Jeff Bonser used the web last night to release a detailed statement in reaction to recent protests against the Board, which is reprinted below. Please note the copyright for this belongs to Walsall Football Club.
“It was with some incredulity that I witnessed a small mob stage a foul mouthed demonstration outside the Main Entrance after the Charlton Match.
If they take that kind of action against a successful and well run Club then (don’t take my word, a recent independent survey into Football Clubs by Deloitte and Touche described Walsall Football Club as being the best financially run Club in the Football League) what would they be doing if I had taken the Club to the verge of financial ruin as has happened at Clubs like Swindon and Crystal Palace? It was with even more incredulity that I read in the Wednesday edition of the “Express & Star” that there were 400 demonstrators. I would like to invite Nick Elwell, the author of that piece of mis-information, to study our CCTV tape, which identifies there were about 40 active demonstrators, and a somewhat smaller number of inquisitive bystanders. I think we are entitled to expect that if the “Express & Star” is going to publish statistics that at least they verify them, and produce the correct information
The behaviour of these demonstrators was totally senseless. They might think that their actions will help the team. I tell you that they are more likely to destroy Walsall Football Club. One effect will be that all matches at Bescot Stadium for the remainder of the Season are likely to have to be policed, which means to the Club, an extra cost of over Â£7000.00 per game or Â£35000.00 for the remainder of the Season.
Just what is their problem?
Why are these people protesting against the management of a well run Football Club? All income is accounted for in audited accounts prepared by BDO Stoy Hayward.
There seems to be some disquiet about my pension fund drawing a rent from the Bescot Stadium Site. Let me make clear, I made a significant investment into Walsall Football Club at a time when it was on it’s financial knees, and am entitled to a return from that investment. If anyone thinks that an investor is going to come into the Club and not want a return on their investment they are living in cloud cuckoo land.
We had just lost a very entertaining match to Charlton Athletic. I can understand their disappointment. I felt it too, and so did other members of the Board.
But consider the facts. Charlton lead the First Division by 12 points. They have just won 12 successive League matches. They are the best team in the First Division, by a distance. They enjoy gates of 15,000 plus, and because they receive balloon payments from the Premiership have millions to spend on players.
Yet, despite all this, we competed with them, we gave them a hard game and with a little more luck it might have been a very different result.
So if that was not the reason for the demonstration what was it?
The chanting and obscenities were in the main targeted at myself.
It is not something I enjoy. Indeed, like any other human being it can be very hurtful. It is distressing to my family, and when one looks at the achievements of Walsall F. C. during these past 8 years can hardly be justified.
But if certain people want to get rid of me, that is their prerogative. Although why they have to sink to such depths of vulgarity to say so probably says more about them than it does me.
At the risk of repeating myself, I am quite prepared to sell Walsall Football Club, and to be able to walk away from it. That has been the case for the last 2 years.
During that time the only serious approaches I have received are from speculators who would knock the Stadium down and develop the site, which I have had the option to do since owning the Stadium.
I do not want this to happen. I am a Walsall man. I love Walsall Football Club, and it has always been my intention to only sell the Club to an individual or group whose purpose is to maintain League Football in the town and to take the Club forward.
No such person or consortium has come forward.
The recent brochure compiled and distributed by the so called Independent Saddlers Supporters Association has attracted no response. This is hardly surprising since they do not own the Club, and are therefore not in a position to sell it. They have managed to produce a flawed document, which would receive short shrift from any potential investor that might have glanced through it.
I can promise however that when I receive the right offer I will be relieved to sell the Club and walk away from it.
No one can say when this will happen, but until it does I will continue to run the Club on the same business principles that have served it so well in recent years.
So what are we to expect? More demonstrations, more obscene chanting and loutish behaviour â€¦ or worse?
I read comments from Messrs Fellows, Stuart and other I.S.S.A. Officials encouraging demonstrations explaining that they should be peaceful and good humoured. They might think they can control these demonstrations, but I will tell you they cannot.
Once the word gets round that there is likely to be a spot of bother at Bescot Stadium, the ‘rent-a-mob’ crowd from miles around, with no interest in the Club, but who never miss the chance to have a good punch up, will move in. Messrs Stuart and Fellows, and the rest of the I.S.S.A. Committee will have lit a fuse that they will not be able to control, and there will be violence and someone will get hurt.
I warn you now, both Darren Fellows, Steve Stuart and their followers, had better take note of this fact, once this happens there will be a drastic change in my stance.
I have seen violence erupt on a number of occasions during the past 12 years at Walsall Football Club. During the past couple of months there have been a couple of occasions where Directors have faced physical intimidation. I will not allow that to happen.
Everyone needs to understand that if a situation is created whereby my position becomes untenable before a replacement owner is found there will be draconian consequences for the Club.
