The recent reports that former Port Vale CEO Perry Deakin has been appointed as the new 'Stadium Manager' at the Kassam seems to have brought Vale's frenzied war between fans and directors to our doorstep. Vale fans are, understandably, indignant that the despised Deakin has been given another job after leaving Port Vale in administration. A look at the relevant thread on their One Vale Fan forum is revealing, including comments such as:
“I am pretty sure that the powers that be at Oxford have and will be brought up to date with Deakin's antics. It's then their call whether they want to risk employing someone of his calibre.”
However, that we will now be dealing with someone with Deakin's background on an issue as important as the stadium is concerning. While at Vale, he was at the centre of a series of controversies. First was the matter of his appointment to the Vale board of directors, claiming to have bought the £100,000 worth of shares required to join the board before it was revealed that he had paid nothing for these shares or the voting rights that came with them. Deakin announced a '£5million' investment deal with American company Blue Sky International, which then fell through in spectacular fashion, with the club having already spent the money before it had been received. Deakin then approved the remortgaging of Vale Park, breaking the terms of a previous loan from Stoke City Council in the process. Despite announcing his resignation early this year, he was found to still be on the payroll when the administrators took over the running of the club last month.
And now it appears he's pitched up at Kassam's Stadium. The question that remains is why would Kassam want to employ someone with such an appalling record of incompetence and dishonesty to manage one of his assets? Publicly, Kelvin Thomas and Ian Lenagan have declared that the club's relationship with Kassam is 'good' and that discussions over the purchase of the stadium are 'ongoing', but over the last six months Firoka's actions appear to have become more antagonistic towards the club. The appointment of the notorious Deakin follows the backdated stadium service charge, which resulted in the club having to pay out an unbudgeted £250K midway through the season and now costs us an extra £100K a year.
Though it is tempting to believe that Kassam is doing this purely out of spite, this makes little logical sense, as we are the only realistic tenant for his company's stadium, so to damage Oxford United is to damage his own company. More realistic, perhaps, is that Deakin is merely a negotiating tool for Kassam over the stadium purchase. Though I have no idea if this is correct, it has been said that if the club buy the ground, they will have to employ Deakin if he has been in the job for more than two years. Interestingly, this was also the timeframe set by Lenagan at the fans' forum to complete the purchase. No well-run football club would want someone with Deakin's questionable record and reputation involved at their club. Is this Kassam's way of setting a deadline for negotiations?
Of course this is nothing but idle speculation, but the one thing this sorry tale demonstrates is that our club's good name remains tainted by its continuing association with Firoz Kassam.