Tony Hale speaks to Capital Gold

This interview was broadcast live on Capital Gold Birmingham on Friday 11th June 1999 and gave Tony Hale his first opportunity to answer some of the accusations levelled at him by the "Gang of Three" at their meetings on Monday and Tuesday that week

TR=Tom Ross, presenter and interviewer

TH=Tony Hale, Chairman of West Bromwich Albion

C=Caller on live phone-in

Part One:

Opening formalitites ]

TR: Well, the only thing you haven?t been blamed for is the weather...

TH: Yeah, well they might as well blame me for all the rain ? I seem to have been taking the stick for everything else, Tom, so there we go.

TR: Before we get into the other thing, how has that been with you, I mean you?re sat there and seeing all these accusations, and yet I know from talking to you that ? you know, they?re not all true. I mean, for example, buying players ? Groves, I think, Crichton were two of them, and who was the other one?

TH: ...well there?s Murphy, another one that?s been mentioned...

TR: Yeah, and I asked you about that, not having a go at you for buying them, but it wasn?t actually the case, was it, what happened in that situation, just for example?

TH: Well, I mean Tom, if we go along with this ? it?s another one of these charade games, but if we go along with this and say everything and every player we?ve bought is my decision, then let me put my hand up for Lee Hughes, Kilbane, Maresca ? and if those were sold, according to what they?ve said we?ve lost, something like 875,000, I?d be about eight million up, Tom. But I don?t want to come anywhere and tell lies, the truth of the matter is quite simple ? players that are bought into WBA and players that are sold are done by the Board as a whole, not by me. The situation, quite funnily, with Groves - and with Murphy - is that they were both sorted out by a tribunal, and one of the people who are saying that I did all this by myself, Mr Stapleton, was actually representing the Club at the tribunal. So these are ridiculous things to say, but if they want to keep having a go at me, fair enough.

TR: Are you a dictator? Let?s get to the nuts and bolts... to be fair, knowing you for many years you?ve never come across... but are you a dictator in the Boardroom?

TH: I?m certainly not a dictator, Tom, and I?d just like to say I?ve had two very uncomfortable years that I haven?t enjoyed, and I don?t want to make accusations, but let me say ? if there was a dictator, it certainly wasn?t me.

TR: Is it right, and I hear things, and I hope you don?t mind me asking questions, cause you?ve said you?ll be totally honest with us, I?ve heard that on a couple of occasions, the other people that are now off the Board actually outvoted you on very important matters?

TH: Again, it is difficult to talk Tom, but the main thing for me is to make sure that the Club doesn?t suffer any more than what it?s already suffering, but I have a duty to myself here ? I mean Thompson, yes he has a large company, but so do I ? I employ over 200 people, I deal all over the UK and also in fact all over the world, so my name is also important to me, and there are certain things that I?m going to say, and I say please forgive me before I start, but my name now is being smeared and I don?t like it, Tom. So to answer your question, yes there has been decisions that I haven?t been happy with, but as a Board we are a democratic Board and you have to go along with those decisions.

TR: So you?ve had to bite the bullet then on a few occasions?

TH: Oh, on many occasions, Tom, many, many occasions on things that really, in my opinion were not very palatable.

TR: So if that?s the case, then, this other group ? without saying they?ve lied ? what they?ve done is they?ve led the fans a certain particular way down the garden path, and it?s become a dirty war, then?

TH: Well, it has, Tom, what you?ve got to bear in mind here is that for quite a considerable length of time, of course, is that there were only five Directors - the three that have now departed and Joe Brandrick and myself, so I don?t think I need to say too much more - and I?ll leave that to your listeners to sort out.

TR: Well, there?s lots of people trying to get through so let?s go to Smethwick ? Steve?

C: I?m sorry to start off on a negative note, but it?s about, erm, a circus, basically, that happened last week with three people, who may or may not be qualified to cast judgement, casting judgement on which way they were going to vote - or which way they were leaning in the race, if you like ? in the papers and on the radio, and I just thought it was appalling, really. I refer, in case you?re struggling, to the Tony Brown, Ritchie Woodhall and Matthew whatever his name is...

TR: Marsden

C: ...yeah, Marsden, all plumping for Tony Hale in a media circus, basically.

TR: Well, I don?t think you should ask the Chairman, because I asked that question, and it was very very clear, and they made it clear, that they had not consulted the Chairman, they had made the decision on their own volition. Tony and Matthew Marsden live close to each other, and they see each other on the golf course, and Ritchie Woodhall talks to them, and they felt so strongly ? and this is why I?m speaking for Tony here, because he knew nothing about it, but they spoke very strongly and wanted to put their point ? as did Don Beddard, the Chairman of the shareholders association ? wanted to back Tony Hale, just the same as when Clive Stapleton left and wanted to back Paul Thompson, and I think they?ve got a media face, and a profile, and they wanted to use it.

C: Well, that?s my point ? what qualification do they have to do that? The other thing I heard is that Tom Cardall had set it up from that end, that?s what I heard ? I don?t know if it?s right or wrong...

TR: The decision ? and I asked the question, and as I said, unless I call them liars ? and Bomber Brown?s a very close friend of mine...

C: Well at that stage I?d probably say that Tony probably does have a qualification to speak, but a boxer and an actor, or a singer, haven?t really...

TR: So what are you doing on this radio, then? What more right have you to speak than them?

C: Well, the point is I?m speaking to you on the radio to get an opinion across, I didn?t actually...

TR: Well, you are now, you?re going to speak to the West Midlands and voice your opinion...

C: Well, I?m asking a question rather than stating an opinion...

TR: Well, in my view, they used their profile ? which happens all the time, it happens in politics, it happens everywhere, that people come out and back whichever side they want to back, and they wouldn?t have done it if they hadn?t been so upset at all the blame being heaped on the man to my left.

