It hasn’t always been sunshine and flowers for Bob and the board. We may have financial security now and a manager who could take us places, but just a few short years ago the board faced a difficult EGM from a disgruntled section of the support. I covered the story (loose terminology of course) for the digital DF. For all but the 50 people who subscribed back then, here is the original piece I did.
With hindsight the EGM does sound more viable to me than it did at the time. I was focusing on the disruption to the team rather than the inherent problems already in place. Steve Tilson was (lets be honest) a bloody awful manager and nothing could hinder the teams on field progress more than him.
However I also feel the pro Bob stance was very fair and ultimately the best thing for the club. At times Bob Dorrian hasn’t shown perfect judgement and he has left the club with some terrible managers. However since then he has done everything he feels is right for the club and his judgement hasn’t been too bad. Anyway in 2011, here’s what I thought.
The EGM movement started in early July, but the origins can be traced back to the much maligned Lincoln City Mad website, under the watchful eye of he who shall not be named. Just after the dismal relegation the message board there experienced some chatter about the need for an EGM.
However it was late June when the story broke: Imps fan Paul Wilson declared he had the backing of enough shareholders to force an EGM. At that early stage the names of his cohorts remained under wraps, and Harry ploughed a lone furrow in the media.
By early July some names had been added in Keith Roe, Neil Foster and Shelly Harris. They had a ten point list of resolutions they wanted a vote on, from sacking each member of the board to reinstating Chris Travers as chairman of Lincoln City.
Bob Dorrian wasn’t happy with the timing of the move.
“It will probably come as no surprise that we are unhappy with the timing of this request for an EGM, the uncertainty is very damaging at the moment for a whole host of reasons.”
Those reasons included hampering Steve Tilsons attempts to sign new players, and the potential damage it could do to season ticket sales.
“Season ticket sales are lower than expected and the actual financial cost to the club of holding this EGM could be £5,000 as a result of time spent, legal and other costs the club cannot afford.”
“The four requisitioners want to sack the whole of the board, to date there have been no proposals for the membership of a new board or indeed any sign of new investment.”
In his letter to 1300 shareholders Harry had outlined the basis for the EGM.
“The nature of the business to be dealt with at the meeting is that the board have failed in their duty to exercise reasonable care and diligence for the benefit of its shareholders, the fans’ forum held on May 26 confirms the business failed in almost all important areas.
The fans forum had intially been regarded as a success by both the club and the fans, with Chris Travers and Bob Dorrian answering some very difficult questions. However in the weeks following that forum Travers had stepped down from the board and some fans had speculated that their might be trouble in the upper echelons of the Imps hierachy.
By July 9th former director Keith Roe had spoken to the press and added to the list of concerns outlined in Harrys letter.
“In the last four years, the problems have started. In the 2006-07 season, although the club only made a couple of grand, it was still very viable.”
Roe himself left the board in 2006.
“They probably thought the cashflow was not bad, and they had money from previous seasons in the kitty, so it was not a problem. Steff Wright obviously was quite happy and in the second year, when the losses started, we were still using the monies from the past.”
He then suggested that Steff had departed for that reason.
“In the third year it started to become a tricky situation and at the end of that season Steff resigned. Bob took over and you know from looking at the figures, that every year it has got worse and we are getting into a cashflow problem.”
Bob Dorrian himself was apparently fighting for his Imps life. A lifelong Lincoln resident and supporter Dorrian had been criticised for his business know how. He counter acted that doubt just a day later when he revealed he was putting £100,000 of his own money into the club: that move was a master stroke. The fact he had £100,000 cash to invest showed that in business he is no fool. he fact he wanted to pass it to the club showed his commitment to the cause.
“Had we been in the Football League, we would have been set to receive a payment of £200,000, but obviously now we have been relegated we are not going to receive that,” he said.
“Although we have made saving of £650,000, we are not going to really feel the effects of that until three or four months’ time. So in the meantime there is a slight problem with cash flow in terms of day to day costs and other areas of the football club that might be a little bit short.The problem is exacerbated as we have to pay the players we released at the end of the season who haven’t got clubs until July 31.”
The problems at City weren’t being hidden from anyone. Neither was the chairmans commitment.
“I am prepared to stump up £100,000 of my own money just to tide us over and that’s on top of the £50k I put in last month. I can’t really afford to do it, but the football club is vitally important and it’s a case of needs must.”
Bob also feared that the move was hiding some personal agenda’s from some individuals, but careful to avoid a repeat of the Michael Foley situation, he chose his words carefully.
“My own view why this EGM has been called has nothing to do with football, it has nothing to do with the football club and everything to do with personal agendas,” he said.
“They have a vested interested in painting us in the worst possible light and it all comes back to personal agendas.They would say differently. Of course they would. A lot of the things they have said on paper look feasible, but when you dig underneath them a lot of it is just hollow talk.”
If there was ever proof that Bob has the power of hindsight, perhaps these words are it.
Keith, Harry and the gang were already beginning to enter defence mode, claiming that the positions of directors would be uttenable if they harnessed less than 25% of the popular vote. Battle lines were being drawn.
