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The Winds Of Change

By: Bill Osborne
Date: 15/08/2001

OVER the last two years there have been radical changes at Grimsby Town Football Club. Some good, some bad. These changes have had an effect on the club itself and the fans and supporters in particular.

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The changes to the board and the machinations within the boardroom brought fears for the future and disquiet amongst the fans.

It began with the bid for control resulting in the ousting of the Bill Carr faction and the beginning of the Ramsden/Huxford partnership which eventually ended in acrimony with the chairman Doug Everitt and Huxford departing and Hux making his own failed bid for control.

Interspersed with the board room changes and the later wrangles came the sacking of manager Alan Buckley, the appointment of Lennie Lawrence as his replacement and the nerve wracking end to a season long struggle to retain first division status.

Then came a financial crisis with attendance figures, which were the lowest in the division, created a cash flow problem and the board announcing a close call with receivership due, they claimed, to risk taking by the former chairman and vice chairman. It was not surprising therefore that the talk amongst the fans was of impending doom and forecasts of football in the Conference league if the club managed to survive at all.

Coupled with that was the board's problems in making changes to the constitution and new share issues with their plans being blocked by the previous board faction using their voting power despite previously announcing that they would do nothing to prevent the board from doing its job.

It was a combination of all these events and the ongoing uncertainty that led to fans calling for a mini revolution in seeking heads to roll and cries for new leadership under a new board.

But the winds of change seem to have blown across the portals of Grimsby Town Football Club recently with the board announcing a new drive for financial security with stricter fiscal control and the reassessment of the new stadium project plans. All aimed at bringing a more secure financial future for the club.

However, fans and supporters are not easily appeased and there still exists factions of supporters calling for the heads of the current board and for new directors who are prepared to invest money in the club to be appointed. Those who have supported Grimsby Town over the years have long been aware of and resigned to the fact that there is an acute shortage of willing victims queuing to invest money in the club.

Those calling for mass resignations may have to realize that their call has come too late if the recent changes to the structure of the board and their implications are considered. History shows that most revolutions have occurred long after the wrongs have been righted and Alexis de Tocqueville in "Ancien Regime et la Revolution" wrote

"The system that a revolution destroys is almost always better than that which immediately preceded it, and experience teaches that the most dangerous moment for a bad government is usually that in which it begins to reform."

That may well be the case at Grimsby Town Football Club because a reformation is taking place. The return of two directors John Fenty and Michael Rouse who were members of the Bill Carr board seems to indicate that past factional differences between the previous and current boards are dissipating. If that is the case, the plans of the board, which in the past, have been voted down by the previous regime, may receive greater support, which will help to provide further security for the future.

The intervention of major shareholder, Dudley Ramsden, who injected funds to ensure that the club could pay its way until the TV money is received in September, is an indication of the confidence that the board have in their ability to lead the club to a successful future.

There are also indications that the current tight reins on the share equity currently imposed by the major shareholders may be loosened with new director John Fenty stating:

"The directors and the club's major shareholder are seeking to attract new investment by unlocking the unissued share capital. A successful share issue will benefit the football club, as opposed to a small number of shareholders, by seeing a much needed cash injection and would see a return to a democratic approach to running the club by a settled Board of Directors, all of whom are committed to the sole aim of furthering the interests of Grimsby Town."

It seems now that the concerns of the supporters particularly in regard to the new stadium, the share issue and the "closed shop" board style have been addressed and the ensuing changes may herald a new future for the Mariners. If Grimsby Town Football Club needs anything right at this moment - it is not change, but stability.

It is difficult to judge what effect the off field activities have on players but if the previous season is an indication, then we should ensure that this season the efforts and energies of all involved - the board, the full time staff, the fans and supporters should be directed to the activities on the field.

Because in the end, that is what this football club is really about.

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