C: Absolutely, but can I just say, to finish, I don?t know enough about the Boardroom struggles to have an educated opinion, I do have a couple of shares for what it?s worth, but I thought that it was a little bit? cheap? last week, and I?m disappointed that we went down that road, but that?s just me though...

TR: Well, you?re entitled to that opinion, do you not have a question for Tony?

C: No, that was it really...

TR: Tony, I spoke to Bomber off the record, and he told me quite clearly that you knew nothing about it?

TH: Well, I didn?t know anything about it, and the other thing I have to say here, because the gentleman is saying they haven?t got qualifications ? two of these gentlemen actually do work a lot of their own time in the football club, and work behind the scenes, so with respect to you sir, talking now, they perhaps have a bit more knowledge than, possibly, you do. I don?t know too much about it, but they are Albion greats, we?re talking here about one of the greatest footballers we?ve ever had, and basically I think trying to call the man a liar. Tony Brown is, for me, one of the greatest men we?ve ever had, a tremendous man, he?s even said he doesn?t want to get involved in politics, so I can?t add much more to those comments, I?m afraid.

TR: Great Barr ? Alan

C: I?ve had a letter from the Albion Board today, and rather from the rosy picture being painted to shareholders I think the Club are in a real mess. Attendances keep on falling, Malcolm Crosby has left his good friend and colleague Denis Smith today, our star striker who?s supported the Club all his life handed in a transfer request as we all know, and we?ve got no money to spend and this leads me on to my two points ? at the Sports Forum recently Tony Hale said that if there were any people wanting to put money into the Club they?d have done so by now, and on the other hand we?re hearing now that there are people waiting to bring money into ? and I?d like to know, if that?s the case why he didn?t bring one of them in when Paul Thompson was on the Board. On the second point, Tony Hale has set the date of the EGM for July 8th to give himself more time to raise some money, and as a result he?s put the club in limbo, and also I don?t actually see why Denis Smith has been told he can?t go ahead with any transfers because Tony Hale must know that we?re going to be getting somewhere between a million and two million pounds in season ticket money.

TH: Well, what I said at the Forum was that I?d got people there, all ready to bring money in. And I?ve been saying consistently, I have people to bring money in. I haven?t delayed the EGM so I can get money in, money has been there.

C: Well, why is the EGM so late?

TH: Well, it?s not late ? we have a legal requirement and we?ve fulfilled that legal requirement, but [agitated] please let me answer your questions before you throw any more at me. In January of this year, because you didn?t have to much of a magician to see that we?d got money problems starting to come up, I put a proposal to my Board that I personally, and you must listen to me very carefully, would put money in, to the tune ? and underwrite ? two million pound, because I knew we would have problems coming up to the point where we would have to sign new players before the cutoff date. Now, you know, I can?t say that much more clearly, and there are people there, and have been people there for a long, long time. Now the problem I had is I needed the co-operation of Paul Thompson to be able to do this fund raising. I have asked him consistently for that co-operation, and I have not had it. So, you know, money has been available for a long time, but I have not been able to bring the money in. And people won?t loan money because we then have to pay out a lot of money on interest, but these, these men are interested in coming into West Bromwich Albion and I can now assure you there?s a lot more than two million. But at the Forum, the amount I had, and the amount I said to the Board, to all my colleagues, including Thompson, because that was his last time he was at the Albion, I was prepared to underwrite the first two million. So I hope that answers your question.

TR: So why did you need his support to do that, Tony ? to explain for the average [????]

TH: Well again, I have to be careful here, because we are governed by certain rules, but I do need a Special Resolution to change anything that happens with our constitution. By that, I need over 75% to be able to change the constitution. Now Paul himself, of course, has got more than 25% of the shares, so without his assistance it would, I would have difficulties. And really I don?t want to say too much more on that one.

TR: But the fact is, you could have brought money in and it was blocked?

TH: [pause] Those are your words, Tom, erm, let?s say I didn?t have the co-operation I needed, money was available, and what saddens me in all this is this money could have been used before the deadline and we could have brought players in.

C: But Tony, Paul Thompson himself claimed that in 1998 he offered, himself, to make a further loan to the club of two million, but that this was turned down.

TH: No he didn?t. That?s totally uncorrect. Totally uncorrect.

C: Well, it?s a difficult job to know, for shareholders, which way to vote because we?re getting two different sides of the fence...

TH: Well, well all I can say to you is I don?t think I?ve ever told a lie to anybody, any shareholder, and I don?t think ever on record I?ve made a statement that I haven?t been prepared to fulfil.

TR: Well, the situation is quite clear ? that if Paul Thompson is saying that and Tony is saying no, it didn?t happen, then Paul Thompson should sue the Chairman, if it wasn?t right, because the Chairman will then have to be proven wrong ? but I?ll bet he doesn?t.

C: Well, maybe you need to get Paul Thompson on to put his side of things...

TR: It?s not a side, as I said I?ve had Clive Stapleton on anyway, but the situation is - do you see my point ? the Chairman?s made a statement, if Paul Thompson says "that?s not right, I did put that money in" he could actually sue Tony Hale for libel.

TH: I?d like to ask you a question as well, I mean what do you see the future under Mr Thompson, because I haven?t heard him say yet anything about the future, all I?ve heard him say is things about me.

C: I think what he?s prepared to do is actually go out and try and get the big investments, which I don?t think that you?ve really done, Tony, you?ve progressed the Club in many ways but I think with you the Club is going to carry on as it is and not really progress much further.

TH: Well, I?ve just said to you I have got the money there and have had for a long time, and what you have to bear in mind is my Board and myself are the ones that brought the investment in in the first place from Paul Thompson.

TR: I have to ask you this ? you?re just a shareholder yourself?

C: Yes, I am.

TR: But you?re not linked to any of the other members?

C: Oh no, totally not, no. In fact I went along to the meeting...

TR: Hmmmm...

C: ...on Monday night, and I must admit I?ve always supported Tony Hale up till now...

