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Sack The Board? No Way!

By: Bill Osborne
Date: 22/01/2002

I READ with interest James Burdass's article on the board's plan to cut costs across the whole club structure including the Youth Development Programme.

Home > Editorials > Sack The Board? No Way!

James expressed his views and opinions most articulately. Not that I agree with all that he said. Long labelled as a sycophant by some, for my support of the board, I may as well go full bore and express my views that are opposite to those expressed by James and many others.

I do not intend to respond to all of James's comments on the youth development programme cuts, as another article covering that will be on the Fishy shortly, based on additional information we are receiving. But his comment "The business case for the youth system is not hard to understand and it is concerning that the board cannot see its merits." is not true.

It is this board that reintroduced the Youth Development Programme at its current level after it had been allowed to run down when Mr. AB was at the helm. It was this board that allowed Lennie Lawrence to invest some of his budget allocation into it.

".…LL was not sacked over the Broomes affair…."

There has also been some criticism about the structure of the Youth setup at GTFC with accusations of little return in some areas for the investment made. The restructuring may make it more efficient but I would not be brave enough to make a judgment on that.

On LL, James commented: "He was sacked following an incident where he wanted to sign a quality player." A statement that is true but the inference is not. LL was not sacked over the Broomes affair. He was sacked simply because he could not produce the goods!

The chief scout has left, because he is not needed right at this moment and because he wants to join LL at Cardiff. The fact is we do not need one because, except for a striker Groves is looking for at the moment, we will not be searching for players until we know which division we will be in next season. So that cut was the most painless one. Paul Groves as manager will make his own decision as to when and if a replacement will be appointed.

"We are now supposedly spending millions on a ground that will have only 2000 more seats than we have now and would not be any better than Hull City's new effort."

14,500 seats is much better than BP and even discounting the seating numbers, the fact is that BP does not have the facilities to cater for a first division club. In fact, some third division clubs have better grounds. The new stadium is one of the most positive initiatives at Grimsby Town in recent years and may well prove to be the catalyst that changes the financial future of the club.

"He talks of the need to stay up yet will not provide funds for quality players. There is a £1.5m TV money penalty for going down yet we seem to have all but given up the fight halfway through the season. The last board recognised the value of TV money and invested in staying up."

I am not sure what James means by "the last board" I think he is referring to the board on which Bryan Huxford and Doug Everitt served. That is the current board. Only the names have changed. Mr Fenty and Mr Rouse replaced Hux and Doug.

The comment "that board invested in staying up" is not one that the current board members would agree with. According to them, the gambling with this season's TV money in advance, almost drove the club into receivership with a reported loss of approximately 2.5 million which is being paid for this season and next and is one of the reasons the club has no cash to spare and is fighting for survival today.

".…In all its history Grimsby Town Football Club has never had benefactors…."

There is a natural tendency amongst supporters to blame the board during bad times and praise the manager and players in good times and I admit I have played a fair share in that too.

There is also an expectation in some quarters that board members should plough millions of pounds into the club. That is not a valid proposition. In fact, it changes the role of board members from directors to benefactors. In all its history Grimsby Town Football Club has never had benefactors. It has always had a board of directors who have been prepared to support the club financially and that is all.

If any member of the current board has any inclination towards being a benefactor I would suggest that he looks at the Child Development Centre at Grimsby Hospital or the Children's Hospice perhaps. These are just two of the many important community resources that need benefactors much more than a football club.

If you were a businessman, would you invest in a football club with a cast iron guarantee of no return for your money? Would you put millions of pounds into a club that the local community are not prepared to support? Because those are the problems that Grimsby Town faces.

".… We have a club in the top division of the Football League and a supporter base of a Conference League club…."

For those who say, "sack the board" I would suggest that they nominate replacements who are willing to pledge the millions that some fans think will be injected into the club by unknown benefactors. It has not happened since the club was formed in 1878.

The truth is that it is not going to happen. Football is now big business and in today's world, investors want a return for money they invest in business ventures. Grimsby Town, at the moment, is not a good investment prospect. (The Guardian reports that almost every league club is up for sale if buyers can be found, which illustrates that today's investors do not see football as a good risk.)

The Mariners have a small core of fans and supporters whose numbers are not sufficient to fund the expenses of a first division club. We have a club in the top division of the Football League and a supporter base of a Conference League club. That is the major problem facing the board of directors.

It matters not who they are because whoever sits on the board will face the same problems.

These are tough times at Grimsby. We are fighting desperately to survive in the first division and this board have risked their own cash in that fight. Therefore it is a ridiculous notion to suggest replacing them. I said once before that critics will carp and call because, for them, like Chicken Little, the sky will always be falling in.

But despite them, this board have stuck to their resolve that they will not gamble next season's TV income. Instead they have helped the club with their own money. It is they and they alone who have kept the Mariners afloat this season and through prudent financial control have given us hope that we have a future next season whichever division we are in.

For those reasons alone I support this board. Because without them, this club would have been long gone by now, or at the very least, in administration.

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