So what were the Supporters Trust doing during this period of posturing? Well they were refusing to ballot their members on which way they should vote. Despite them being pro club (a stance I wholeheartedly agreed with) they were not exercising the democratic responsbility they have to their members. A former LCST chairman wasn’t impressed.
“I am somewhat disappointed that the Trust Board did not have the courage to ballot their members to receive a convincing mandate,” he said.
“While they are now going to consult with their membership and they are staying within their constitution it would have been nice to have seen individual members allowed to do something democratically.
Indeed it would. The Trust did agree to take all the views of members on board before deciding how to cast their vote. Although it was a compromise, just like the ballot on AV by the government earlier this year it was no more than an miserable compromise.
The D-Day moment in the saga came from the mouth of Chris Travers, who under one of the proposals was put forward as the alternative chairman of the club. A Facebook group appeared entitled ‘make Chris Travers the chairman of Lincoln City’. A movement had begun.
The only problem was that nobody had thought to inform Chris, nor had they consulted with him. He wanted no part of the debacle, and stated that publically for all the fans to digest. The war was won by the board in that one incident.
By the time the EGM came around it seemed like it would be a formality. Steve Tilson had begun to bring in some decent players and the squad was looking competitive. Off the field the EGM conspiritors had hit another snag.
The Championship 2010 plan had included improving our training facilities by building a training ground on the outskirts of town. This facility would bring a certain kudos to the club when searching for new talent. However it didn’t work out that way. At the fans forum Bob Dorrian admitted the ground was not fit for purpose, and it would have to be mothballed for the coming season.
Could Bob and the current board be held responsible for the mistakes of the past? Well it appeared not. A photo came to light from the launch of Championship 2010, a photo showing Steff Wright and Dave Roberts making a presentation. There was a third face in the picture as well: Keith Roe.
Whatever the facts of the case are, the picture built up by a majority of fans was clear. The training ground debacle could be attributed more to Keith Roe than to anybody currently sat on the clubs board. Couple that with the comments from Chris Travers and the EGM momentum had been slowed. In fact it had stopped. Before long it imploded.
The non league paper described the event of July 21st creating ‘farcical scenes’ and quoted an Imps shareholder as saying:
“They didn’t have a plan, they didn’t have a clue. They haven’t come forward with any proposals or plans to bring further investment on board. It was a wrecking job, absolute madness”
The facts back up the sentiment of those words. Of the ten proposals put forward by the shareholders, two were returned with 99% of the support. This meant that not only had the pro board shareholders voted for them, but the rebels had voted against their own resolution!
Chris Travers spoke at the meeting to state he wanted no part of the planned over throw. He spoke to a table containing Roe, Wilson, and the former editor of Lincoln City Mad. The LCM website had come under heavy criticism from some quarters for its heavy anti board stance in the weeks leading up to the relegation. Although previously unconnected (and not a shareholder himself) his arrival on the scene late was no surprise.
Bizarrely they had even proposed the removal of David Leonard as a director. Mr Leonard isn’t even on the board!!
Bob Dorrian was overjoyed.
“The popular vote is actually ours and that’s important because the rank and file shareholders, the small shareholders, literally all voted for the board.”
Keith Roe was disagreeing.
“The results are as we expected and that was the board would win the vote. I accept that, but on the resolutions one to five, the rank and file vote, in every instance was a majority. If they want to move on, that’s fine by me. But when the rank and file against certain members of the board is two to one although they can stay on the board, and there is no issue with that, their position in my mind is untenable.”
He was clear on his feelings.
“The members of the board where the rank and file vote is substantial, should resign.”
In the face of condemnation from fans the rebel group continued to claim a victory of sorts in the local press. In a statement released to the Lincolnshire Echo they announced that the move had been justified.
“The call of an EGM was well justified, and has given the board a firm kick up the backside. Shareholders should not allow ongoing financial losses to be overlooked, and hopefully this will not happen again. The fact remains that the vote made clear that four of the individual directors, as well as the board as a unit, do not have the confidence of a significant proportion of shareholders.”
Furthermore Bob’s claim that there was a personal agenda seemed to carry some weight as they moved onto him.
“Bob Dorrian did say he wanted everyone onside going forward. Few would argue with that, but confidence and respect has to be earned. It will be interesting to see what initiatives he has to rebuild this apparent breakdown in shareholder relationships.The chairman has a great responsibility and should take careful deliberation on any statement he makes.”
The clubs Chief Exec Steve Prescott had kept a dignified silence in the run up to the EGM, but did have a comment afterwards.
“The results of the EGM were pretty emphatic and it now has to be treated as a watershed moment. We had hoped that, after the fans’ forum back in May, that would be it as far as the recrimination of last season was concerned, but obviously it was not.”
Steve has overseen a promising period of investment from sponsors recently, including bringing David Parman on board from main sponsors TSM. The success in doing this should not be under estimated.
“However, I do think we shouldn’t dismiss it as a pointless exercise because there have been positives to take from it. For a start it’s no bad thing that the board of directors understand they are answerable to the shareholders.”
“The Supporters’ Trust, for instance, need to galvanise more fans to join them because their relationship with the club is vitally important.”