TH: Well I hope you?ll still continue after what you hear tonight.

C: [pause] Well, I?ll have to have a long hard think about it.

TH: Well, I?m sure a lot more will come out this evening, so I look forward to your continued support.

TR: Cheers Al, thanks mate.

Advert break ]

TR: With me the Chairman of West Bromwich Albion, taking your calls ? over to West Bromwich, Rog? Hello Roger?

C: Just one question for Mr Hale if I may, Tom. A friend of mine was at the meeting the other evening and he happened to mention to me that Mr Hale made a statement saying that next season he?d save approximately 16,000 pounds a week from the players expenses ? that?s nearly a million pounds a year. How would he be proposing to achieve that?

TH: Well, that?s an interesting question, because that?s something that?s only been discussed around the Board table, so I think that?s another very interesting question...

TR: Did that come out at the meeting?

C: Yes, it did ? it was only third hand, but...

TR: ...because I?ve talked to a lot of people that were at the meetings and I?ve had a synopsis of the meetings and I never saw that mentioned.

TH: But anyway I don?t mind answering it, it?s quite simple, like all football clubs, yes we are spending more money than we?re earning and something has got to happen to stop that, and it?s all very well arguing about it but the simple fact here is that we wouldn?t have a club left if this was to continue. So, any business you run, you?ve got to have financial things in place to make sure you don?t go bankrupt.

silence ]

TR: Carry on, Rog

C: Er, yeah, the point the other day was made, and obviously the savings ? in what areas would the savings be made, I think that?s the important issue. Is it going to be directly reflected in playing staff, or on amenities, or whatever it takes to run the Club?

TH: Well, the savings have got to be made wherever you can make them, but what I would like to say to you is that with the players that have already gone out this season, I?ve already got half way to that achievement.

TR: So the job?s already been done?

TH: Half done, anyway.

C: And what about the replacement of the players that have already gone, for the oncoming campaign starting at the back of this year?

TH: Well, it?s not for me to talk about, I mean we?re into the managers area, but all I would say to you is that the manager thinks that his squad may still be a bit top-heavy ? so that?s up to the manager. All we can do is to try and provide funds if and when they?re required.

C: That?s the point really ? if the manager decided it was bottom-heavy, what would happen then? How could we make savings at that level?

TH: But he?s not. What he?s actually saying is that it?s his belief that we are top-heavy.

TR: So that?s the managers decision, basically?

TH: Well, it?s the manager who decides what players are there and what players aren?t there.

TR: Cheers, Rog, let?s go to Kevin in Darlaston. Kevin?

C: Evening Tom. Evening Tony. I?d just like to say good luck to you and hope you carry on as Chairman...

TH: Thank you.

C: ...cause you?m the best Chairman this Club?s had for the last bloody?... 30 years from what I can see.

TH: Thank you.

C: You can see from the fans point of view that things have gone forward, the squad?s a lot better now than it?s ever been, the Club itself?s a lot better now than it?s ever been, so you must be doing something right, Tone.

TH: Thank you very much.

C: Can you just clarify the Lee Hughes situation?

TH: Yeah. The Lee Hughes situation... all I can say, because we are talking... we?re are now very, very close to keeping Lee Hughes at the football club.

C: Smashing.

TH: And by the way, I want him here as badly as anyone else ? because he?s our passport to the Premier.

C: Yeah, they?re saying at the moment that season tickets are a bit quiet because there?s nothing happening. This has all come at the wrong time of the season, ain?t it really?

TH: Well, things are designed sometimes to happen at certain ways. But all I can say is I?m very, very hopeful, certainly a lot more hopeful than I have been, that Lee Hughes will there, with his Albion shirt on, playing for us next year.

C: Well, that?s smashing news. Thanks Tom.

TR: Cheers Kev. As you know, Tony, I know the family very, very well, Lee Hughes - from before his Albion days - and his friends as well who are mostly Birmingham City fans, and he?s got a lot of time for you hasn?t he, Lee Hughes?

TH: Well, we?ve always got on, Tom, and you know, you try and have a word with your players that are there without interfering with the managers, because it?s a balance, Tom. But I?ve had a lot of time for Lee, and of course Lee is explosive, to say the least, and he?s certainly a player we don?t want to lose. Whatever happens, we don?t want to lose Lee.

TR: And at the risk of embarrassing you, I know his family are very keen for him to stay because of the relationship with you, so I think if he stays it?ll be something to do with you, that?s for sure...

TH: Well, you know, I didn?t want to say that, Tom, but...

TR: Well, I?m telling you what the family say to me. Let?s go to Rowley Regis ? Mark?

C: Evening. I went to that meeting Tuesday night, I?m not a shareholder, but I went on behalf of a friend of mine who?s away on holiday, and he asked me to go just to see what?s happening, and I?ve got to say it?s the biggest load of CRAP I?ve heard in all my life.

TH: Well, thank you - and this is the point I made earlier on, there?s so many statements that have been made that is totally untrue, this is the point that?s annoying me, and upsetting me, really, and as I said it?s sad that Albion?s got to be dragged through this, because it?s a disgrace.

C: Yeah. I spoke to somebody there, I don?t know who it was, like, obviously, and I was just saying that what he?s doing, is totally at the wrong time, and tonight I?ve picked a paper up and it?s said exactly the same in the paper. With what?s been going at this present time, we?re not allowed or we can?t, like, jump in the transfer market. Obviously we?re not a rich club, so we can?t go spending, you know, millions of pounds out.

TR: That?s a good point, Mark, has all this stopped things happening, Tony, on the transfer market?

TH: Of course it has, because I?ve been saying for months and months and months, money is available, I?ve got backers who want to put money in. These people will not, and neither will I put money in if I?m not there to control it, and neither will these people put money in if I?m not there to control it. They?re more worried about the opposition being in, and what they may or may not do.

TR: Are we talking plenty of money?

