Monday, July 30, 2007

When shareholders become scum - Allwell

Dave Allen is frustrated. Middle-aged and suited, with white hair smartly parted, he leans back in his chair and shakes his head at the TV cameras.

“You know, you can’t believe these people.”

Allen is chairman of Sheffield Wednesday Football Club. Together, he and fellow directors Geoff Hulley and Keith Addy own a controlling interest of 30% of the shares. Their latest attempt to sell those shares has failed. A bigger chunk of shares might be more attractive to a potential buyer. Allen knows where he might get some, maybe cheap.

Wednesdayite are the Sheffield Wednesday supporters’ trust. They run coaching courses for primary school children; their “smile” initiative buys match tickets from the club at full price and gives them to deserving people who would otherwise be unable to afford them; they donate money to local charities. Wednesdayite receive no funding from the club and no individual member can profit from their activities.

Allen works under no such limitations. Six years ago, he gave Wednesdayite a 10% shareholding saying, “The Sheffield Wednesday supporters are our greatest asset. They come to the matches, buy our shirts and do everything possible to support us. Their loyalty and commitment holds the key to our future. It is in recognition of this that myself, Mr Hulley and Mr Addy wish to make this gift.”

Now he wants it back. In return, he is offering to put £500,000 towards the acquisition and payment of players. The value of Wednesdayite’s shares is not clear, but is estimated to be in the region of £1.9m. Wednesdayite have declined.

Allen is displeased and has called a press conference.

“Ninety to 95 percent of fans of this football club are very happy with what’s going on, it’s just that lot that'll never be happy. You only want to come to the AGMs and listen to them…”

*

Cutlers’ Hall sits in the heart of Sheffield. A Monday night in November and people are gathering outside its extravagantly decorated main hall. They pause, blocked by the crowd. Squeezing through, they emerge into an aisle between two blocks of seating.

Above them a large chandelier dominates the elegantly corniced ceiling, while all around them giant formal portraits of past Master Cutlers are separated by marble-effect Corinthian columns. They scan the seats, 500 in total. All are taken. They return to the back of the hall and burrow in, standing wherever they can, facing a stage at the far end. There sit the directors.

This is the home of the trade guild of metal workers. Built in 1867 it is tonight the location of the Annual General Meeting of Sheffield Wednesday, a club formed in that same year and winners of four league championships and three FA Cups.

They have just sacked their manager, the ninth in as many years. They are £27m in debt. They are mid-table in the second tier of English football.

*

Dave Allen remembers: “By the way we were doing well.”

*

The meeting begins with the perfunctory execution of administrative tasks before questions are invited from shareholders.

Darryl Keys is the unpaid chairman of Wednesdayite. He was once a merchant bank director with responsibility for sports finance. Keys is concerned that, commercially, Wednesday are not as agile as they could be. He presents statistics illustrating how Wednesday’s revenue is significantly lower than comparable clubs at the same level. He provides examples of how those clubs maximise their income. He wonders whether Wednesday have room for improvement.

In reply, Wednesday’s finance director, Bob Grierson, rejects his advice, referring to the failure of Keys’ own business. He addresses none of the issues raised. Jeers rise up from the floor and a shout is directed towards the stage. “Shame on you.”

*

Dave Allen remembers: “These people who call themselves fans are nothing but a bunch of cretins, and I hope you’ve got that word right, cretins, cos that is what they are.”

*
A dark-haired woman walks, head down, to the front. Small and middle-aged, she tentatively approaches the microphone. Her eyes dart around the room, down to her hand-held notes, then around the room once more. She gives a small cough. Initially her voice is quiet and hoarse but soon she is speaking eloquently and passionately. Irma Kennedy has supported Wednesday for 40 years. She is not there to represent Wednesdayite. She talks as a supporter and as an individual shareholder.

“He (Allen) has told me I know nothing about football. While I do not profess to be an expert, I think I have earned the right to have an informed opinion and to have that opinion respected. It’s time you put aside your petty views and looked to rebuild your relationship with all fans.”

Her speech is reported in the Sheffield Star as “the most impassioned plea of the night”.

As she makes her back to her seat, applause fills the hall. Shouts merge together into an indistinct rumble of encouragement.

“You must stop insulting people like me,” she said.

*

Dave Allen remembers: “There was one woman stood up, the most venomous bitch I’ve ever come across in my life, she’d got three pages of diatribe to read out about me, it was just absolutely appalling.”

Allen again shakes his head and searches for the right word to describe his customers and fellow shareholders.

“Scum.”

Dave Allen remains as chairman of Sheffield Wednesday.

Dave Allen’s comments can be seen in this news clip: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=78AsOlC4E-I

14 comments:

MotM said...

