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Time Flies
Time Flies

The Clock is Ticking!

By: Bill Osborne
Date: 04/10/2007

GRIMSBY Town Football Club has survived many a crisis in its history. Many times have they been fortunate to gain re-election in the days of the old 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th divisions. More than once they have come close to administration or even bankruptcy both of which they have managed to avoid.

Home > Features > 2007 Features > The Clock is Ticking

Over the last few seasons we have teetered on the brink of relegation. No re-election nowadays. Once in the Conference League you have to fight to get back and, if you get back, you face a bleak financial future. Conference teams do not produce a lot of income and a club like Grimsby Town may not survive if it happens, even if they regain League status.

And if it happens who do we blame? The club, the management and the directors. We never look inwards to see if we played a part in it.

Under the current management at GTFC, we have good directors, a financially committed Chairman and good management who strive to keep our heads above the water line, so to speak. But it will not last forever.

When the time comes for John Fenty to call time and look for another person to carry the load, and he will, sometime in the future, then that is the time that Town will be at its most vulnerable to the shark infested waters of profiteering entrepreneurs who could strip the club of what assets it has leaving an empty shell.

We all know that John Fenty is not that type. He has proven that well enough. But he will not be here forever, and that to me, presents problems more difficult than we have ever faced before if the wrong person or persons get their hands on the club.

The club management and directors cannot save us.

At this point I present with permission, advice from another person on another site which outlines the perils that one day we might face.

Football fans should realise that the legal structure of most football clubs is no different from the average limited company. The limited company is an entity operated by directors to generate money for shareholders, and not to provide good football.

Fans have no legal say in how a club structured this way is run. Their position is no different from customers of Ikea except that football fans' brand loyalty is stronger, and therefore they are less likely to use the only weapon available to them: withholding their money. Fans' loyalty to football clubs is in legal and business terms no different from commercial goodwill. This means they are always available to be fleeced.

A director is not a steward. Any legal duties he owes are to the legal entity known as the club, and not to the fans. While he may (and often does) possess a sense of moral obligation to the fans, this is entirely voluntary on his or her part.

Shareholders are not stewards either. They owe no duties to anyone.

Fans frequently complain about how expensive football is, but nevertheless they frequently maintain a misplaced sense of loyalty to club directors when the club's team is performing well. Indeed, it is often considered disloyal to the point of rudeness to complain about a matter as vulgar as money, because to the true fan money is no object.

Therefore, as long as clubs are incorporated as limited companies, or until fans' trusts or societies gain control of football clubs' shares, they will continue to be fleeced by unscrupulous sporting tycoons and watch their clubs get asset stripped once the support base has been bled

How many clubs have gone through all this? Doncaster Rovers, one of our neighbours, almost went to the wall with the wrong people in charge and there have been at least a dozen over the last five years.

So who thinks it could not happen to us? Grimsby Town fans that's who!

The same fans who call for John Fenty to pour all his money into the club. The same fans who managed to raise approximately 25 grand to Keep The Mariners Afloat campaign, the same fans who stay away in droves when we lose a game. The same fans who complain about paying 18 pounds in gate money knowing that the club could not survive on less.

And they are in the majority. Every club has its faithful few. The fans who turn up whatever. And they are the few.

Too few at Grimsby Town.

So if the crunch ever comes to Grimsby Town, who is left to save us?

I will answer that question in part two tomorrow. There is an answer and it isn't Jesus.

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