The ‘Theatre Of Dreams’, Banned Director Article And Other Carefully Construed Press Articles –
The name Michael Knighton is still very well known in football circles. It is a name often associated with Manchester United and Carlisle United football clubs.. The mere mention of Michael Knighton for some conjures images of a hot sunny day back in 1989 – the opening day of the football season – when a small tubby bloke with a moustache juggled the ball in front of 50000 football fans before smashing the ball into the net at the Stretford End of Old Trafford. To say the least ‘twas a novel way of introducing himself to the football and the business world. That unforgettable footie image (for some) is as fresh today as it was a quarter of a century ago at least for those of a certain age and who witnessed the event.
For others, especially the latter-day Internet trolls, football message board fanatics and tired journalists hunting around for a bit of copy to fill their deadline column inches – the name Michael Knighton – conjures up a rather different image. Michael Knighton, they muster, is a man to be gleefully bear-baited. A man whose name is there to be bashed from here to kingdom come for all their keyboards are worth.
Michael Knighton is the ‘go-to’ name as the man perceived by this group of lost souls to be the hapless figure who either sees UFO’s, or, is seen as the ultimate Grim Reaper for any struggling football club seeking fiscal salvation. The latter image is a carefully crafted one. An image moulded by a tiny number of Internet bloggers, and amateur journalists. Most of these writers (bloggers) are working out of the small city of Carlisle in the far north of England. Or, they are young, naive wannabe journos’ trying to make a name for themselves on the back of the name, Michael Knighton.
Here’s the thing – they say: let’s get ready to kick and punch the little fat Knighton man for all he is worth. We can have some fun whilst we’re at it. This group of warped and bitter commentators think they have made their point. Their point is that Michael Knighton should simply be consigned to the football dustbin with the rest of the would-be individuals who seek to privately own a professional football club. Indeed, these blogger-cum-amateur writers like to argue that football club owners of the Michael Knighton ilk are indeed a very dangerous breed. A breed of men who must be outlawed, preferably in as ugly a manner as possible, to be driven and shutout from the peoples beautiful game at all costs.
It is extraordinary how frequently the name Michael Knighton, the man who once bought Manchester United, and, who once owned 93 per cent of Carlisle United FC crops up on the Internet in football circles. Every single day Michael Knighton and Manchester United or Michael Knighton and Carlisle United appear somewhere on the pages of the all-embracing cyber-age world. More often than not the name Knighton is used or quoted by people who would have been in nappies, literally not yet even on baby solids, when Michael Knighton was strutting his stuff at Manchester United and Carlisle football clubs. So what can these youngsters really know about the events on which they so eagerly scribble? Not very much is the answer. And that is a fact.
Bizarrely, Knighton’s name crops up in many articles’ that are often completely unrelated to the character or name of the real Michael Knighton. Odd, but true.
These Internet characters are all the same. They like to think that Michael Knighton is the type of football man who sits somewhere waiting to be readily ridiculed by all and sundry. A football name to be brow beaten with their usual sticks and stones and tiresome historic bits of half known, mostly invented information. These writers must have a sort of writer’s block as they sit and muse – oh, yes let’s grab the name Michael Knighton and whip him, crucify him and mix his name into a mushy, Internet style pulp – that’s bound to get my piece noticed. The subject of one Michael Knighton – will surely entertain my readers. They love to regurgitate old chestnuts like – didn’t Knighton destroy Carlisle United FC in some way? Didn’t Knighton just juggle a ball about at Old Trafford and then disappear into the ether because he didn’t have the cash to buy the Manchester Club ? Isn’t he the man who believes in little green-men from outer space? Wasn’t Knighton banned from being a company director at one time or another? Didn’t Michael Knighton sack Meryn Day and then appoint himself as team manager?