TH: Well, we?re talking certainly several millions, Tom, and I think that, even for us, is a lot of money.

TR: Oh for sure. And can I ask you another question, is that money available for strengthening the team?

TH: It?s... Tom, if we?re talking this, you?re really talking a little bit of what I?m looking to the future for. The first thing we have to do, because these two I believe are very closely linked to one another, and that is getting to the Premiership, but also getting our training ground. Because without the training ground, (a) we haven?t got the situation with the kids we want with our Academy, but also the first team squad isn?t training properly. This year, because of bad weather, there was a lot of weeks that they couldn?t train properly. Now, by having an all weather pitch, which is just one of the things we?re looking at, of course we?ll put that problem right. So, yeah, I mean what we ideally need is money... for the training ground, which we have got, we also need then money to strengthen the squad, and we?re beginning to get dug into that as well, but obviously then we want to get up to the Premier. And probably the last thing we then have to do is to make sure we can try and build this stand, which is another mountain to overcome. But you know, Tom, I had nothing but mountains to overcome when I took the Chair, and people ? I don?t know whether some of them forget, or what - but the Club was in absolute ruin when I walked in there, and no doubt we?ll probably enlarge on that a bit as we go along tonight.

TR: Well, let?s find out what the rest have got to say ? Keith in Solihull, hi Keith?

C: Hi Tom, hi Tony. I?m a Premier shareholder, so obviously I?ve got another eight years of going down to watch the Albion before that season ticket runs out, and most of my points actually were covered by Alan earlier, and I?m too a bit concerned about the finance of the Club in terms of buying new players, new training ground, Rainbow stand, and you?ve now explained how that money is available...

TH: It?s only available if I?m in there, I mean all I have to say, in fairness, is I haven?t heard yet one proposal of how the other side are going to deal with this, or how much money they?re going to bring in, all I?ve heard yet is slagging me off to be honest with you.

C: Yeah, what really concerns me is something that you mention earlier, in the fact that Paul Thompson obviously still has more than 25% of the shares...

TH: Yes

C: does that mean that he can still block any proposals made by you even though he?s not on the Board?

TH: Yes he can, um, although I would think that now the truth is actually out, I don?t think I?d like to be Paul Thompson with the fans and shareholders knowing there?s money waiting to come in and has been for a long, long time and the man doesn?t agree to what we want to do, I mean, that at the end of the day it really up to Mr Thompson, but that is his right.

C: I think the big problem is that obviously Mr Thompson is saying one thing, and I did go to the meeting on Monday as well, and he stood there and said that he was prepared to put two million into the Club, and now obviously you?re saying...

TH: He was or he is prepared?

C: I think what he said was that a couple of years ago he was prepared to put two million into the Club, and that was turned down by the Board, now obviously from our point of view all we can do is listen to what you say, and listen to what he says, which makes it very, very difficult.

TH: Of course.

TR: Tony, you?ve made that clear, that that is not true?

TH: Right, let me just answer this question absolutely, so we get this one clear. Because, you know, Mr Thompson is very good with words. I was asked the question "Has Mr Thompson... going to loan the Club two million pound, or was he loaning the Club two million pound?" My answer was no. Mr Thompson put a plan on the table, to build the stand, which I have to say right the way through I have not been in favour of, because it was really a bridge too far, and it was an amount of money that we wouldn?t have been able to have found. Mr Thompson did say he would underwrite two million, but in the way that the shares were going to come out, in other words the cost of the shares were going to be a lot more than the par value, I said to him "This is impossible, and Mr Thompson remember when you came in, you bought shares at a discounted price. Do you honestly expect people to put money in and buy shares, when you?re asking these people to pay 30 pound, or 20 pound or whatever it was, at the time, over the odds. So that?s the only thing I can say to you, is in truth that Mr Thompson did say he?d put two million but that was the reasoning behind and of course, you know, it was something that would never, have ever, have worked, and the other thing of course is we?d got to borrow three million pound as well. So I can just say, and I don?t really want to bring the bank into all this lot, but you know the bank would not, and did not, support that situation, and again I don?t really want to get much deeper than that.

TR: But the point is, that the fans think he offered you two million, but that there was two million pounds underwritten for the stand but not two million pounds for the club to do it with it as it wished?

TH: Correct, but also for new shares, Tom, at very, very high value which wouldn?t have gone down. It wouldn?t have taken off.

Part Two:

TR: Let's go to Yvonne in West Brom. Hi Yvonne.

C: Good luck Tony, I hope you overcome this and I hope you're still our Chairman at the end of it all.

TH: Thank you.

C: I think that Paul Thompson is the worst thing that's happened to this club. I was very wary of him when he came to the club and I wouldn't trust him as far as I could throw him. And I think the shareholders, when they've listened to both sides of the argument, will pick out the honest fella, and it certainly isn't Paul Thompson.

TH: Thank you very much.

C: I mean, Tony, what you've achieved over the last 5 or 6 years is fantastic and your heart's in the club. You're a fan. What can Paul Thompson offer us? I mean he wouldn't give the commitment that you've give (sic) to the club. In fact he's got fingers in other pies with Sheffield Wednesday and Southampton. I wouldn't tolerate a Chairman who's got interests in 2 other clubs. I really do hope that you come through it, Tony.

TH: Thank you.

C: And I have writ (sic) a letter to the Express & Star and I hope it's in tonight - I haven't had it yet. But I just hope the shareholders you know just realise would what happen if Paul Thompson took control of our club. I think it's one of the worst things that could happen. I hope it doesn't.

TH: Well thank you for those words, Yvonne, thank you very much.

TR: Cheers, Yvonne, thank you very much indeed. 0121 359 5599 gets you to Tony Hale on Capital Gold Birmingham.

Advert break ]

TR: I'm Tom Ross, with me Tony Hale the Chairman of West Bromwich Albion. We're talking about the big struggle, the power struggle in the boardroom. On the mobile is Dean, hi Dean.

