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The Enigma, Or Variations Thereof

By: Bill Osborne
Date: 28/07/2002

IT is not unusual in Football clubs to have disagreements in the boardroom and Grimsby Town is no exception to that. There have been a number of struggles and changes within the corridors of power over the last few years.

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Disagreements in themselves are not all bad. There is an old saying, that when two people are in agreement all the time, only one of them is doing the thinking. But that assumes that the people concerned are all heading down the same path albeit in different ways.

The recent fallout in the Grimsby Town boardroom seems to indicate not only differing views but also different paths and the progress of the battle so far, has been quite amazing and it presents a bit of an enigma.

In times of financial crisis it is usual for the club to call on everyone to support and assist in solving the problem and it is not unexpected that the board of directors would be included.

The Grimsby Town board is comprised of people with different levels of wealth. Therefore it could be expected that the financial commitment of each director would not be the same and so it turned out to be.

Mr Ramsden and Mr Fenty jointly rallied to the call for financial support and last season injected a significant amount of capital into the club in the form of interest free loans, which they knew had little chance of being repaid, but made them creditors of the club.

Without those loans, Grimsby Town Football Club may have gone into administration. Other directors too may have contributed based on their own financial situation. But Messrs Ramsden and Fenty contributed the most.

But when the club announced that two players would have to be sold, to provide the funds for manager Paul Groves to sign sufficient player to have a full squad by the beginning of the season, Mr Fenty was not happy about that and sought to acquire the funds from a different source or sources.

He therefore sought Mr Ramsden to join him in making another capital contribution to the club. A request that was refused by Mr Ramsden on the grounds that the board had previously made the decision that the club would run on its own income and expenditure and, that he was not prepared to keep pouring money into the club year after year. A decision he had the right to make and which Mr Fenty, despite his disappointment, should have respected.

It was that decision which ultimately led to the public statements being made by Mr Fenty and Mr Ramsden and indirectly, the resignation of Mr King.

Subsequent to that, Mr Fenty sold his shares to Mr Rouse, contributed the income from the sale of the shares to the club and Mr Groves now has the wherewithal to sign the players he needs. Which should now make everyone happy! In fact, it is hard to understand why there was a disagreement at all!

But there was, and that could place the club in a more perilous position and ultimately result in the club going into administration at the very least!

If one is to go by the reports and statements issued by the club, it appears that Mr Rouse has never, in his current term of office, injected any serious money into the club in any form.

That seems to indicate that Mr Rouse does not have the financial resources or has declined to contribute in any significant way. In the statement made by Mr Richard Robinson of Messrs Wilkins and Chapman, Solicitors Grimsby, it is alleged that Mr Rouse informed him that he had "acquired the funds to purchase Mr Fenty's shares" which seems to indicate that Mr Rouse did not previously have sufficient resources to do so.

Now here is the puzzle. Why did Mr Fenty have to sell his shares to assist the club?

Why didn't Mr Rouse inject his "newly acquired funds" into the club as a loan as his fellow directors had done previously, thereby leaving Mr Fenty as a major shareholder?

The sale of the shares has effectively converted a director who has contributed almost nothing (in cash terms) to the club, into a major shareholder and, placed a major contributor, into the ranks of the small shareholders.

Not only that but the person who has the most financial clout appears to have been alienated, thereby effectively preventing further approaches to him with the view to persuading him to assist again, even though he had previously stated his intention not to do so.

It is much easier to persuade friends than enemies and, a great deal more can be achieved in private discussions, than by a public slanging match in the Grimsby Telegraph!

So if Mr Ramsden resigns from the board, what we appear to be left with is the largest single shareholder on the board of directors who does not appear to have any financial resources to assist the club with. A minor shareholder who appears to have exhausted his funds, and the remaining directors who may be seen as allies of Mr Ramsden, thereby making themselves unwelcome!

Unless there is an amicable ending to the current disagreement at the next board meeting (rumoured to be on Monday) we can expect to see a few changes at board level and as the, until now conspicuously silent Mr Rouse, is now a major shareholder, he will have a large say in the composition of a new board - if it comes to that.

And I can think of three names that might be tendered, all of whom have previously injected very little into the club except for personal guarantees, that do no more than allow the club to borrow more money, thereby plunging the club deeper into debt.

Any new directors coming in should be prepared to bring their money with them, especially if they want Mr Ramsden to depart. He will be looking to them to be replacing his loans with their own and also injecting capital into the club! Can you see that happening?

There can only be one solution. The board of directors agree to disagree, bury the hatchet and get on with running the club. This board have not been perfect. None are, but they have been the best we have had at Blundell Park for many a long year and it would be a pity if a disagreement over approximately 200,000 pounds was to plunge the club into disarray. (The cynical amongst us would say this disagreement is not about money but about individual political agendas.)
I would not be so bold!

Mr Furneaux, the current chairman, should now intercede and sue for peace and get the club back on track. We are only a short time away from starting a new season.

That's the priority, or have the board forgotten that?

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