Allwell - Brilliant piece.

Astonishing stuff - I thought you were laying it on a bit thick, until I saw the clip.

A fit and proper person?

Good luck to the Wednesdayites.

Can't Hattersley pull a few strings and get something done?

allwell said...

Thanks Mouth. That clip is really quite special isn't it?

Wednesdayite are hanging on for the moment, but you'd be surprised by how many Wednesday fans want them to give up the shares, even though Allen will simply sell them on and trouser the money.

It seems the gold rush is on, and many fans are desperate for "investment", never mind that not so long ago, such investment left the club in the mess they are in now.

I don't know about Hattersley, but you'd think Geoff Thompson, Sheffield man and chairman of the FA, might have an opinion.

file said...

Allwell,

all is not well, a great read and a really depressing one, like an appendix to the Big Sell Out piece in GU, when will these fat cat profiteers realize that without the fans they are nothing, NOTHING!

oo it makes my blood boil, not even a bit of basic respect never mind the grovelling the directors should be doing, can't watch the YouTube here but don't need to, I can hear the smug bastard clearly in your words

as always; nail, head, Mouth; 'fit and proper person' this phrase means nothing to noone and Good luck to the Wednesdayites

file said...

btw, can't see a date anywhere, take it this is ongoing?

allwell said...

file,

Yeah, the press conference was ten days ago. Since then allen has done some backtracking, remarkable only it its halfheartedness, suggesting that his cretin and scum remarks were aimed purely at those people he claims to have abused him at matches, but when you see the video that really doesn't stand up to any scrutiny.

Which means, presumably, that he is standing by his venoumous bitch remark which is nice.

And the silence of his fellow board members, Hulley and Addy, suggest that Allen is speaking for all of them.

Basically, he's desperate to realise his investment, frustrated that he's struggling, realises he made a bit of a cock-up in giving away the shares and he's losing the plot a bit.

And despite a remarkably one-sided (Allen supportive) local media, I think he's slowly losing the argument.

Bet you wish you'd never asked now.

file said...

Allwell, no definitely don't wish I'd never asked, share your distaste

and got on a bit of a rant last night about it, in the clear light of day what strikes me as remarkable is that he gave Wednesdayites their shares to start with (an enlightened move and altruistic, tho not special just how football should be and isn't run)

it's clear that he's regretting his right minded actions and hankering after the returns as you mention, but what's strange is that his generosity has turned into such bitterness (he's really just angry at himself then, tosser)

imo this is important social battle, perhaps the last? Football clubs are people, local people originally and set up with them, for them and by them, only for carpetbaggers to realize the profits involved and lever their way in (not new, first it was greedy local businessmen, now it's slimeballs from Asia and the US).

but they are stealing social territory and only have one bottom line; their own personal profit

what everyone seems to forget tho is that the power lies with the masses, but they are only strong in unity

articulate articles like this one can only help unify folk (in Sheffield and elsewhere, can't believe how easily the Man City fans rolled over but at least there was a debate of sorts)

great work Allwell, keep shouting!

allwell said...

file,

Couldn't agree more. It is remarkable he gave those shares away. However, at the time of buying he was deemed to be acting together with Hulley and Addy. If they bought over 30% of the shares he/they would have been forced legally to make an offer for the rest, something he/they couldn't afford to do.

At this point, he presumably came up with the wheeze of making himself instantly popular by parking 10% of the shares with the fans.

Now, for some reason the three musketeers of Allen, Hulley and Addy are no longer deemed to be in it together despite voting the same way on every single AGM resolution over the past six years. This means Allen is legally free to own more shares, so he would like his gift back if it's not too much trouble. But the poor lad is not having things his own way.

offsideintahiti said...

I won't comment on the content, as I don't know anything about these people (well, I do now), but I'd like to praise the writing. Again.

file said...

Allwell, thanks for explaining the altruism away, he gave the shares because he had to, thought it was a bit too good to be true

back to MotM's point about what the f'ack is a 'fit and proper person'?

Human Rights Watch have actually dared to question the FA's evaluation of Taksin at ManC, and Amnesty International have said they are quite happy to hand over their file on him but obviously the FA know better, double HAH!

Fit and Proper Person Test:

Can you lay your manicured claws on enough lolly?

Ok, you're F and P.

BBC footie are leading with this story at the moment and will have a live debate tonight at 8pm gmt

http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport2/hi/football/teams/m/man_city/6918718.stm

despite 100's of thousands of people world wide and many million in Thailand with evidence of his nastiness his lawyer claims T has convinced him of his innocence

if it wasn't so sad it would be funny

file said...