C: Hello there Tom. Hello Mr Hale, how are you?

TH: Well I have known better days obviously, but there you go.

C: Firstly, I think you've done a very good job since you've taken over at the club, and I think it's similar to the Birmingham City situation where it was going terrible (sic). And you have turned things around, I do appreciate that, but I do feel as a fan, and I don't want to harp on about the old times, the 70s, someone's made a lot of money out of West Bromwich Albion. And I want to look forward, and I want to see those good old times rolling back again. And you're talking about putting through 2 million pounds towards the club, yeah?

TH: At least 2 million, yes.

C: At least 2 million pounds. I actually posted a couple of questions to you on the Internet, West Bromwich Albion's own official site, and they never came answered, and one of them was the wage structure and how we can attract good players to the club. Under the Bosman Ruling of course the signing on fee is a problem, but if you pay good wages, you get good players. You don't have to buy a player for 2 million pounds, you can get Bosman player, pay him his wages, pay him 40,000 pounds a week. 40,000 pounds a week goes a lot into 2 million pounds. You get a good player for that. You remember the situation with Ravanelli and Vialli. Ravanelli cost 7 million, Vialli was free. They both had the same wages. And I was wondering how you feel about the structure at the club at the moment? I mean Lee Hughes is obviously upset with his situation and I'm sure...

TH: When you say "his situation" are you talking about the wage?

C: I think the wage was a problem for him. He must have felt he was better than he was being paid for. But then again, if Lee Hughes was going to another club, let's say last season I would say if he'd gone to a mid-table side last year, and doing what he was doing, I think they would have acknowledged that before he had a problem.

TR: But with respect, Dean, that's sorted now isn't it?

TH: Yeah [hesitant], but I would just like to say to you of course, is that's exactly what we did. We did sort him out at the beginning of the season because I, and the rest of the Board, were very impressed with Lee Hughes. We actually had his agent in and we paid him a lot more money and we said "OK let's another year go by and let's look at it again." So that is exactly what's happened. So we are having meetings, and had meetings, with his agent.

TR: But you're confident aren't you though, Tony?

TH: We're very, very close to signing him now. We're very close to signing Lee, and obviously we're having to pay him more money, but he deserves it. He's proved what he can do.

C: Exactly, as a fan and a shareholder, I believe that's true. I think he's a great player, but my argument isn't necessarily with the Lee Hughes situation, but in general with the regard to what kind of players we can attract to the club.

TR: Dean, I had an interesting story come to me through Ray Harford. And Ray Harford used to actually complain about that, Tony, to me, that the wages were a problem. You know transfer fees, he had transfer fees but the wage structure was a bit of a problem.

TH: Well I don't know that I want to get into this one, because you'll open up a can of worms, like I might even be had for libel on this one Tom. But can I just come back to the question that Dean is saying? You know Dean, what you probably haven't realised, you're talking about taking players in on the Bosman Ruling. Well, of course, we did take quite a few in already this year and people sometimes forget. But we did indeed do this. We brought Bortolazzi in, Fabian De Freitas, Enzo Maresca and I'm just trying to think who else, but we actually did that. So, you know, when you do this you're really paying the transfer fee through the wages. So we have done that and, obviously, we would continue to look at that. But you've got to have some money there to do it and the situation is that we've spent 9 million pound in 3 years and players and we haven't got any left until some more's put in.

C: Do you feel sometimes that the money that's been spent hasn't been spent wisely? Would you have an argument towards that?

TH: I would have an argument towards that but, of course, you know one of the new plans we are looking at, and I say "we" that's the current Board, is to change the systems in the way players are bought to the football club.

TR: Why, Tony, and tell me to my me own business if you wish as you have done in the past, but why would Ray Harford say that there were times when he wasn't dealing with you? Why would that ever happen? Why would he be dealing with Paul Thompson and not the Chairman?

TH: Right. I mean... erm... OK... I've come on here to be honest tonight, so let me be honest. The Board are accusing me, or the past Board, of being a dictator and of doing this and of doing all sorts of things. I think as you know Tom yourself, that any football club that you go to, the Chairman deals with the manager, and I don't know of too many clubs, except where you have a Chief Executive. The situation, quite simply, was, which is one of the issues I personally wasn't happy with, was I was actually voted not to deal with the manager, and Paul Thompson should deal with the manager. And that is quite simple, what happened. And yet I'm being accused of not getting on with managers and here you have a situation I'm afraid where Paul Thompson was dealing with the manager himself direct and I wasn't having one word to say to the manager.

TR: Ah, well that explains... cos Ray, as you know I was very close to Ray, and I know Ray wasn't happy with that situation. But why, as the Chairman, did you not insist?

TH: Because it's a democratic Board and there was a vote round the table, Tom, and I lost that vote 3-2. And I keep saying we are a democratic Board. We had 5 members on the Board and 3 of the members, and I don't think it would be fair to mention names, but I think probably everybody could guess, but that was the situation. So suddenly Paul was dealing with the manager. I know how Ray felt about it, you know...

TR: Well I spoke to him regularly, but anyway the point is that Chairmen run the club.

TH: The problem is that the Chairmen are really the servants of the Board, Tom, and what the Board wishes, it's the Chairman to carry that out. But I'll pose one question because I really don't want to get much deeper with this, but I think everybody's probably seen the statement that Ray Harford came out with a few weeks ago where he had no problems with me at all, because this is another point that I want to clear up that I have arguments with managers and they don't get on with me. Well contrary to that, Ray Harford has come out and said that he had no problems with me at all. And I will also say to you that Alan Buckley and myself had a very, very good relationship while he was with us. And I'll just pose this one question for you: why do you think Ray Harford threatened to walk out half way through his tenure?

TR: Tell me.

TH: I'm not gonna tell you because that would be another problem but...

