The Gang of Three meet with Shareholders (1)
Bryn Jones asks questions as Paul Thompson, Clive Stapleton and Barry Hurst meet with shareholders
Tight-lip Thompsons bid for power started in some discomfort last night as over 250 shareholders packed into a room seating 200 people at the Moat House H/Motel in West Bromwich last night. Despite some searching and sceptical questioning Thompson, backed up with less sophistication by Messrs Hurst and Stapleton, seemed to make a favourable impression on at least half of the audience.
The gist of his appeal was that lots of money has been spent badly, little progress made and the club is facing a financial deficit. His own proposals remained at the level of generalisations. It took an intervention from Barry Hurst for him to agree that he would be chairman if the shareholders so desired. The only precise commitment was that he, personally, would put no more money into the club. My estimate was that PT probably had, or won over, about half of those present with a quarter suspicious or opposed and another quarter undecided.
In line with previous discussions on the mailing list, I sought answers to three main concerns:
What does PT want from control of the Club. Is he only looking to improve his financial investment?
He claimed that he was concerned to see the club, as an organisation, successful in general terms. He felt unhappy about not being involved in something that should do better. Financial returns were not his objective. He did not intend to sell up and would stay actively involved for at least three years. What do I need more money for? PT is fond of quoting his greengrocer fathers maxim: You can only eat one dinner. PT pointed out that he had written off a lot of the money he had invested in the Sheffield Eagles rugby club. He earlier claimed that this club had been relatively successful in beating Wigan to win the Rugby League cup, even though its attendances were only around 2,000.
How will decision-making be improved?
PT stressed that the widest involvement of all sections of the club were necessary to generate progress. One criticism of the Hale regime was that people were actively discouraged from getting involved. Because PT repeatedly invoked the need for further consultations as the reason for not being specific about his three-year action plan, I asked whether he would give shareholders the chance to vote on such a plan and its modification at the AGM. PT said that the AGM wasn't a suitable venue for this but some consultation with shareholders would be sought in other ways.
Why did the Gang of Three not out-vote Hale earlier if his decisions were so inappropriate?
I put this point to Clive Stapleton who did not answer it directly but gave the impression that opposition had been uncoordinated and that different directors took issue with Hale over different topics.
A few other points
So this is the Thompson promise. No jam today - there's no money to spend now - but a more professionally organised way of getting jam tomorrow. Anything less than a top six place is unacceptable. You've paid your money, now make your choice.
In my opinion Thompson probably won over at least half of last nights audience. He also hinted that one of the big blocks of shares (presumably Graham Waldron) might come over to his side. The only way I can see Tony Hale trumping the Thompson appeal is by coming up with a hard cash commitment for the close season.
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