This is the transcript of my original notes at the meeting I called to discuss the future of Aldershot Town Football Club last Thursday evening (25th April). I was, minutes before the meeting asked to tone down my comments as it was likely an agreement would be confirmed with Kris Machala prior to the meeting which would be in the best interests of the football club. Here we are now five days on and the “goal posts” keep changing.
I am not prepared to say nothing any longer. This is the original notes of what I was due to say with more comprehensive detail regarding my concern about the future of our football club.
30th April 2013
THE FUTURE OF ALDERSHOT TOWN FOOTBALL CLUB
Meeting at 8.00pm in the Phoenix Lounge (South Stand)
Thursday 25th April 2013
THE FUTURE OF ALDERSHOT TOWN FOOTBALL CLUB
It is with a heavy heart that I have called this meeting tonight but the history and connection I have with this football club leaves me with no alternative.
I can remember my first ever visit to the Rec as a 7 year old in 1974. The excitement and buzz as Shots won 6-0 versus Cambridge United and Jack Howarth netting a hat-trick.
I became a regular two years later. My fondest memories, however, are happy times from the late 70’s. I said it in my programme notes last week. Jopling, Johnson, Dungworth, Brodie and Alex McGregor. My all time hero and somebody who I look up to in total respect all those years later. I am still a nervous little boy when I see him. They were my memories- They were my heroes- my childhood. It becomes your life.
As an opinionated teenager in the 80’s I was always at the front of the demonstrations when there was boardroom discontent. Indeed I was usually the instigator but it was because I cared. It was because I just wanted what was right for Aldershot FC and I could see people tarnishing the name of the club we supported. I can remember along with Ian Read setting up the Aldershot Action Group in The Cannon over the road in 1984. The Supporters Club was banned from the ground. Due to recent revelations a bit of me in my teenage years is coming back because I see things that are not right. If I learnt anything about those days of the old club it is because there was no transparency. You didn’t get to know the truth. Subsequently I know that a lot of the people involved had good intentions but they just didn’t know how to communicate!
Then in 1992 we all know what happened. We lost our football club. I was Chairman of the Supporters Club by then and believe me I dealt with some pretty unscrupulous people who were club officials at the end. I can remember when we used to hold those Bucket collections to help provide the players with some expenses to cover their own costs being threatened when I wouldn’t hand the bucket over to those officials stating that I give it to Ian McDonald and nobody else.
I can remember viewing all the staff gathered on the pitch just after the liquidation of Aldershot Football Club. All being told that they no longer had a job. Sad times.
I then also remember 1992 when this club was reformed. Terry Owens contacted me asking for support and our Supporters Club Committee met with Terry in the Crimea soon after. The story is well documented. Terry purchased share number 1 and I purchased number 2 and Aldershot Town FC was up and running. It was the start of a tremendous period. Fun, excitement. None of us had any experience of running a football club hands on but we gave it our best shot.
Ironically we are gathered in this bar this evening and it brings back memories. Our first ever home match was on Saturday 8th August 1992 in a friendly versus Romford. It was the hottest day of the year. It was sweltering. I was in charge of the bar- purely because I had done a bit of bar work a few years previously.
This clubhouse was packed but it was so hot all the beers frothed up and there was a problem with the pipes. All we had was pints looking like Ice Creams. I had to call Tommy Graham, who was then the landlord of The Crimea, to come over and sort it for us! But that was what it was all about then. We were all learning. People wanted to help us. It was a fabulous football club to be around.
We had some fantastic times. I was proud to serve as a founding Director before being appointed as Company Secretary in the second season and serving 10 years full time. It was Rosemary Aggett and I on a day to day basis at a football club that was recording far higher attendances than it does today.
There was a connection with the club all around. It worked. I decided to leave my full time position in 2002. I wanted to pursue new opportunities and had five fantastic years fundraising at the Phyllis Tuckwell Hospice, where my Dad passed away, before my current full time position at the Army FA. However those that know me including my employers and my wife know that this place comes first. Aldershot Town Football Club comes first. My role may be part time these days but I give it everything.
