Vale owner “deeply sorry” to fans offended by racism comments

In a wide-ranging statement on the official Port Vale website, Norman Smurthwaite has apologised for any offence caused by his comments on racism and violence and withdrawn from social media.

The statement (reproduced below) also says:

  • The process to put a new owner in place starts now
  • He did not make a formal complain to police about his assault by alleged Vale fans
  • He will not talk directly to the press
  • He will withdraw from all forums and social media
  • All financial commitments for the Club up to the 31st May 2016 will be met by him
  • If a purchaser is not found then a CEO will be appointed
  • Playing budget will be determined from season ticket sales, walk-up gate receipts, profit from the shop and any other commercial income
  • “If any Port Vale fan feels I have labelled them as being either a racist or thug I am deeply sorry as this was never my intention or belief…”

The full statement reads:

Valiants, following on from my radio interview with BBC Radio Stoke on Monday evening, it was my initial intention to have a fans forum on Thursday 17th December but, due to other issues which now require my immediate attention, I feel it appropriate to explain in detail the media attention that surrounds myself and the Club.

In April 2014 I was assaulted by 3 individuals late one Wednesday evening when leaving the Lorne Street offices. As 2 of the individuals were wearing the current away strip, I came to the conclusion that at least 2 of them were Vale fans. Their bone of contention consisted of dealing with the Micky Adams contract situation, providing an extension of Tom Pope’s contract and leave the Club.

Due to the ongoing negotiations with the Police and Crime Commissioner for Staffordshire, I did not feel it was appropriate to make a formal complaint as this may weaken my stance with negotiations with policing bills for Vale Park. However, various discussions took place with the Chief Inspector of Stoke-on-Trent North who has provided me with ongoing advice, having had experience of the problems with the Board of the previous regime, and outlining their responsibilities in the event that any repeat incidents occurred. In fairness, this was when the clock started ticking in relation to considering my position as Chairman and owner of Port Vale Football Club.

My sole intention when I became involved with the day to day running of the business was to reduce, wherever possible, management costs in order to maximise the recourses available to spend on players and support staff. This effectively left me running the football club on my own, albeit at my choice and, after two and a half years without a break, has started to have an impact on my health. This came to a head during the game at Exeter which concerned me as there was no succession in the Club if I was incapacitated in any way; hence my decision on Monday to put the Club up for sale.

I feel that it is important that the process starts now to enable a new owner/structure be in place before the end of the season and also give clarity to season ticket holders who need to be aware of the Club’s intentions.

I have been conscious for some time that the cost of football in a very challenging financial area is too high, possibly one of the reasons why our attending fan base has been reducing over the last three seasons. The season ticket price for the 2016/17 season will be less than this current season and I felt it was important for people who sign up to the 5 month instalment plan commencing on the 31st January 2016 be fully aware prior to agreeing to such a commitment.

All financial commitments for the Club up to the 31st May 2016 will be met by me to cover any shortfall. From the 1st June 2016 the Club’s resources and the budget for the next season’s squad will be identified as follows:-

* Season ticket revenue accrued from the monthly savings plans and the Early Bird Scheme which will run from 1st – 31st May 2016. The reason for bringing this forward by one month is to identify the funds raised to assist with the budget calculations required from June onwards;

* the actual walk up gate receipts for the current season;
* the profit from the shop and concourse business;
* all commercial income received in this current season.

That will form the platform to determine the players’ budget for the following season.

If a purchaser is not secured and in situ before the end of May 2016 then I will appoint a CEO to take control of the day to day running of the Club.

As quite a few of you are aware I have been actively involved with social media which does have its benefits but, overall, has proven to be detrimental to the Club and, although I will observe, I will no longer contribute to any dialogue on any social network or forum. I now respectively request that all media outlets engage with the Port Vale media department with immediate effect and fully refrain from contacting myself.

I now turn to the current frenzy of media attention in relation to an article that was recently published in The Sentinel with regard to employing a new manager in the period after Micky Adams left the Club and prior to Rob Page being formally appointed. Since coming in to run the Club day to day in June 2013 I am regularly presented with challenges regarding the conduct of a very small percentage of our fans, which has a much wider impact on the operations of the football club, the Wolves game being the first incident and the second major challenge regarding fans behaviour at the Port Vale –v- Bradford game in August 2013.

The outcome of both an FA and Kick-It Out enquiry regarding the Bradford game nearly resulted in the Railway Paddock being closed for the remainder of that season, which would have put Port Vale into both financial and operational restrictions which could have had a serious impact on the Club that season. If it was not for the continuing efforts of myself, the Club and Ally Simcock, Supporters Club Chairman, to reassure the authorities concerned that remedial action be put in place to combat these issues, this could have been the outcome. Again a very small minority of our fans let the Club down in their actions both home and away which made it very challenging to negotiate reduced police fees for our home games and in turn see higher levels of policing at some of our away venues.

As a Club we are trying to strive to eliminate this small faction which several clubs have but sadly, as stated above, does have an impact in both decision making and operational control of our football club.

If any Port Vale fan feels I have labelled them as being either a racist or thug I am deeply sorry as this was never my intention or belief.

Finally, putting aside your opinions of myself and, for the benefit of Port Vale, I request that you continue to support your Club as anything other will have a massive impact going forward.

Thank you

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