All the usual silly guff is tripped out every time the name Michael Knighton is mentioned by this particular set of ill-informed amateur journalists
These trolls and second-rate journalists trot out the same old historic nonsense as if it is today’s cutting edge news. Even worse, they write their stuff as if all the historic stories from which they draw their drivel are actually true! For example, the 2001 old fake UFO story – always worth a laugh and one that even still tickles Michael Knighton himself. The city of Carlisle is the place where the name Michael Knighton is regularly traduced. It is where the real malice is manufactured.
Carlisle people have been fed a diet of all things Michael Knighton from the day he hit the town back in 1992. And even though he left the city of Carlisle nearly two decades ago – only recently (a few weeks ago in fact) did a Carlisle Cumberland News publication feature a full six-page story about the man that is – Michael Knighton. This rather uncharitable effort was a piece that formed the principal feature story in a local magazine complete with a banner headline front-page cover lead. The Article was written by a freelance journalist hunting down a few bob, and, its style, amongst other things, simply carried on the old tradition of questioning Michael Knighton’s sanity.
Clearly, then, the ghost of Knighton, so it seems, is there still in that lovely little city of Carlisle forever to haunt the endless ghost hunters that roam around that beautiful place. The name Knighton is always available to the struggling freelance seeking to make a bit of a living even if they have to trade in on the stories that are decades old. Or some younger huckster who is clearly still striving to make a name for themselves in journalism on the back of the name – Michael Knighton.
Occasionally, however, a respected journalist might have a go at attacking the name of Michael Knighton. And, in Michael Knighton’s case – these such journalists – if they have let their own normally high standards of research slip – are by far the most dangerous. This is simply because they have some degree of credibility associated with their journalism – so if they get their facts wrong – then that can be very dangerous for their target subject.
One such character in the Michael Knighton story is a journalist called David Conn. Whilst very little attention is paid to the jabbering nonsense of Internet trolls and football message board writers – writers like David Conn ( a journalist who has written for several national newspapers and authored a couple of half-decent books on the game) are a different kettle of fish altogether. This is because the angle of approach that a proper journalist like David Conn elects to take over a story carries far more clout and respectability than the former group of silly trolls that amateur types might ever achieve.
Michael Knighton himself states that he thinks David Conn has done some good work when it comes to looking into the ownership of football clubs. Knighton is the first to agree that there have been certain characters that have come in to football who should certainly be more than closely examined. These type of characters should be put under the microscope and looked at very closely indeed. In Michael Knighton’s view there are certain characters that should have never been allowed into the game at any level. There are such people who should never have been allowed to take ownership of a professional football club. Therefore, Michael Knighton does , in fact , have a high regard for some of David Conn’s work in this respect. Indeed, Knighton is the first to champion and applaud David Conn’s work when it is based on hard fact and good investigative journalism , and , in Knighton’s view – David Conn is capable of both these essential journalistic attributes. Knighton says of Conn:
“David Conn is right to call for the football authorities to examine closely all those who seek to get involved in the game of professional football – especially when it involves the ownership of a club. I ,too, see this stance as being a critical necessity to protect these valuable and sometimes vulnerable local community assets. No one should ever quibble with that state of affairs. We’ve all seen characters such as the likes of Ken Richardson(Doncaster Rovers), John Russell ( Exeter City), Stan Flashman ( Barnet FC) Maurice Rowarth (Nottm Forest) and Darrell Henry also known as Darell Littlewood ( Scarborough FC ) . All these rather unsavoury characters have , to varying degrees , brought great shame upon themselves in particular and been a total disaster for the football industry in general. Their murky, and in some cases sheer criminal activity , is nothing short of a grotesque scandal for the game. And, sadly, that list of dubious football club owners is by no means definitive.
