By | May 2, 2013

Re: Aldershot Town Football Club entering Administration

Trust President Graham Brookland

Trust President Graham Brookland

Aldershot Football Club was liquidated in March 1992. It was a sad, sad time to be a supporter of the football club. It was like a bereavement. It appeared terminal. It was.

However I was proud to be involved in the formation of a new football club soon after. Proud to own one of the two shares that formed the club.

We formed Aldershot Town Football Club the following month. A structured club built on morals, ethics, integrity and sheer hard graft. The aim was to give the supporters a football club they could be proud of. To be part of something special. A club that was part of a community committed to what it could give and not what it could take.

When we formed the club it was my directive with Terry Owens that there would be a supporters representative on the Board of Directors and this occurred in the first few years but eventually this was lost in the translation.

We enjoyed the most fantastic occasions. We had fun, it was great to be involved. The supporters had their football back, they enjoyed coming to games and we achieved five promotions in 16 years to reach that ultimate dream of the Football League. We earned a reputation of all that was right in football, especially in those early years. We did it in the right manner.

I sit here today wondering how it could all fall apart in such a rapid fashion. The day the club that I was so proud to be a part of forming has headed into administration. How can it be? Where did it go wrong?

Every supporter of Aldershot Town Football Club deserves an answer. Every player, member of staff, sponsor, creditor and shareholder deserves an answer. Our community deserves an answer.

Since the AGM of 18th April the club has entered a period of rapid decline and embarrassment. This emanated from the Majority Shareholder who has continued to mislead the supporters, change the rules on a daily basis and has blatantly provided untruths and who has so much to answer for. His actions are unforgivable. I have never been involved in dealing with such a complex character than I have over the last fortnight. I never want to see the man again.

However our club entering into administration has been caused by a sequence of events over a period of time. In truth was the club ever really ready to compete in the Football League?

Did we ever really take advantage of our Football League status?

Despite continued efforts to restructure the finances it never really had any breathing space. We “hit the jackpot” 18 months ago with a tremendous run in the League Cup and the dream of playing Manchester United in the fourth round. Did we ever capitalise on the profile that match provided?

Too high a changeover in personnel within the Board of Directors and within the non playing staff of the club has been unhelpful too. No structure, no guidance, no purpose and no accountability.

During the course of the close season of 2012/13 all control evaporated as expenditure was made in the most ridiculous of areas. Who controlled the spending? Who gave the green light for these decisions? Who takes responsibility?

In the early days of our club everything went though my office. We responded and we knew how to deal with the fans. We communicated. I spoke to the two Chairmen I served under, Terry Owens and Karl Prentice, frequently every day. We weren’t perfect but we did our best. Do you know what? We did ok!

I saw a letter in the Aldershot News this morning from a frustrated supporter about the current situation the club is in and it brought back memories. I can recall when the gentleman concerned wrote a letter of complaint into the football club. He had a genuine gripe. I took the time to contact him and met him at his house. We had a cup of tea and a chat and all was well. That was what the club was all about and it is what we did. We listened.

These days there are staff in the front office, portacabins, hospitality boxes, back rooms, front rooms. It is all fragmented. There has been no direction. Nobody really has known what their responsibilities have been for a period of time now. It is unacceptable.

People try to tell me that entering administration will be the best thing that could have happened considering the murky nature of the clubs structure and finances. It’s not for me however.

I cannot look people in the eye, those that I have brought to the club over the years, who may have to agree a revised payment, if at all, for services they have provided to the football club.

I speak to players, staff and supporters and this hurts like nothing we have ever experienced before. We are all suffering. We are all numb.

There will be a process now to preserve the future of Aldershot Town Football Club through the administrators. I sincerely hope that the club is able to secure a healthy future. That is paramount.

For whoever takes control of the club I plead with the following:

  • Respect the supporters. Listen to the supporters.
  • Please ensure that there is representation on the Board of Directors from the Shots Trust.
  • Please provide clear communications and engage with the supporters from day one.
  • Value your fans and don’t take them for granted.
  • Get back to basics and please do not provide ridiculous “plans” that are not achievable.
  • Do not mislead the supporters under any circumstance.
  • Just live within your means and explain why you are doing so.
  • Just tell the truth as it is.

Communications moving forward will be essential for whoever takes control of the club. Administration has severely dented the clubs reputation. It has jeopardised the values and relationships that we spent years to build. It has tarnished our trust and respect.

Serious work will be required to rebuild the clubs reputation within the community and with the supporters too. There is a lot of work ahead for whoever the successful bidder is.

I truly hope that whoever takes control of the club in the future they have the best interests of Aldershot Town Football Club.

For me however, it is back to the terraces. I have spent 21 years at the heartbeat of our club. I am not willing to be fighting fires anymore.

I have enjoyed the good times and there were some great times too. I have enjoyed the characters I have met. I value every relationship and friendship I have built over the years. Lifelong friends. Good people. The club will always be so special to me. I will always look back with pride on what we achieved. I cannot look back with pride over the sequence of events over the last two weeks though. It is rotten to the core.

I have confirmed to the club that I will be stepping down as Head of Media with immediate effect. I want no more to do with the internal organisation and running of the club.

What I am also not prepared to do is become a mouthpiece for potential investors keen to purchase the club. I know that my name will be used as a credible source to interested parties and that is not fair to me as an individual.

I have sacrificed so much over the years in my career because I wanted to keep my link with the football club in a variety of roles. I always thought it was essential to have somebody involved who was there at the formation. I have always put the club first. My family and career come first now and I leave with my head held high.

To me this feels like a bereavement all over again. I never anticipated that we would ever have to experience such a situation again. This is a tale of woe and destruction on a huge scale and it leaves a scar with me. For me this is the saddest of sad days.

There are plenty of supporters who will have that passion, desire and determination to ensure that your voice is heard. Make sure it is. Make sure that people listen. Don’t ever be fobbed off again about your football club. Go back to the values we had in 1992.

Remember- The fan comes first!

Up The Shots!

Graham Brookland

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