Historical items at risk if no buyer found
As we all become more familiar with the administration process and terminology, the wider administration team (in London) are busy putting together sales information and asset lists for the new owners, whoever and whenever that may be.
Obvious assets are the players, vehicles, various pieces of equipment, fixtures and fittings, but there are other, less visible assets that are being taken into consideration, which is where they cross into my world.
Whilst 99% of all Derby County heritage and memorabilia is in private hands, the club does own a number of valuable items inside the stadium and in storage. There are many reasons why there is so little within the club – the trophies you win are yours to keep for a year and then you have to hand them back; medals and international caps are awarded to players so they don’t belong to the club either. The items you are left with are presentation pieces or items donated or loaned by former player’s or their families. This is probably the same for most clubs and it is for the private collector to mop up items as they come up for sale, usually at auction or word of mouth. These collectors generally specialise in one category or another eg shirts, programmes, badges, photos, tickets, 1970s and so on and probably a smaller group who collect anything and everything.
The trophy cabinets in Main Reception and in the 1884 Lounge contain items as diverse as a used football from 1945 to FA Cup winners and losers medals, the telegram from Clough to Longson about signing Todd and a silver plate from Real Madrid for our centenary. Beyond these items are numerous, large framed photos in the corridors and many hospitality boxes have shirts on the walls (ownership of these may be disputed).
There are things you won’t find - fans often ask about the European pennants, exchanged before those famous matches against Benfica, Juventus and Real Madrid etc or the Charity Shield one – these were taken from the club by a former director and sold at auction. Other items like Board Minutes from the 1890s found their way to Germany and many other things have also disappeared. Many interesting and collectible items were also stolen from the Baseball Ground in its latter days with there being no security presence overnight, although I have my suspicions about what was happening.
For those that went to Quad during the summer and autumn in 2014, you will recall the ‘Welcome to the Baseball Ground’ sign that filled one wall, the home dressing room door, Gordon Guthrie’s physio table and the boardroom table and chairs from the BBG. These and many more are the ones in storage that the administrator’s team needed to know about. How they can put a value on them is debateable as some of them are just painted pieces of wood and are more sentimental than financial. There are some items worth several thousand pounds – Archie Gemmill’s match worn Charity Shield shirt (the new frame cost £400 alone), large framed original portraits of Steve Bloomer, Sammy Crooks and Tom Cooper and large presentation brass serving plate from Velez Mostar. There are dozens of framed photos from the Bar and Grill and previous refits of various rooms around the stadium as well as floodlights, signage and even 1930s wooden seats.
These items are all sitting in storage and can only be displayed at suitable events as the signs are quite large and heavy and need a large area in which to properly display them. Under the previous US ownership, they had plans to extend the East Stand backwards covering the service road and the additional spaces created would have allowed these to be displayed permanently.
Right now, they are under the ‘ownership’ of the administrators and if they stop paying the storage costs then it is within the rights of the storage unit owners to clear the space and either sell or destroy those items. Alternatively, they (administrators) could order everything to be sold as deemed not worth keeping and removing the storage costs from the on-going costs, or keep paying the bills and pass on everything to the new owners. All guesswork currently.
If all else fails in the administration process and liquidation is the only resolution, then all things will be sold or destroyed, and I doubt that there are many people that have the storage space required to keep some of these things.
As with everyone else, we can only wait and hope the new owners have an appreciation of the heritage and memorabilia of the club and wish to keep it going.