“ Everyone involved in the game wants to see this type of character being shutout and banned from football by the powers that be. That is why I am totally in favour of the FA’s , ‘ Fit And Proper Person Test. ’ In fact – I personally feel that even that test does not go nearly far enough in trying to weed-out characters that should be prevented from getting involved in the game. However, where I occasionally disagree with David Conn’s approach is that – from time-to-time – as he carries out his research into a particular case scenario – I think this writer has been known to fall into the trap if thinking that every would-be football club owner is, or might be, bad for a club in particular and bad for the game in general. That is where I part company with David because this is clearly not the case. Many fine examples of private ownership of professional football clubs can be cited as the counter argument. ”
It is also a fact that without doubt David Conn is the author of the most damaging article ever written on the subject of the character that is Michael Knighton. This is simply because it was authored by this particular journalist and he is a writer whose work has been taken seriously in the past.
David Conn could never be classed as an amateur journalist and he is certainly not a troll like figure. But David Conn (in his younger day at least ) did author a most damaging piece on Michael Knighton. David Conn managed to get this particular Article published in the very well respected national newspaper – the Independent – coincidently – one of Knighton’s personal favourite newspapers. And, whilst it was an Article written more than 14 years ago the fact that it was found among the pages of the Independent newspaper – this afforded the piece real clout. The piece, at the time, succeeded in creating ( at least for some) a certain image of the man behind the name that is – Michael Knighton. But it is an Article that requires closer examination – (see point 3 below).
Knighton is not ashamed to admit that there have been a few, if unremarkable, controversies in his life as a one-time public figure. Who hasn’t had a few of these stories in their life? But contrary to popular belief – Michael Knighton is unflinchingly aware of this fact. And, further, he is only too happy to discuss these issues with anyone who is the least bit interested. That is so long as they are prepared to at least consider the facts – the unequivocal and actual provable facts of the various tales – as opposed to the utter fiction that has been written and largely created by the warped and prejudiced ghost hunters or the amateur journo , thrusting type huckster shower.
Let’s take these controversial issues head-on and look at them one by one:
1) Did Michael Knighton ever claim to speak to a UFO and little green men
from outer space?
Answer: No – not true. This was a fake story. A story already dealt with on these blog pages view the original post here
2) Did Michael Knighton ever sack the one time team manager of Carlisle United FC, Mervyn Day, and then immediately appoint himself as team Manager?
Answer: No – not true. It is true that Michael Knighton did relieve Mervyn Day of his post as manager at the club. And, it is true that Michael Knighton was often seen in a tracksuit around Brunton Park the home of the club. It is also true that Michael Knighton is a former specialist Physical Education teacher and a qualified football coach to boot.
But , did Michael Knighton ever become team manager and take a coaching session with the first team squad?
Answer: No – not true.
Did Michael Knighton ever perform a half-time match team-talk with the first team?
Answer: No – not true.
Did Michael Knighton ever select the first team at Carlisle United FC?
Answer: No – not true. Ask any players involved at the club at the time and they will confirm all those facts as the truth and nothing but the truth. If they don’t confirm those facts as being the actual case – then they too must themselves have their own personal agenda.
3) Did Michael Knighton ever personally appear in a Leeds court for corporate fiscal “irregularities” at a company of which he was a director?
Answer : No – not true. What is true is that Michael Knighton was once a director of a company whose directors where found to be in technical breach of corporate rules and regulations that related to late or unpaid PAYE taxation payments to the Inland Revenue.
This allegation, together with the notion that the directors made preferential payments to other creditors in front and ahead of the Inland Revenue indebtedness that the company then still owed to the public purse are the acts that surround this case. These are the issues. It is these specific issues that led to the call (usually from people who had nothing to do with that particular company itself – for example – so it is claimed – Carlisle United football fans) for the directors to be banned for this very minor regulation breach of company rules from acting as company directors for a period of time.
With hindsight it is true that Michael Knighton (as he now freely admits) made the mistake of not defending a case brought against him by the then corporate financial authorities (which came in the guise of a back room office of the old DTI unit – that organisation itself as a Gov’ Department is now defunct, but the service known as the Insolvency Service is the body that decided to institute proceedings ). It was this latter body , not the DTI , that sought to disqualify the directors of that company. And although Knighton was all but a sleeping director and certainly an absent owner of that company in question , the authorities pressed ahead to ban him from acting as a company director for a period of time. It was over this alleged conduct and that technical breach of corporate rules and regulations as cited above that surrounds this old story as reported.