At that point all arrangements that I have made with the Bank will be cancelled, and Loan and Bank Guarantees withdrawn. The Club will then face immediate financial ruin and closure.
Perhaps it is time that we started to ask a few questions about the likes of Steve Stuart and Darren Fellows. Many supporters will have read their articles in the local press, for which presumably they are paid. They promote an anti-board theme, and make no secret of their desire to get rid of me and the rest of the Board.
But who are these people? Perhaps in one of their forthcoming articles they might tell us something about themselves or put details on the Internet.
Darren Fellows and Steve Stuart are constantly pontificating about how the Club should be run. Are they qualified to do this? What are their present jobs? Do they have the kind of business experience that suggests they are sufficiently well informed to tell us how to run the Football Club? – I would doubt it!
And what plans do Darren Fellows and Steve Stuart have for Walsall Football Club? We all know they subscribe to and encourage the ‘sack the board’ sentiment. But if me and the present Board go, what are they going to put in it’s place?
Let Darren Fellows and Steve Stuart provide an answer to a scenario where their actions lead me to removing my services and Bank Guarantees from the Club, and as a result, the Club faces instant closure. Can I assume that Darren Fellows and Steve Stuart will step in with their bank guarantees to keep the Club going? I challenge them to state publicly what their plans are if, as result of the problems they are inciting, I and the Board no longer feel able to operate.
And what do we know about I.S.S.A.? They hold occasional meetings in local public houses and issue press bulletins to local newspapers. Their whole philosophy for creating a successful Football Club seems to based on “spend, spend, spend”. They give no indication about where the money is coming from, and really need to understand that spectacular spending, which really means spending money that you do not have, is a form of gross mis-management. Inevitably this will lead to the Club facing a financial crisis.
The claim to have 500 members, but I challenge them to provide documentary evidence of this. Let them produce a detailed membership for independent scrutiny.
It took them 2 years to produce a brochure they were talking about in 1998, so they are hardly dynamic. They planned to issue leaflets at the Charlton match, but could not manage to do so in time. These are the people who are telling us how to run the Football Club.
It was amusing to note that one of the brochures was sent to Tiny Rowlands â€¦.. who died 2 years ago. Perhaps they are looking for help from beyond the grave.
Darren Fellows and Steve Stuart talk about raising Â£50,000 to buy shares in the Club that would give them influence in the board room. Where is the Â£50,000 coming from? â€¦â€¦â€¦ Passing a bucket round at one of their meetings? I state categorically that I will never sell any of my shares to I.S.S.A. Their antics and rantings will dissuade any investor from buying the Club. If they behave like this towards a well run and successful Football Club nobody has got a chance, potential owners will not want the hassle of having to deal with such people.
And if Darren Fellows and Steve Stuart do not have a plan, or are not able to make necessary financial commitments themselves, what are they doing espousing policies that will ruin Walsall Football Club? Are there sinister reasons for their actions or are they simply out to make a name for themselves? Are Darren Fellows, Steve Stuart and their members aware of the consequences if they drive me out, with no one else ready to step in? Have they thought about the part they will have played in bringing 112 years of Professional Football in Walsall to an end? Have they considered the potential loss of 300 full and part time jobs in the town as a result of a senseless and ill considered campaign?
I can only appeal to the decent and fair minded people, who make up the vast majority of supporters to make their feelings known against the rabble who seem intent on undermining everything that has been achieved at Walsall Football Club.
I will state categorically that Walsall Football Club will have nothing to do with Darren Fellows, Steve Stuart or I.S.S.A., neither would any other decent organisation. They burnt their bridges when they launched an obscene and personal attack on Paul Simpson last Season. A player incidentally, who made a useful contribution to our promotion success. I wonder whether people are aware of the filth that is written in the I.S.S.A. Fanzine for which both Steve Stuart and Darren Fellows must carry responsibility. The publication is so revolting that is has been banned from distribution in the Saddlers Club by the Supporters Club Committee. The press are fully aware of the filth written in this fanzine and I find it very difficult to understand why they have not commented on the obscene nature of the publication. The two people responsible for the fanzine and the foul language found in it are Steve Stuart and Darren Fellows and it is very difficult to understand how this qualifies them to be invited by local newspapers to write weekly columns. “Express & Star” reporters are well aware of the obscene remarks made against Paul Simpson and I would find it very interesting for them to publish their views on how Simpson was treated in the offending article.
It is not my business to tell the “Express & Star” who they should invite to make contributions. However many supporters must be wondering why they choose to invite articles from a minority group, and ignore the official Supporters Club who represent a membership of 3,000. Perhaps there is a hidden agenda that I am not aware of.
