GLF57:Christopher examines the strained relations between board and fans
Is Black the New-Red ?
It would be an understatement to say that one or two big news events have occurred at Fir Park since GL.F was last out back in early May. As is the 'Well way, on the park we have been typically 'hero to zero' with the highs of our back -to-back clashes against Celtic and the lows of that nine goal car-crash against Dundee United sandwiched in a run of three SPL defeats. The fans are used to such rollercoaster rides, but off the park we have also been involved in a couple of financial stories that have shown both the good and bad sides of Motherwell Football Club.
In principal, the idea of the Club asking fans their opinion on whether they should relocate Cooper Stand supporters for the championship decider in order to generate more cash into our coffers looked like a welcome step towards a dialogue being opened up between the stands and the boardroom. But in reality it seems to have created a division that has negated a lot of the goodwill previously generated through the successful negotiation of administration and the last two impressive seasons we have enjoyed on both the park and the balance sheet.
The big question surrounding this particular issue seems to be - should we allow our football to ALWAYS be ruled by the heart or should the head sometimes prevail. It seems obvious that the board fully expected that the response from the fans would be a resounding 'Yes' once they'd
taken into account MFC's recent financial difficulties and the fact that (at that time anyway) it was a one-off request brought about by the high-profile nature of the match in question. But what was likely to stick in most fans’ minds when posed this question - " Oh, OK then, as it's for the greater monetary good of the business " or " Whit, move me out of the seat I've paid up front for, sat in for every game this (every ?) season and punt me into some random spot to allow an Old Firm arse to nestle in my seat instead ??? ".
Having said that, John Boyle must be feeling as if he's damned if he does and damned if he doesn't at the moment. Well fans (many retrospectively it has to be said) bemoaned the direction he sent the club in when he took control, complaining that he should have invested more soberly and ploughed his dosh into the Youth Development side rather than at big name mercenaries in his quest to bring the' Third Way ' to Lanarkshire. Those who enjoy sporting rose-tinted spectacles seem to believe the hype that we only have to say the word and another Hammell / Pearo / Faddy can instantly be wheeled off of the Claret and Amber production line.
Instead, Boyle assumed control at a time when Harri Kaampman had just hired a fairly motley legion of new players (how long would YOU have been content to bide your time waiting for another kid to burst onto the scene to take the place of Greg Miller, Jered Stirling, Kai Nysonnen et al ???) and had he strolled in and claimed he was initially simply content to cannily invest some of his recently earned millions into the structure of the club and leave the current squad to, in all likiliehood, battle away at the bottom of the division, I'm sure the reaction would have been one of disappointment that the potential for a change from the prudent stewardship of John Chapman to a seemingly more forceful style of leadership had failed to materialise.
Of course, we know that the route he did take (or rather who he employed to implement his ambitious plans) ultimately saw us nosedive into administration with a crippling debt of a quite staggering £11 million which was reportedly rising by a quarter of a million per month. From that dark day of April 24th 2002 he wrote off the bulk of the debt personally and helped see the club through to April 20th 2004 when we officially came out the other side with a clean slate. The question at that point may well have been - were would we be by April 2006??
I'd be willing to wager that not many would have forecast that we would have managed to achieve the double whammy of back-to-back Top Six finishes and balance sheets that saw us in the black. A combined two-year profit of just over a million pounds is a remarkable achievement, much aided by finally getting back to a sound salary situation which saw players wages represent only 35.5% of the club’s turnover total of £4.1 m last year. Yet for a club we all campaigned was "'Well Worth Saving ", some people are now turning on him for trying to ensure that all the good work doesn't end up drifting away.
In this most unstable period in the finances of Scottish Football, to have it reported that a proposed consortium of two Scots, two Irishmen and an Englishman (yeah you're right - it does sound like the start to a hundred dodgy gags dunnit !!!) were prepared to buy the club for five million pounds must prove that the business side is back on the ball. And this is the big poser at the moment - how many would like John Boyle to take the money and disappear into the sunset??????
With the aforementioned flashpoints fresh in the minds, I'm sure there would be plenty who would help clear his desk, but how exactly would you see the new guys improving the current state of affairs?
Will they come in and reduce season ticket/gate price?Doubt it.Will they reverse the decision to let Old Firm fans buy tickets for the majority of the ground?Not likely.Will they give Terry something he’s never had in his time in charge - namely a cheque book? Can't see it. Will they continue to record profits similar to the last two years? It'd be tough.
On the other hand - could they sell our home from under us and move us on to pastures new? That's the rumours. Might they take money out of the club to recompense their initial outlay? Probably. Would our best players be ring-fenced from being sold on for peanuts as has been the welcome case recently? Not necessarily.
As with most things in life, nobody can give that definitive answer on what would be the best way to go. Do you let fresh blood have a go to hopefully right the wrongs of their predecessors or do you stick with the recognised face who seems happy to run a tight ship and safeguard the wellbeing of our club? This was exactly the scenario when John Boyle ousted John Chapman and yet through all that has happened our current owner has turned from poacher to gamekeeper and now finds himself running affairs with a view of ‘steady as she goes' as opposed to trying to start a revolution.
Both on and off the pitch we’re enjoying rare success - let’s not wreck all the good things we all enjoy from being part of Motherwell FC.
by Christopher Hutton
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