Oddly enough, at the time in question ( the economic recession of 1992-1994) and according to the then DTI’s very own statistics – virtually 65% of all small business directors during that bleak economic time of the early 1990’s were guilty of breaching the same corporate regulations, (that of being late or failing to pay their PAYE payments when they fell due) as Michael Knighton and his fellow directors were being accused. It is still a bit of a mystery to Michael Knighton as to why it was that the name of Michael Knighton was singled out by the authorities at the time.
During that period in question (almost twenty years ago when the case was first looked into) Michael Knighton was always advised by his professional advisors involved in the case that they believed there was, at least in the context of a serious breach of rules , no case to answer. Nonetheless, it is an undeniable fact, that Michael Knighton’s flat refusal to defend himself resulted in he and his fellow directors being suspended (banned) from acting as Company directors for a period of time ( 5.5 years and 2 years respectively ) for this minor breach of corporate regulations.
However, perhaps what is important in this case and a fact that is also certainly true, and, a fact that was accepted by the court itself in this particular case, is that at no time was there any accusation that wilful malpractice had taken place. Indeed, it was accepted even by those who brought the case against the directors that at no time was there any deliberate impropriety or deliberate wrongdoing of any kind committed by Michael Knighton or any other director of the company in question. A fact that was completely unreported by the journalists who reported on the case at the time. So one must question why a case was triggered in the first place?
Some say that this was a case brought by the powers that be simply because of Michael Knighton’s then very high public profile. Such a case brought against such a public figure thereby ensuring the authorities maximum publicity. A case , perhaps the powers that be may have reasoned , would show the rest of the corporate director community that the corporate authorities are prepared to act against company directors even in the case of very minor breaches ( virtually the equivalent to parking on double yellow lines in corporate terms ) of the corporate regulations. Who really knows ? No one will ever get to know what their ultimate motivation was for bringing this particular case against Michael Knighton and his fellow directors?
It was firmly accepted by all the authorities and the professionals involved in this case that Michael Knighton was not personally guilty of any crime , this was always a civil action not a criminal one, whatsoever and howsoever described. But the damage was done. Certain journalists made sure of that.
Enter journalist David Conn. If one reads the Independent newspaper Article , ‘ Knighton’s – theatre of dreams in ruins ‘ written in the year 2000 and contrived by respected journalist Conn – a well known journalist within the football community -then it soon becomes clear how stories of this kind can be so construed as to create a certain image of a particular character.
David Conn decided to cover this particular incident. It was a story at the time that David Conn quickly elected to give it the full Conn treatment ( no pun intended). This journalist followed the story in typical David Conn style as he was a writer at the time desperately trying to establish himself as one of the key investigative journalists who sought to specialise in the football industry.
David Conn pulled his full agenda into top gear for this story. Further, this was an Article that was hurriedly dispatched and posted on to the Internet as soon as it was possible to do so. This Article was written with a definite objective in mind. It was clearly construed in such a way that one could be forgiven for believing that Michael Knighton had, in fact, been guilty of committing some kind of a serious fiscal corporate crime. That was always David Conn’s intention as he cobbled together this damning Article.
Such an agenda was, and perhaps has always been , the motivation of the likes of David Conn. For it is very clear that the style in which this particular Article is written – in such a negative , calculating fashion – it soon becomes obvious that David Conn was seeking to create a certain image of Michael Knighton. Further, as we have just read in this piece , it is a well known fact that this particular journalist is a long time voracious critic not only of Michael Knighton , but indeed of virtually all people who seek to privately and personally own professional football clubs.
If anyone doubts this assessment against this particular piece of writing – albeit from a respected journalist – then simply read David Conn’s Independent newspaper Article published in 2000. This is readily found on the Internet even today some 14 years later after it was first published. The discerning reader might like to compare David Conn’s style of construing the facts of the Knighton Company director banning incident against the facts as they were published by the legal team acting for Michael Knighton at the time.