TR: Thanks! [laughs]

TH... believe you me they keep making these accusations against me and I'm getting very annoyed about it and the truth is gonna come out.

TR: OK. Let's go to Earlswood. Gerry.

C: Just a few points. I mean I'm a big sort of a fan of Tony Hale's. I think he's done a tremendous job over the years with the Albion, with changing the Constitution etc., but I really feel now that it's time for him to move aside. Now he's gonna look in the air now, but I feel that in the City, if you look at our profile, look at our profile in football, it's as low as it's ever been. We've been in decline for the last 10-15 years, maybe longer than that if we're honest. And there's no sign of it getting better, and unless there's some sign of real change now at the top, we're just gonna have more of the same next season. We've got average players, our attendances are going down, nothing really to look forward to, no player really wants to come to the club. There's loads of examples we could all go through, it's all newspaper speculation.

TH: Can you say an area you don't think has improved?

C: On the pitch, Tony!

TH: [interrupting] Can I just answer that one question. When I took over 5 years ago, this football club was fighting relegation. We had 2 years of battles of even trying just to avoid going down. Whilst I would agree that I'm probably not quite happy with our progress in our final year, which is the fifth year, you have to surely say we've improved dramatically on the pitch. When was the last time we had 3 players capable where we could raise 10 million pound? Do you not call that quite an impressive improvement?

C: It depends on your perspective, Tony, because the problem is we've always been a selling club...

TH: We haven't sold anybody.

C: ...well, yeah, they're worth 10 million pounds...

TH: Well, hang on, we haven't sold anybody during my time apart from Paul Peschilido (sic) of any note.

C: Well you've said yourself we haven't had any players, we haven't had any players of any note, Tony, to sell. Let's be fair...

TH: [agitated] Well, we have!

C: ...I mean Lee Hughes's contract, I know you can say you can't discuss it with me because that's between him and the club, but I heard there's gonna be some kind of clause in there, which I know most clubs are having to put in now, that if a bigger club comes in or a Premiership club comes in during any time of that contract, whether it be a 3 or 4 year contract, he can go. Is that not true?

TH: Erm, well that certainly isn't in the contract at the moment.

C: No I'm talking about his new contract, Tony.

TH: I'm talking about that as well.

TR: So it isn't in?

TH: At the moment it isn't in.

C: Haha, well you're being a politician now!

TH: No I'm not being a politician. I'm telling you the truth. It is not in and we're very, very close to doing a deal.

C: I mean I love the Albion like you do Tony, and it breaks my heart to see...

TR: [Interrupting] Isn't the issue, Gerry, you've said it's time to move aside because we needs a change. But what do you see in the other side which makes you think it's gonna be better?

C: To be fair, Tom, I didn't say Paul Thompson was particularly the answer. What I'm saying, we need a change. Not a change for change's sake. I really feel now...

TR: [Interrupting] Well that's a good point. Tony - if a mythical David Gold came in and wanted control of this club and said "I tell you what, Tony, I'm going to put multi-millions in for this playing side", would you let him come in?

TH: Provided he's gonna do it right, Tom, and I was happy, absolutely. And that I think I've been saying again consistenly for 5 years. Of course I would. I mean nothing would please me more to see Albion in the Premier with millions and millions to spend. I mean I'll be highly delighted.

TR: So Jack Walker decides he doesn't like Blackburn, he's coming to West Brom. You would quite gladly move aside and let him run the club, with his multi-millions?

TH: I would, Tom, providing, as I said, it's being done for the right reasons and not the wrong ones. So I would absolutely move over, yes.

TR: Is that OK, Gerry?

C: Very much so, Tom, but words are cheap as you know. I mean I trust Tony, I do, but I really feel now that even though it's forced on him, if Tony could get these mysterious backers in next season, and I hope they do exist - I'm not saying he's lying at all, so I say that with a bit of tongue in cheek...

TH: [Interrupting] Gerry, Gerry, I'm gonna say something to you here that I have got irrevocables from these people. Now I don't know if you know what the difference is, but that means basically under law they are contracted to put that money in. But what I will also say to you in the same irrevocable documents is the sentence "If Tony Hale is not here, I withdraw my offer".

C: Can I just have a final point? Thanks for giving me the time to put it over. The final point really would be, on Lee Hughes, I know Tom, and I like Tom a lot and I know he's a Blues fan etc. but, at the end of the day, you've been feeding Tony a few lines tonight, and you know you have. Was Paul Thompson given the equal opportunity to come on tonight and maybe debate it tonight with Tony?

TR: He wouldn't come on, but I have had Clive Stapleton on, and in fact it was only 'til, in fact I've been asking Tony, it was only 2 days ago that I finally pinned you down to come on. I actually hadn't got him even coming on, in fact he turned me down the first time. But I kept on and he said I can't speak to anyone until the shareholders have been told. Well I said I've got my last programme on Friday, If you don't I won't get you on at all. And he said, well I can't do it and that was the end of it until I got another call and you'd actually got your letters done to the shareholders.

TH: Well the shareholders' circular, most of the people have received. Why I wouldn't do it, it's quite simple, I wasn't gonna come on here and say something that I'm not gonna say to my shareholders first, and that was the issue Tom.

TR: But as I've said, I had Clive Stapleton on long before I had Tony on and gave him a good time to speak his piece.

C: Yes, fair do's Tom. All I can say is good luck to the Albion next season, no matter who's in charge, let's get out there and support the lads.

TR: Ah well now what I believe, as an outsider remember to all you, what I believe... I cannot believe that Paul Thompson and Tony Hale and the Board can't work together if you want my honest opinion.

C: Yes, I agree.

TR: If you want my honest opinion. And that's why I get angry when I hear about thing beings blocked, because, now the only people who get hurt in that situation is West Bromwich Albion Football Club. We're not talking individuals now, because Tony won't mind me saying, West Bromwich Albion is bigger than Paul Thompson or Tony Hale. Is that fair?