I leaves me to wonder whether the “Express & Star” are content to knowingly print articles and information from I.S.S.A., who they know are an organisation that organises foul-mouthed protests, distributes antagonistic leaflets, prints a fanzine that contains obscenities and advertises on the unofficial web site which incites actions that lead to violence and result in criminal offences.
Surely as an organisation that provides the “Express & Star” with many column inches of news and pays substantial amounts for advertisements we are entitled to expect balanced reporting of our affairs and that any so called facts and statistics used are accurate . I merely pose the question whether Nick Elwell or Steve Madeley are capable of this standard of reporting or whether they are too closely tied to the agenda set by Darren Fellows and Steve Stuart . Perhaps they are more interested in cheap headlines, rabble rousing articles and career advancement than an actual portrayal of the facts.
I.S.S.A. does not have widespread support. We can attract more people to our quiz nights than they can to their meetings, so we concentrate our efforts on developing a good working relationship with Walsall Football Supporters Club, who have 3,000 members and are far more representative of our supporters base. As a result of the efforts of the Saddlers Club members they are able to make significant financial donations to the Football Club which we use for team strengthening.
Let me make quite clear, if Walsall are relegated at the end of the Season myself and the board will be bitterly disappointed. That is not to say it will happen, because we have a fighting chance of retaining our place. We will do our upmost to retain our First Division status, but we will not put the very existence of the Club at risk.
Darren Fellows, Steve Stuart and his I.S.S.A. supporters tell us that relegation would be a disaster. They ought to consult their dictionary or journalist colleagues at local newspapers about what a disaster really is. It applies to war, plagues, famine, floods, earthquakes, avalanches, aeroplane crashes etc. These are disasters. This just reveals how blinkered and narrow minded Steve Stuart and Darren Fellows really are. For us to be relegated to the Second Division would be bitterly disappointing but football is a game of promotion and relegation, and if we are relegated there will be other Club’s who go down with us. That is the nature of the game. What is important is that we have a healthy Club that can compete effectively next Season, no matter what division we are in. We want to stay in the First Division, but if that does no work out we shall aim to bounce back at the first opportunity, but we will not bankrupt the Club in the process.
Finally, let me clarify my position. While I own Walsall Football Club I remain totally committed to the cause. I will not tolerate violence or mob rule, and if that happens I walk away, and the Club closes.
I will not put the future of the Club at risk by ‘chasing dreams’ as has happened at some other Clubs who are now facing ruin. We will, and do, invest in improving our playing strength. It should not be forgotten that during my period of ownership the Club has achieved two promotions and moved from the Third Division to the First Division. This Season we will have invested over Â£1.2 million more in playing expenses than last Season. That is FACT, and anyone who refuses to accept this statistic really does not want to understand, perhaps does not have the intellect to be able to do so or has other sinister reasons behind their apparent ignorance.
I believe the vast majority of supporters appreciate the transformation that has taken place in Walsall F. C. over the past 8 years, they may not like but do understand the difficulties we face in competing against Clubs who enjoy much greater support to call upon and have far greater resources than ourselves.
These people are the life and soul of the Club, not those who peddle filth on the unofficial web sites, or chant obscenities in pointless demonstrations. It is the decent majority whose continuing support can lift the team through the final vital weeks of the Season, and whose loyalty offers hope for the future. They must not allow the idiotic fringe to sabotage the team’s chances of remaining in the First Division, or to put the future of the Club at risk.
Just remember that our success last Season was based on teamwork and togetherness both on and off the field. This sense of comradeship was inspired by Ray Graydon, it is at the very core of his belief for what is required to make a successful Club.
Managers like Ray Graydon are hard to find. They are not employed by accident. If the atmosphere at Bescot Stadium is poisoned by a small bunch of morons, it is highly likely that he will look elsewhere for employment and who would blame him?
And what about the effects demonstrations have on players? Last Tuesday the mob picked on Michael Ricketts because he had announced his decision to move to another Club when his contract expires. This is his right under the Bosman Ruling.
Does anyone in his right mind think that by hurling abuse at him he is likely to change his mind? It is more likely to have the opposite effect. These things happen in football as has been the case with Emille Heskey at Leicester City. All that matters is that while Michael Ricketts is a Walsall Football Club player he does his best for the Club, that is all we have the right to expect.
Perhaps Darren Fellows and Steve Stuart need to sit down and consider some of the home truths and answer the questions that I have put to them. They need to take a long hard look at what their organisation is doing to Walsall Football Club. They purport to support the Club but I will tell them straight that what they are doing is wrong headed and damaging to the Club. If Darren Fellows, Steve Stuart and their followers want to ruin Walsall Football Club they are going the right way about it. They should stop now and concentrate their efforts on supporting the team.
I would like to thank the many supporters who have written to me and spoken to me with messages of support for what we are trying to achieve at Walsall Football Club. Their words and thoughts are much appreciated.