Preston returned for pre-season training today, and new signing Patrick Bauer was in action alongside his new teammates.
Fans are still hoping for some new arrivals in the coming days, but few could have predicted a boardroom addition today.
That’s exactly what has happened though. North End have this afternoon confirmed that Craig Hemmings has been appointed as the club’s new chairman.
Preston haven’t operated with a chairman for almost seven years now. Peter Ridsdale was appointed as chairman in 2011, but was banned from assuming that role in 2012. Ridsdale has been operating as an ‘advisor’ ever since, but we’ve all just assumed that he was essentially operating that role.
Now though, Craig Hemmings has arrived to take the role. The 57-year-old has been in senior management meetings representing owner Trevor Hemmings, but now takes on an official position at Deepdale.
This appears to be an intriguing move. Owner Hemmings has now given a major role to his son, and that prompts a number of questions about the future of the club and its hierarchy.
Hemmings has passed on responsibility of his business interests to his son in the past. Paragon Hotels was passed on to Craig Hemmings in 2005, and some will wonder whether the same is happening here.
Trevor is 84 now, and may well begin to take a back seat. Appointing his son as chairman keeps a strong level of control for the owner, but may well hint that he’s making plans to pass the club on in the future.
Fans will naturally hope that this will help the club in the transfer market. Trevor often keeps a firm handle on the pursestrings, often to North End’s detriment in terms of missing out on players. The appointment of his son as chairman is unlikely to free up funds, but gives Alex Neil and Peter Ridsdale another line of communication to the owner, and the familial ties may be seen as a way to convince him to spend.
Ridsdale’s ban ends in April 2020, so getting Craig in now may be a precursor to him assuming ownership, and then Ridsdale taking over as chairman. Craig would have a year to really be around the club closer than ever before, which would prove vital if those moves materialise.
The flip side is that this is just appointing his son as a mouthpiece, with Trevor hardly the most talkative of owners. He’s rarely in the media talking about North End, and it’s often left to Ridsdale to navigate fan forums. Craig’s appointment may simply be a way to get the owner’s message over, without him stepping into the spotlight.
Either way, this looks to be a fascinating move. Only time will tell whether it’s the beginning of the end of Trevor’s time as owner, but it certainly seems like a way to gradually move away.