C: Absolutely. And Lee Hughes and whoever else.

TR: And whoever else. The football club is the prime concern. And when I hear that things are blocked purely on a political situation to get the edge, I think that hurts the football club. I believe that hurts the football club.

C: Is that really true though Tom?

TR: Is it true, Tony?

TH: Absolutely. The football club is the biggest and the most important thing and that's why...

TR: [Interrupting] Have you been blocked from doing things?

TH: I'm not gonna use the word "blocked". I haven't had co-operation to be able to do things, but Brian (sic)...

TR: [Interrupting] But do you need that co-operation to do it?

TH: To bring the money in, yes I did.

TR: And without that co-operation you couldn't?

TH: I couldn't.

TR: Then you were blocked.

C: But to sign players now, surely you can go out, on the Board, surely you can still go out and if Denis fancies Keith Curle, which he probably does, and it may be an opportunity now that Malcolm Crosby's moved on. Surely that couldn't be blocked could it?

TH: Perhaps if somebody's got the down payment, which is usually half of the fee. At the moment we haven't got a penny in there. That's the point. And I can't put the money in because people won't put it in, and I'm certainly not going to put it in if I'm not there! But Brian (sic), I have fought for this football club and, you know, I'm gonna keep fighting for this football club. The future of this football club is vital for me.

TR: Cheers mate. Thanks very much indeed. Let's got to Lichfield, Beryl. Hello Beryl!

C: Hello! Good evening. The letter from Mr Hale hasn't come through my letter-box yet. However, I went to the meeting of Paul Thompson on Monday. I got there just over half an hour early, so I had a good opportunity to speak to Paul Thompson and Mr Stapleton and Mr Hurst and I have to say I was impressed with them and what they had to say. Now, Mr Thompson is a football man in that he played until he was 30, only junior football, and he's a chartered accountant and he's built up his company in communications which is right in the front of modern industry worldwide. He wants to put his... [hesitates]

TR: Expertise?

C: ...Well he's got this plan and he wants to keep improving the Albion year by year with...

TR: [Interrupting] Interesting! Beryl - tell us about the plan.

C: Pardon?

TR: Tell us about the plan.

C: He wants quality decisions made on all the aspects moving everything forward like the training ground, the stand, the players. He does realise that if there's somebody with megabucks there, that could be brought in. I think he'd be a strong Chairman and I feel he'd be an asset from any financial view.

TR: [Interrupting] Beryl, let's give it over to Tony then because that's the issue tonight. It's more questions for Tony we're looking for. Well there's Beryl, Tony, who's very impressed with Paul Thompson.

TH: Well, fine. Don't forget you haven't really got, erm, unfortunately I couldn't really go to that meeting. I would have liked to have answered the questions that were being put to him. But you're saying there that he would make a good Chairman. Now, do you realise the amount of time you've got to spend being a good Chairman? Now, Beryl, all I can say to you is that Paul Thompson had a few months of running the manager and he came back to me and said "I can't do it, I haven't got the time". So, I hear what you're saying but, you know, I'm really here dealing with realities of what I've actually seen of Paul Thompson. And it's very easy to stand there and say anything you want. I mean I could stand there and say we're gonna be in the Premier next year, but I wouldn't do it unless I was sure we were gonna be. So it's very easy to things without any substance behind it.

Advert break ]

TR: Let's go straight to Great Barr, Brian.

C: Hello Tom and Tony. It was reported in the Evening Mail towards the end of May that an unnamed Scottish company were approaching Albion with regards to building a new arena in Halfords Lane on a 20 acre site. I sit in the Rainbow Stand and we know that well over 12 months ago it was going to be pulled down and totally rebuilt. With the present boardroom upheaval, what's the picture? What's happening?

TH: Well first of all there was a club that came in but there wasn't really the interest that we first thought there was. And I think I've already covered this point, Brian, but we were looking at costs of over 8.5 million to redevelop the Rainbow. Now, as I've said, if we'd have gone ahead with that, not only in my opinion would we not have been able to meet the repayments on it, but we certainly wouldn't have had a penny to spend on the training ground or any money to rebuild the football team.

TR: I think, Tony, I've never met Paul Thompson. Right? And he might be a genuine man, a very nice man - all the rest of it, and I'm prepared to accept that. And he's told us he's got a plan. What about your plan? Have you got plans for the future, 'cos that's the important thing?

TH: Well, Tom, that's really what I've been trying to get across here because all I'm getting is slagged all the while and, every time I say well "What is the plan? What is the plan of the rebels? What do they want to do? What are they gonna do?" And I have to say, at the moment, that I haven't heard anything. The plans that we have for the future is (sic) quite simple. We have to get the training ground up and running. That's vital. We've got to get to the Premier. One way or another we've got to get to the Premier. And I won't make, as I've said, silly promises. And then we have to get the stand built. So really what I'm saying to you here is that, to do all those things you need money. You need people with vision on your Board. You need Board members who are gonna put money in. Now, again, if this old regime comes back in from day 1 you've got a disunited Board. Totally disunited Board. There's 2 Board members, and no disrespect to them, but they haven't got the money that's required to go in. Now what we want to do is to bring 2 good, high-flying people in - particularly now with contacts in the City because that's vital for us and these men will come in, and they will put money in to be able to do everything that I've just spoken about. And we need then to take the Albion football club forward. And they have got to be a united Board. That is critical. For the last 3 years we have not had a united Board, and all I would like to say is a lot of the things that have been achieved under my tenure, Tom, and there is a lot. Lots and lots and lots of things. This wasn't just achieved by me. This, in fact, was achieved by some of the Board members I'm now having a go back at, but the difference was that we were a happy Board. We were a united Board. This Board has not been united for many, many years. So that's the other things - we will give you a united Board but people who will put money in, and we know what we've got to do to make this club great again. And that's what we're gonna do if I'm allowed to.

