By Andy Mitchell
Solihull Moors director Mike Turl has been charged by The FA on the back of an investigation lasting more than six months.
Turl stands accused of providing false information on his owners’ and directors’ test (OADT) and acting as an officer of the club prior to that mandatory check being completed.
In August, The NLP exclusively revealed Turl had been called in by the FA amid concerns he had acted as chief executive (CEO) of Moors while under a two-year ban issued by the British Horseracing Authority (BHA).
Turl admitted BHA charges of conspiring with ex-West Bromwich Albion footballer Neil Clement and/or others to commit a corrupt or fraudulent practice as part of a far-reaching sting in which jockey Eddie Ahern was suspended for 15 years.
The two-year ban Turl received, which lasted until April 2015, would have prevented him from passing an OADT. Turl was registered as a director of Moors in June 2017 but first linked up with the National League outfit in 2013.
In August, Moors chairman Trevor Stevens said Turl had acted as CEO “for the past three or four years” but this was later refuted by managing director Simon Hawker.
The FA has since looked into claims that Turl had been running the club, had pumped in a six-figure sum in loans and had paid player wages through his construction company Hardyman.
Turl was unavailable for comment but Hawker, listed as a Moors director since December 2014, insisted: “Hardyman has never paid player wages. There is no way Mike could do that, he has a large company that has other directors and it just could not happen.”
In August, Hawker said Turl’s involvement had been purely “voluntary”, that he had provided “unencumbered loans” and conducted work on the ground “at his own cost”, a stance he stood by in spite of the charges landing.
Hawker confirmed Turl would continue as a director and seek advice before responding to the FA.
“It is work as normal,” said Hawker. “At the moment it is just a charge. He may refute it, he may not. It is up to Mike to make the decision because it is about him rather than the club at the moment.
“I know he has not gone back to the FA yet because we are due to talk about it over the next week. He needs to talk to advisers.
“He has not been stood down and the FA has not suggested that either. The FA approved his OADT (in 2017), there is no disputing that.”
Hawker confirmed he had known of Turl’s ban from British horse racing “when it became public knowledge”.
“As far as the club was concerned, he was a volunteer and it did not preclude him from doing what he did,” he said.
“The club went to him. Mike has always offered his services freely and without encumbrance and that’s all there is to it. I wrote to the FA to say that.
“The FA was aware of Mike’s status as a volunteer with the club before they approved the OADT.”
Hawker confirmed the FA had been informed of Turl’s involvement at the time the OADT had been submitted and not before.
“The final decisions were never Mike’s,” Hawker continued. “He put in money, no one disputes that, but with no lean on the club.
“There are no shenanigans. He was always a volunteer, granted a very active volunteer, but didn’t want to be a director and knew he couldn’t be after the BHA ban.
“Because he had put in money, people looked to him. He didn’t put himself out there as CEO, other people put that on him.”
Asked whether the club or Turl should have been quicker to refute that perception, Hawker replied: “You would need to have eyes in the back of your head and sometimes, you don’t even know it is out there (in the media).
“To make a song and dance about it can make things worse.”
Hawker offered the view that Turl had been “made a bit of an example of” with regard to his BHA ban, adding: “If he had any kind of nefarious intention at all, he would not have done what he has for the football club.”
On the loans made by Turl, Hawker said: “The amounts are personal and confidential to Mike, although they have been lodged with the National League.
“He has never controlled the chequebook, has never been a signatory on the (bank) account and just loaned money to the club without any great prospect of getting it back.
“He has paid for services for the club through Hardyman in the past, building works and what have you, but other than that Mike would have made cheques or transfers into the club accounts.
“Financially he is very astute. He has resources as well. The club relied on him for financial guidance.
“Whether you call that officer or volunteer is a matter for debate but he would not do anything the rest of the board were not happy with and could only operate with their consent. He would have backed off if asked to.
“It was very much a mission of love for Mike. It is his local club, he lives for the community side and developing the academy. That is where most of his effort has gone in, not with the first team at all.
“When Marcus Bignot was manager, Marcus heavily oriented towards Mike because it was Mike that gave the financial advice to move forward, helping with the budget and controlling things.
“The club had issues with HMRC before Mike arrived. Mike negotiated with HMRC to make those issues go away, that was how severe the plight was.
“I would not say it was another Hartlepool but the problems were not dissimilar. There were no winding-up orders but the club was insolvent for a period.
“He has never sought the limelight, he hasn’t spoken to the press, just helped to build an amazing structure with key staff, particularly with Mark Fogarty (director of sport) and the academy.”