Beware the silence: it’s the same old board tactics

Beware the silence: it’s the same old board tactics

In his latest column, OVF founder Rob Fielding comments that “supporters seeking change should be wary of the boardroom silence.”

To find out why he is urging caution, read the rest of his latest “One Vale View” column.

A cursory look at the official Port Vale website will reveal that, AGM postponements apart, it has been thirty five days since the club offered any sort of comment or statement on what is going on in the boardroom.

Even then, that last statement was only seven paragraphs long and simply announced that Peter Miller’s spell as chairman was over. Since then there has been no statements, barely any comments to the press – nothing.

Some fans may think that this is a sign that the board have “given up” or have lost the argument, but supporters seeking change should be wary of the boardroom silence.

Why? Well, bear with me, because this next bit does go off subject a little…

I was recently given a copy of Jeff Kent’s book “What if there was no Port in the Vale?” and (regardless of your views of the author *) it makes an interesting read as it’s the first Vale book to cover recent events (including last summer’s EGM) in some depth.

For those not aware of the concept behind Kent’s book, it looks at a number of “what ifs” scenarios (what if the Lorne St stand plans had been less ambitious, what if Sir Stanley Matthews had joined Vale the club he supported, what if John Rudge had succeeded with a bid for Steve Bull and so on…) and one of the “what ifs” was “what if Mo Chaudry had managed to gain control in the summer?”

Interesting, for those who think Kent is merely a pro-board “happy-clapper” the book concludes with this thought – “at least he [Chaudry] would have been an improvement on what had gone before.”

* To explain… rightly or wrongly, I believe Kent is somewhat misunderstood. I believe him to be a fierce supporter of the 24.9% rule (I don’t agree with him on that, by the way) and not necessarily a fan of the old Bratt regime. I think his actions at the EGM were provocative and not helpful to those seeking to remove the board, but I do believe Kent’s book, when you remove any bias for or against the author, offers a well-researched perspective on the mismanagement during the “Bratt era”. Interestingly, Kent recently emailed me when sending the review copy to say he had just come back from protests against the Miller/Deakin regime.

So, back on topic…

Kent’s book details the failings of the Bratt era in some detail – the repeated claims of new investment, poor managerial choices and so on. But it also reveals the board’s partially successful tactics for the summer EGM. They were, in essence, to concede the media to the pro-change groups and Mo Chaudry, to sit tight and say nothing until the last moment.

You may remember that many fans thought the board had given up after Robbie Williams’ proxy was handed to the Supporters Club, but just days before the meeting the club announced the Ameriturf deal (then trumpeted as a £1.6m pound investment and “great news for Port Vale and its fans” according to Bill Bratt). Then on top of this news, it turned out that the board had secretly negotiated a deal for Rob Lee’s shareholding and although they lost a vote of confidence and two directors, the rest of the board scraped over the finishing line.

So, what’s the point of this feature, you may ask?

It’s simply this.

This has happened before.

It seems that the board believe it’s better to say nothing than to say something that can be used against you. Fans should not take this lack of news as an indication that the pro-change lobby have already won. This is not the time for complacency. This board silence worked for the club in the summer and it appears to be using it again. All fans who want a better future for this club should be keeping the pressure on, watching out for any underhand dealings, expecting bold promises of “investment” and we should all continue to publicise this board’s wrongdoings.

The finishing line is potentially just weeks away now, let’s all take a deep breath and keep going. Judgement day is very close and we can’t afford to give the board any leeway in the meantime…

About the author: Rob Fielding has been a Port Vale fan for thirty years. He founded the award-winning website in 1996. These are his personal views and he welcomes your comments on them.

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