TR: I see you've had an email on the Baggies list today from B Jones [fame at last BJ! - Spooky] who said he read a statement from Messrs Colston, Brandrick and Wile who are remaining Directors of the club saying that, contrary to the claims of your detractors, they've made considerable progress under your leadership. And, I mean, you're absolutely right, it's quite united at the moment and, really, the ideal thing would have been to have remained united. But why does Paul Thompson, I mean I can understand he wants you removed as Chairman, that's the fight, but why does he does he want you out the club totally, off the Board, everything?

TH: Tom, I can't answer that question, but I'd think he wouldn't want me there not having a united Board. It's quite simple, but a lot of ideas Paul had were not right for the football club. I get really sickened by this attack on me and I'm gonna say one more thing before I go tonight. I've also seen in the papers that Mr Thompson is clearly saying he didn't want control, he didn't want to be Chairman. But I have one question. Why was I asked after 4 months to go to a meeting in Nottingham where he tells me he wants to be the Chairman of the PLC? After 4 months. And that has continued and continued and continued.

TR: 0121 359 5599. Minworth, Brendan. Hi Brendan.

C: Tony, good evening. I'm backing you 100% mate. A couple of questions. The training ground I think that is the best thing the Chairman of West Brom has done for years, since you know when we got rid of Spring Road?

TH: Yes, I do indeed.

C: That was the biggest mistake West Brom ever done (sic) in their lives. If you're gonna attract top class players and you're training them M&B one week, Highgate Utd or whatever the next week, that is, you can't attract players like that. And I think you done (sic) the right thing by bringing the training ground in and start off from the very beginning. Another thing, you know the new ground, I heard that these Scottish people were going to buy everything. They were gonna pay for the lot.

TR: That's been covered now.

TH: We've been talking to these people and, again, if there's some substance there, Brendan, you've got my word we'll carry it through. But at the moment it's just talk and there's nothing concrete there, so that's the best I can tell you.

TR: Let's go to Sedgley, Jason.

C: First off Tony, I think if it was a fans' vote you'd definitely win. 2 questions. First of all, I think you you have improved the club, but on the playing side though is it going to be the right investment next year for us to make a challenge because, as I've said before, this division's gonna be a lot harder? And secondly, I think we've got a chance now with a first team coach to be the biggest signing of the summer. Is there gonna funds there to get a good coach in? Personally, I would like to see Ray Harford come in as first team coach. Whether that would happen, I don't know.

TH: As I've said, Ray and myself had an excellent understanding. In fact, I've only spoken to Ray I think once since he's gone, and Ray at that point said, "Tony, if you're at this football club or any other football club and you want me, just ask". But that again would not be just my decision, Jason, that would be up to the Board to decide, you know, and not just myself. I've already said tonight that I think the most important thing is the money to be raised for the training ground, because from that you'll get you'll get your kids coming through, we'll be able to hold on to our kids, you'll get an academy. But I'm not happy with that, so what I'm trying to do is get more and more money so that we have got this year for transfers. Because, you know, with a few more changes on the football pitch, you start to get the feeling that we may may not be too far away from getting to that secret place in the Premier. But it's very difficult and I never make promises on things like that. But we are close, and I think you also have to bear in mind that a lot of our younger players, and by that I mean the players who are regulars in the team, should be better players next season. We can only hope but, Jason, yes there will be money for the training ground and yes there will be some money for players providing I'm still there.

TR: Straight to Stirchley, Terry. Hi Terry.

C: Hi Tom, Hi Tony. Well first of all I blame you for getting England knocked out the cricket World Cup! Disgraceful!

TH: [Laughs] Thank you Terry. I heard a better one today, I heard I'm going for an operation today to take all the knives out my back, but there are a few jokes circulating I think!

C: You know I back you, but to be fair I went to Paul Thompson's meeting on Tuesday with an open mind. Very slick, very professional. I mean he's a Chairman of a very big company. He spoke very well, but it was a business meeting. There was no passion there at all. And this 3 year plan he's got is to attract money. You obviously dictated events, if a decision went against you, you blocked everything, conversely I assume it happened the other way round from time to time as well. The question was asked about, well I raised 1 or 2 criticisms and was politely told to shut up, but I insisted on having a certain amount of say anyhow. The level of criticism about the transfers, well there's nothing you can do about the transfers. Murphy went under the Bosman ruling anyhow. We were lucky to get money for Crichton although we shouldn't of had him in the first place and Groves just didn't come off. If you criticise the Board every time a manager makes a bad decision, well it was the Board who appointed the managers. That was brought to the fore because people were criticising Smith and Harford and people asked if Tony Hale had the casting and Clive and Barry had to admit, no it was a democratic decision and they all appointed the managers. So they can't lay that blame on you for a start. Also what was asked was I asked where's this money coming from, what's the business plan? Well, there's nothing really, I mean they're hoping to attract money into the club just the same as yourself, but I got the impression they were saying that they have a forward plan but the inference was there wasn't any plan while you there, but there must have been, you don't just meander along...

TR: (Interrupting) Terry, Terry, we're out of time. Terry, I've got to leave the last word with the Chairman. Tony, why should people vote for you? Why should the shareholders vote for Tony Hale?

TH: Well, I'm a fan first, I've been there for years and years and I'm fighting to keep this club going for the future and I'm gonna continue to do that. It's as simple as that Tom. Get behind me and I'll tell you you won't be sorry.

TR: Are you gonna win?

TH: Definitely gonna win!

TR: Tony Hale on your football barmy soccer station and this coming week we'll be contacting Paul Thompson and getting his side of affairs. I won't be here but we'll be getting his side of affairs and making sure you hear them right here. I think that's only fair although we have had Clive Stapleton on and that'll be 2-1 to the rebels but you don't mind do you Tony?

TH: No, perhaps we can bring Joe on or something [laughs]...

 - Part one transcribed by Chris Saunders, parts two by Chris Wright

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