairman.
Barrow subsequently went into liquidation, and were forced out of the Football Conference in the 1998/99 season, despite surviving relegation. Holker Street was eventually returned to Barrow after a long legal battle which ended in 2002.
After the Barrow scandal, Vaughan bought majority shares in Chester City F.C in 2001, again investing heavily resulting in Chester winning the Football Conference in 2004.
During this time he was also buying shares in Widnes Vikings R.L.F.C, eventually gaining control of the Rugby League side in 2006. In 2007, he was charged with violent conduct by the Football Association after an altercation with Shrewsbury Town striker Leo Fortune-West in the Gay Meadow tunnel after a match. In the same year Vaughan was forced to resign as chairman after arranging to hold a minutes’ silence for the death of Colin Smith, an associate of Curtis Warren who was a prominent Liverpool gangster. But despite all this, Vaughan continued as owner and majority shareholder at the club.
Chester eventually, but inevitably, fell into financial troubles.
Vaughan’s 24 year-old son and former Chester City captain, Stephen Vaughan Jr, became the clubs chairman in 2009 as the club were relegated to the Conference in the 2008/09 season.
Chester were in administration with debts of £7m to their name and struggling in the Conference after being hit by a 25 point deduction, Vaughan Sr was barred from being a company director in November of 2009 until 2020 (the first person ever to fail the FA’s ‘Fit and Proper Person’ test and the first person ever asked to reduce their share in a club by the FA) after being charged with a £500,000 VAT fraud at Widnes Vikings.
Vaughan Jr. became sole owner of Chester but Vaughan Sr. kept some shares in the club and injected loans into City in a futile attempt to keep the club afloat. With City unable to pay players’ wages and the police the Conference expelled Chester from the league, and after a failed attempt to join the WPL for the 2010/11 season, were wound up by the High Court and dissolved.
After an absence of two years (in which Stephen Vaughan Sr was charged with assaulting a police officer and sentenced to fifteen years imprisonment) Vaughan Sr became owner of Maltese side Floriana F.C. in 2012 with Vaughan Jr becoming President. But again, controversy ensued.
Promises made to players enticed to make the move from England were broken, with players having to house share, wages not paid in full and in certain cases not paid for
months, as was the case with Aaron Brown who joined on a free from Preston North End.
Vaughan Sr. sold Floriana to Riccardo Gaucci in 2014 and after sponsoring two other
Maltese sides in Mostra F.C. and Hibernia F.C., returned to the UK in 2016.
So, it perhaps comes as no surprise that his involvement with Bangor City looks a bit suspect, as the company that sponsors the club, Vaughan Sports Management (VSM) was only created in order to sponsor Bangor, and new chairman Ivor Jenkins was initially unsure whether Vaughan Sr would be involved as sponsor despite being pictured in the press release in the Cheshire consortium, which includes Vaughan Sr and Jr, as the new owners.
Not only was Vaughan Sr officially made the clubs main sponsor, but his son was also made the clubs Director of Football, and in that role he appears to be heavily involved in player recruitment.
When he was appointed as full time Director of Football, (the first time he has ever held such a role) a statement on Bangor City’s official website stated: ‘Vaughan’s role has been identifying players for First Team Manager Andy Legg, negotiating contracts and securing the players signature’. One assumes that under Kevin Nicholson his role will remain the same.
Call me cynical, but looking at the role of Vaughan Sr as main investor and Vaughan Jr with a big role in player recruitment, and then looking at their history of over investment and over promising leads me to become a little uneasy with the way in which Bangor seems to be heading.
Of course, I do not want Bangor to fail, and to see them genuinely compete for the title year in year out is something the fans want and the league needs to see.
However, I feel really apprehensive over the future of Bangor City right now and I won’t stop feeling that until Stephen Vaughan Sr and Jr both leave the club.