There it was five promotions to reach the ultimate dream of Football League status in 2008. It had not been an easy ride but it was achieved by the hard work, dedication and commitment of many, many people. Many still with us and some who will be looking down in disbelief.
For whatever reason, we haven’t taken advantage of our Football League status. In fact as a club we lost our way. There have been many genuine attempts from people to set a foundation and platform for the future but they have not worked.
Season 2012/13 will go down as the worst for Aldershot Football- not just for the new club but from 1926- 2013. You may ask how can that be the case when we saw a club liquidated in 1992. My answer is yes, but we failed to learn our lessons. To be on the verge of losing our Football League status is unforgivable. It needs to be established as to how this was allowed to happen but, importantly, we need to know where we are headed for the future.
At short notice I have tried to get a balance from the floor in terms of representation. I wanted to avoid a free for all with too many people present. Included in our congregation is our Club Founder and Chairman of the Shots Trust, Terry Owens. Whatever the situation moving forwards the happenings of the last year or so mean that whoever runs this club there must be representation from the supporters as there was in 1992, a stipulation I made when this club was formed. In addition I thought it imperative that a player who it meant so much to play for this club should be invited. That is why our record goal scorer and scorer of the first ever goal Mark Butler is present. Mark cares.
He deserves to know. He knows what its like to play for our club but he also knows what it means to support it too. He is the ultimate footballer. Born in the town and who walked to the matches with his kit bag over his shoulder.
There are some people in this room who are not happy that I have called this meeting. There will be some who believe that some of the information I give you could be damaging. However in addition to my part time role as Head of Media at the club I am also the President of the Shots Trust. I have a duty to inform you of the stream of events that I have been made aware of over the past week or so. Indeed I could not live with myself if I didn’t do this. So if I jeopardise my own position at the club moving forwards then so be it. You have a right to know.
Last Thursday evening I attended the Shareholders AGM with the expectation that, whilst all was not good considering our league position, the club would be able to move forward once the Shareholders were informed of the proposals. As we know now our Majority Shareholder, Kris Machala, opposed the motion and, after an unnecessary and embarrassing exchange of views that entered the public domain, he informed the floor that there was a potential investor in the wings and that he would be in a position to conclude matters and inform the Board the following Monday. I was asked by Tony Knights to prepare a statement which I did post meeting but insisted that the Directors be present so I could read back the agreed statement before I made it public.
Those present were Kris, Shahid, Mark Mediratta the Company Secretary, Peter Duffy, Tony and myself. I prepared the statement and read it back in Kris’ presence. All agreed to the statement.
At the meeting Kris publicly confirmed that he would take responsibility of the finances in the short and long term, if required, whilst he concluded negotiations with a proposed investor. I sent the Press Statement at just gone 1am on Friday morning explaining the situation and the guarantees Kris made.
At 2.31am Kris sent me an email denying he made those comments. This is extremely alarming considering that I drafted the statement in his presence alongside the other Directors. It set alarm bells to me because it is not the first time I have had such dealings with Kris.
Earlier this year he insisted to me that I get a statement out immediately announcing the departure of Coach Matt Bishop only to contact me as soon as I released it asking why I had made the public aware!
I was asked to attend a meeting of the Board of Directors on Monday at the request of the Chairman, Shahid Azeem. I am aware of the confidentiality agreement signed at the meeting but the contents of what I tell you do not affect that agreement because I am not breaking any confidences. This is because I have received written correspondence from the Majority Shareholder, Kris Machala, this week detailing his current intentions and that the fact of entering the club into administration is a serious option that he is considering. How I wish I had been made aware of this before my dealings with BBC Surrey on Monday when they broke a story that I was unaware of and caused a serious rift between the station and myself. How alarming that I later learnt that it was Kris himself who had informed the BBC that administration was a serious option.
I thought the purpose of the meeting on Monday was for Kris, as he had stated to the Shareholders, to share the information of the investors who were to safeguard the future of the football club. There was nothing of the sort but just more vitriol and nothing substantial except that more time was required. Kris confirmed to me via email and texts that he has been in continued discussions with a potential investor and had set a 4pm deadline for yesterday (Wednesday). That deadline passed with additional requests to delay until this morning but nothing conclusive has been forthcoming. There may be something in the wings and Kris can explain further when he gets his turn. It is not my responsibility to provide this information. I am not a Director.