FYI,

This is the Premier League's fit and proper person test:

DISQUALIFYING EVENTS:

# A person shall be disqualified from acting as a director and no club shall be permitted to have any person acting as a director of that club if:

# Either directly or indirectly he is involved in or has any power to determine or influence the management or administration of another club or Football League club

# Either directly or indirectly he holds or acquires any Significant Interest in a club while he either directly or indirectly holds any interest in any class of shares of another club

# He becomes prohibited by law from being a director

# He is convicted on indictment of an offence set out in the Appendix 12 Schedule of Offences or he is convicted of a like offence by a competent court having jurisdiction outside England and Wales

# He makes an Individual Voluntary Arrangement or becomes the subject of an Interim Bankruptcy Restriction Order, a Bankruptcy Restriction Order or a Bankruptcy Order

# He is a director of a club which, while he has been a director of it, has suffered two or more unconnected events of insolvency

# He has been a director of two or more clubs or clubs each of which, while he has been a director of them, has suffered an Event of Insolvency.

SCHEDULE OF OFFENCES:

* Conspiracy to defraud: Criminal Justice Act 1987, section 12
* Conspiracy to defraud: Common Law
* Corrupt transactions with (public) agents, corruptly accepting consideration: Prevention of Corruption Act 1906, section 1
* Insider dealing: Criminal Justice Act 1993, sections 52 and 61
* Public servant soliciting or accepting a gift: Public Bodies (Corrupt Practices) Act 1889, section 1
* Theft: Theft Act 1968, section 1
* Obtaining by deception: Theft Act 1968, section 15
* Obtaining a money transfer by deception: Theft Act 1968, section 15A + B
* Obtaining a pecuniary advantage by deception: Theft Act 1968, section 16
* False accounting: Theft Act 1968, section 17
* False statements by Company Directors: Theft Act 1968, section 19
* Suppression of (company) documents: Theft Act 1968, section 20
* Retaining a wrongful credit: Theft Act 1968, section 24A
* Obtaining services by deception: Theft Act 1978, section 1
* Evasion of liability by deception: Theft Act 1978, section 2
* Cheating the Public Revenue/Making false statements tending to defraud the public revenue: Common Law
* Punishment for fraudulent training: Companies Act 1985, section 458
* Penalty for fraudulent evasion of duty etc: Customs & Excise Management Act 1979, section 170
* Fraudulent evasion of VAT: Value Added Tax Act 1994 section 72
* Person subject to a Banning order (as defined) : Football (Disorder) Act 2000, Schedule 1
* Forgery: Forgery and Counterfeiting Act 1981, section 1
* Copying a false instrument : Forgery and Counterfeiting Act 1981, section 2
* Using a false instrument: Forgery and Counterfeiting Act 1981, section 3
* Using a copy of a false instrument: Forgery and Counterfeiting Act 1981, section 4
* Cheating the Public Revenue/ Making false statements tending to defraud the public revenue: Common Law
* Punishment for fraudulent training: Companies Act 1985, section 458
* Penalty for fraudulent evasion of duty etc: Customs & Excise Management Act 1979, section 170
* Fraudulent evasion of VAT: Value Added Tax Act 1994, section 72
* Person subject to a Banning order (as defined): Football (Disorder) Act 2000, Schedule 1
* Forgery: Forgery and Counterfeiting Act 1981, section 1
* Copying a false instrument: Forgery and Counterfeiting Act 1981, section 2
* Using a false instrument: Forgery and Counterfeiting Act 1981, section 3
* Using a copy of a false instrument: Forgery and Counterfeiting Act 1981, section 4

bluedaddy said...

And given what I've read about Sean Bean ranting at Mrs Neil Warnock and her kids, you have to wonder what they are serving in the director's boxes of Sheffield's football clubs.

http://www.whoateallthepies.tv/2007/07/how_tough_guy_s.html

Zeph said...

Just read this again, allwell - it's not my area of expertise :) but this is a cracking piece of writing, it really bites.

berlinerbob said...

Fantastic piece, if the Dave Allen comments are accurately linked to the people described, then this piece of work is truly despicable (as daffy duck used to say).
What is it about Football clubs that attracts these scum...oh...the money.

greengrass said...

allwell -
I noticed this piece a week or so ago.

Having read some excellent writing by you earlier, I decided to save reading it until I had enough time.

You didn't disappoint me: strong stuff about a legendary club in a great, proud, city.

I sometimes go to Sheffield for the extraordinary carol singing in the villages. Magic! Being an Oldhamer,
I get the benefit of loads of good-hearted (?) piss-taking into the bargain.

See you there sometime? Maybe Kokomo will come too, if he can tear himself away from his poetry...

GG

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