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JEFF PRESTRIDGE: Memorial firm must play ball over missing tributes

Fury: The Den, home to Millwall fans who are angry that memorials for loved ones - like those in Leeds' Elland Road, top left - have not been filled in

Football fans are dedicated individuals. Diehards spend four-figure sums each season to follow their team. Not just on tickets and travel, but on everything from programs to replica shirts.

The bond between team and fan is unbreakable, as I can attest. I’ve followed my own – West Bromwich Albion – through thick and thin, knowing the lows of the old Division Three (now League Two) and the highs of the Premier League.

Even though TV means most matches are now played on a Monday or Friday – rather than a Saturday (the only day of the week I can go) – I cling to my West Brom season ticket. For what? Loyalty? Madness? A mixture of both.

Sometimes this link is abused – by football owners (in the case of the WBA), individuals and suppliers. It happened in Millwall where fans, who bought memorial plaques or stones to remember loved ones who died when visiting the Den, were left bitterly disappointed by a supplier.

Although the memorials were purchased through the Millwall club website, the payments went to Your Tribute, a company that specializes in creating memorial walls and parks for football clubs. Millwall took a share of each sale.

Fury: The Den, home to Millwall fans who are angry that memorials for loved ones - like those in Leeds' Elland Road, top left - have not been filled in

Fury: The Den, home to Millwall fans who are angry that memorials for loved ones – like those in Leeds’ Elland Road, top left – have not been filled in

Sales started during the pandemic – and according to the club, 95 orders went unfulfilled. Your Tribute’s assurances that they will be honored were followed by a wall of silence. Millwall’s legal threats were ignored.

Many customers, understandably, are livid. Your Tribute, whose website boasts of memorials built for football clubs Arsenal, Leeds and Liverpool, looks like a struggling business. A group of directors resigned and the company failed to follow Companies House rules. Accounts are due before the end of the month, but I’d bet they would be filed late (if at all).

There is also a charge on the company’s assets by Bradford-based lender Business & Enterprise Finance.

Last week I tried to contact the company by email and phone. No joy. The phone went straight to voicemail – and when it asked me to email it immediately said the inbox was full.

Millwall officials are distraught because of the bad blood the issue has created among fans.

Things aren’t made any easier by the fact that the club has no record of who bought memorabilia. All details are held by Your Tribute.

Hopefully some people will be able to seek refunds from their credit card provider under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act. Those who have paid by debit card have no such protection, although I have a feeling the (extremely community driven) football club will soon step in and make sure no one is left behind .

If you’re waiting for an order from Your Tribute to be fulfilled, let me know.

Apologies from the subway

Apologies to Metro Bank, the challenger bank known for being dog-friendly and free “magic slots” that convert spare change into deposits.

At the end of last year, following a £10m fine from the regulator, I assumed Metro’s days of branch openings were over.

I made the claim on the back of his three-prong cut earlier in 2022 – and his rather poor financial health (loss rather than profit).

How wrong I was. This month, despite recording more losses (£70.7million for 2022), the bank announced it would open 11 new stores over the next two years – all in North East England where it remains under-represented. He also said he would keep all existing branches open.

Although the openings will only bring the number of branches to 87, it is heartening to see a bank committing to our shopping streets.

Between them, rivals such as Barclays, Lloyds and NatWest have announced 119 branch closures this year – and that’s before spring has even started (Barclays revealed 15 on Friday).

Sorry Metro.

I hope Helen has the right kind of Isa!

Helen Archer – a key figure on BBC Radio 4’s The Archers – is considering cashing in her Isa to fund a trip abroad for herself and her physio boyfriend Lee Bryce.

Nothing wrong with that – tax-friendly Isas are set up to be accessible at some point in our lives.

Cashing in: Helen Archer, played by Louiza Patikas

Cashing in: Helen Archer, played by Louiza Patikas

And it looks like Helen and Lee – a hundred times a better man than his predecessor Rob Titchener – are madly in love. So that’s pretty sweet Helen – played by Louiza Patikas – wants to give Lee a trip to see his kids.

But I hope Helen has configured her Isa correctly. If she’s a ‘flexible’ Isa, she’ll be able to make the withdrawal – and then make it good – without jeopardizing her £20,000 annual allowance.

The only condition is that the refund must be made in the same tax year.

On the other hand, if Helen’s Isa isn’t flexible – they only came on the scene in 2016 – she won’t be able to replace the funds withdrawn unless she eats into her £20,000 allowance.

A final point on Isas. The clock for using this tax year’s Isa allowance is counting down rapidly. Invest before April 5 or lose it.

Rest in peace, Jennifer Aldridge – and yes, I’m addicted to Archers.

The stock split is welcome for investors

Simplifying investing should be imperative for companies that help us build personal wealth, whether they are fund managers or investment platforms.

So hats off to investment trust Murray International for announcing a plan to allow more investors of modest means to buy its shares.

Subject to approval by existing shareholders next month, shares in the trust will be split, allowing investors to hold five for each they currently own. This means that instead of owning one share priced at £13.14, shareholders will own five worth £2.63 each.

This move will not make investors poorer or richer, but it will ensure that the trust becomes more investor-friendly and attracts new investors. For what? Well, the stock split will make it easier for investors to get into the trust, especially if they can only afford small monthly purchases. The reinvestment of quarterly dividends from the trust will also become less problematic due to the lower cost of shares.

For the record, Murray International, part of the Abrn investment stable, is a good example of how an investment trust should be run. Lead manager Bruce Stout has been around the block a few times, so he knows how to get the most out of a diversified portfolio of global stocks (and a few bonds) in all sorts of market conditions.

It is big in Mexican airport operator Grupo Aeroportuario which is enjoying a tourism boom. “The trust has held the shares for 22 years,” Stout told me last week. “I continue to reduce the stake to keep it below five percent, but the dividends it generates are compelling.”

He also likes companies such as Brazilian mining giant Vale and German industrial giant Siemens which benefit from the respective demand for lithium and automation. Over the past year, shareholders have enjoyed total returns of 19% (I would say that any day).

The focus on dividends is also a bonus. For financial year 2022, it will pay out total income of 56p per share – an annual increase of 1.8% and the 18th year the trust has increased its divi payouts. Other popular investment trusts with share prices around £10 are expected to follow suit, such as Alliance, Brunner and Monks. Investors first.

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