At the meeting that I attended on Monday an alternative offer was put to Kris by the current Chairman Shahid Azeem. For some unconvincing reason Kris expressed reluctance to pursue this but did not totally dismiss it despite dubious responses lacking clarity. I strongly recommended to Kris that he reopened discussion with Shahid with immediate effect.
But I speak as one of the two shareholders who set this company up in 1992. On Monday I spoke at the meeting and informed Kris that the option of administration would be a disaster for Aldershot Town Football Club. He states that it would secure a better “long term” option. I responded informing him that he is wholly incorrect in this theory. It would be the beginning of the end and even if it were to succeed it would leave a seriously bad taste to those that have experienced the “dark days” before.
The heart and soul of the club would be ripped out. Integrity, ethics, morals and everything that we have always stood for lost overnight and believe me we would never get it back.
Who will purchase Season Tickets, renew sponsorships, attend matches at a depleted football club stuck at the bottom of the Conference with -10 points with public relations at an all time low. Trust, too, of whoever is in charge would be extremely delicate.
This is similar to how many teams that suffered relegation from the Football League started their life in the Conference. Many of them sunk lower- some never to return!
If this was the only course of action I would fully understand the consideration but it’s not and Kris is aware of this. It is essential too that the integral focus is for the benefit of the football club solely and not for any possibility of personal gain.
Culpability too is high on the agenda. At no time during the course of the season has it been inferred that the club is in such a “serious” financial difficulty that suggests that administration is an imminent option.
Can you imagine the reaction of everybody connected at the club were Kris to place it into administration. Can you envisage the questions that he will have to answer? A nigh on impossible situation that I would not wish on my worst enemy!
However I have advised Kris that he would be the man that supporters, staff, Shareholders, sponsors and the media target? Is it worth it?
Is it really in the best interests of Aldershot Town Football Club?
Expectation was also provided by Kris of a positive announcement due at Monday’s meeting after he informed Shareholders this would be the case.
Sadly this never materialised either. It is this kind of erratic behaviour that gives me that cause for concern as ultimately he controls our club. I have no confidence in him.
I fully respect and applaud the financial commitment that Kris has provided to the club in the past. It is totally commendable as, indeed, it is with any individual who has provided funds to the club. There is a tremendous sense of gratitude there.
However, my only interest is the well being of Aldershot Town Football Club moving forwards. I cannot accept witnessing the future of the club being risked without covering all angles.
I cannot risk finding out that he may put the club into administration knowing that I didn’t do all in my capability to stop this.
I am not impressed with what I have witnessed and cannot keep this “behind closed doors” any longer.
I am party to correspondence and conversations emanating to how this football club has been run over the past year that actually beggar belief. Make no bones about it we are in the situation we are in because of a total mismanagement from within. Decisions that have been made, some stating they were aware, some with evidence to the contrary. Unacceptable.
New member of staff after new member of staff without direction and clarity! Unacceptable.
A football team going into freefall in view of our very eyes. Unacceptable.
But at the back of it has been the very nonsense that has been the root of it. The very cause that has destroyed everything we have worked for.
The Majority Shareholder was a paid member of staff on a day to day basis at this club throughout the majority of that period through to when Andrew Mills arrived as Chief Executive in February.
Despite the obvious decline in performance work that has been undertaken behind the scenes over the past couple of months have, for me, shown signs of improvement and offered a platform that was being built to start turning the club around. My view is that the Majority Shareholder scuppered that last week.
My wife always tells me that I should write a book about my involvement at this football club over the years. She is probably right. However, believe me, the last few days experiences would be enough to fill an encyclopaedia alone! I have never experienced anything like it and have to draw a line under it.
I am not prepared to allow the future of our football club be jeopardised and the people deserve an explanation before further decisions are made.
There is nothing personal in my contents. All I want is to have confidence that our football club is being run the right way. I cannot give that confidence at the moment and I will fail in my duties with the positions that I hold were I not to ensure that you are informed of the situation. All that counts is that we safeguard the future and the proud history and heritage of Aldershot Town
Remember the club comes before any individual.