The two versions of the same event are striking in their respective contrast. It is interesting to see the type of information that the respective articles select to highlight. Look especially at the style in which the same facts are presented. The official Press Release Statement is in complete contrast to the Article as produced by journalist David Conn. This despite the fact that Conn was totally aware of the official Press Release and its content. A copy of the historical Press Release is attached at the end of this blog. This Press Release was indeed circulated to all UK news agencies at the time. Few newspapers or media organisations showed much interest in publishing the Press Release version. Naturally, the press – they being the press – very much preferred to put their own spin on the case in their own inimitable style and certain sections of the press slanted their own interpretation onto these events in a manner as only the Press can.
It is clear that any fair-minded readers will soon grasp the case in point here in respect of David Conn’s aims and objectives. It was the facts and information as outlined in the official Press Release which related to this case that David Conn clearly and quite deliberately failed to include in his carefully crafted Article. A journalistic piece written to accommodate the writer’s personal agenda and promote his lifelong crusade to target those individuals who seek to privately own professional football clubs. David Conn’s Article in respect of Michael Knighton then is a piece deliberately construed and styled in such a manner as to clearly cause Michael Knighton’s name maximum collateral damage.
However, what David Conn fails to understand and fails to make clear in his historic Article – is that Michael Knighton – and any of the directors of that company or – directors of any corporate entity for that matter – would/and are perfectly entitled, under elementary company law principles, to let companies go into voluntary liquidation to the detriment of their creditors (including the Inland Revenue) and yet still have been deemed to have acted properly and lawfully in their capacity as company directors. Any allegation otherwise is entirely without foundation in the case of Michael Knighton. David Conn palpably fails to make this point clear.
Notwithstanding the above, Michael Knighton finds himself together with some pretty illustrious ,even impressive, sporting company when it comes to sports personalities that have been banned from acting as company directors. Names like the former England Football Team Manager, Terry Venables, and, the famously successful Boxing Promoter, Frank Warren spring to mind. But this fact does not dilute the sense of injustice that Michael Knighton might rightly feel when he sees how his own historic case was portrayed in the media by those who are clearly driven by their own specific agendas.
So, there we have it then. The power of the written word in all its so-called authentic glory. Life has taught Michael Knighton much over his years in the public spotlight. And, now, in his senior years, he sometimes reflects upon the many flaws and innate foibles of mankind. A species that often finds it difficult to wrestle with the trials and tribulations of the human condition. An oft unfathomable condition that befalls him on his journey from the cradle to the grave. It takes a brave and a bold and an honest man ( or woman ) to go against the grain with a particular story. Michael Knighton gave up holding his breath for a brave and honest man or woman to appear on his side of the fence – a very long time ago.
Perhaps the most poignant lesson that Michael Knighton has learned above all else is to understand that for many people in this weird and wonderful world of ours – is that there are a certain group of individuals that will only ever believe in what they want to believe and nothing more. This is the common trait that one finds especially in those of the anti-intellectual, bigotted brigade. Or, in the ways of the just the plain stupid. The likes of respected journalist David Conn should know better for he is neither anti-intellectual nor stupid. But even a journalist of this calibre are individuals that are capable of producing articles simply on the basis that such a piece might just serve to foster and promote their particular world view or their particular pet cause rather than portray the truth of a story. For this latter group – absolutely nothing, no hard facts, no evidence no matter how clear and indisputable will ever change their concrete and fixed views. And believe me – I’ve come across hundreds of them in my time in the fabulously real yet unreal world of football fans.
Michael Knighton gave up trying to change the views of this particular tribe back in 1989 on a sunny afternoon in August. A brilliantly sunny day – when a small tubby bloke with a moustache went for a kick-about in the greatest theatre of football dreams in all the world. That was the day that even the critics , inclusive of the dunderheads , the Internet trolls and even the respected journalists like David Conn – will still be writing about this memorable event even when the name of the real Michael Knighton is long forgotten. When the name , ‘Knighton’ , is not even a distant memory in the annals of football history – such is the power of visual imagery even over the written word.
THE YEAR IS 2000. IT IS THE YEAR OF THE NEW MILLENNIUM. WHAT A START IT WAS FOR ONE MICHAEL KNIGHTON. THIS IS HOW THE OFFICIAL PRESS RELEASE READ IN THE DIRECTOR DISQUALIFICATION CASE BROUGHT AGAINST MICHAEL KNIGHTON. READERS MIGHT WELL COMPARE AND CONTRAST THE REAL FACTS AS OPPOSED TO THE REPORTED FACTS AS PRESENTED IN THE REPORTING STYLE OF GUARDIAN JOURNALIST AND AUTHOR, DAVID CONN………………………………….
A COPY OF THE HISTORIC
OFFICIAL PRESS RELEASE RECORDING THE KNIGHTON CASE :
DATED 15 SEPTEMBER 2000:
– MICHAEL KNIGHTON –
Taking into account all material facts regarding the protracted, long standing case brought by the Department of Trade and Industry (D.T.I.) against Michael Knighton for an alleged technical breach of the Companies Act regarding payment of P.A.Y.E. taxation arrears and preferential payments to other creditors ahead of H.M.Inland Revenue – it has been decided between the parties that they are willing to dispose of the proceedings by way of the shortened form of procedure known as a ‘Carecraft’ settlement.
Mr. Knighton has not been required to attend court. The County Court, on 14th September 2000 granted permission for this shortened form of procedure as a method of disposing of these proceedings.
Professional advisors to Michael Knighton are surprised and disappointed that the D.T.I. have elected to bring any case against the former directors, Michael Knighton and his wife Rosemary, for their involvement in a former company, now defunct, known as, St. David’s Preparatory School Limited.
This is a civil matter. It should be stressed, for the avoidance of doubt, that there is not, and never has been, any question of allegations of dishonesty of any kind whatsoever made against Michael Knighton or any of the former directors in respect of this case. And, that Michael Knighton acted in good faith at all times during his entire involvement with the company.
Further, no criticism whatsoever was levied by the court against Mr. Knighton in respect of his involvement or the operating of any other business interests or other companies of which he has in the past been a director. These observations are accepted as a statement of fact in the current proceedings. The events to which these proceedings relate occurred some considerable time ago during the economic recession of 1990-1994.
Clearly, the Insolvency Service, on behalf of the DTI , allege there has been a technical breach of the Companies Act, concerning the taxation affairs of the company and therefore this organisation elected to bring a case for a period of suspension by way of a Disqualification Order against the former directors of the company. Mr. Knighton has agreed to a suspension from acting as a company director for a period not exceeding 5.5 years.
Given that Mr. Knighton has not been a director of a company for a considerable time, and that he has no intention of becoming a director of a Limited Liability Company in the immediate future, he has elected not to defend the action in any court proceedings. This would have been extremely time consuming and costly for Mr. Knighton. His decision to accept a satisfactory compromise to bring these proceedings to a close was based solely on these considerations. Mr. Knighton’s professional advisors have maintained throughout that their view was/is that there was no case to answer.
The action of these proceedings is more difficult to fathom on the basis that one director, namely Mr. Knighton, offered to settle with the Inland Revenue (Crown monies) personally despite these sums not being a personal liability. However, disagreements over timescale and the proposed penalties levied by the Inland Revenue for such a settlement between the company and the Inland Revenue led to these proposals being aborted.
Mr. Knighton is convinced that his failure to reach a settlement with the Inland Revenue (and, perhaps his high public profile) has significantly contributed to these proceedings being instituted.
Mr. Knighton personally is a substantial creditor of the voluntary liquidation of the said company, yet Mr. Knighton has elected not to make a claim against the company’s residual funds held by the appointed liquidator.
15 September 2000