Malcolm Hirst: fans want Norman Smurthwaite to go

Malcolm Hirst: fans want Norman Smurthwaite to go

OVF columnist Malcolm Hirst says it’s clear that there is a mood for change and that the owner should listen.

Malcolm Hirst writes…

The Port Vale fanbase clearly want Norman Smurthwaite to sell the club at a reasonable price. When Norman first arrived at the club he said he would listen to what the fans are saying to him. At a press conference on 21 November 2012 Norman stated:

“If you have a protest, you have a protest at volume. I will not respond to people shouting at me obscenities to me from the stadium, but I will respond to them coming through the correct channels.”

He went on to say that the correct channel for giving him views was through the Supporters Club. At the recent Supporters Club meeting the overwhelming feeling was that the fans wanted Norman out of their club, a view backed by polls on Twitter and fans website onevalefan.co.uk. Yet, despite the fans saying they want him gone, Norman has shut down further discussions with prospective buyers Synectics Solutions and the Jones Consortium.

Trusting the owner is a big deal for Port Vale fans. The wounds of V2001 still run deep. To find that our club has once again been put in perilous situation owing Mr Smurthwaite just over £3m does not sit well with the fanbase…

So, were these just empty words or has Mr Smurthwaite changed his mind? As it stands, having turned down two reasonable offers to buy the club, it feels as if they were just words, particularly as Norman has said the club is for sale? This is why the fans’ trust in Mr Smurthwaite has evaporated.

Trusting the owner is a big deal for Port Vale fans. The wounds of V2001 still run deep. To find that our club has once again been put in perilous situation owing Mr Smurthwaite just over £3m does not sit well with the fanbase. Now he want us to trust him with our season ticket money, is a big ask and fans should think very carefully before doing so. I looked at accounts that Port Vale FC posted at Companies House. They tell us very little, except that we owe Norman Smurthwaite just over £3m, a huge amount since he bought the club debt free only four years ago, and by his own admission very cheaply. There is no breakdown of income and expenditure for the last 12 months in the recent accounts.

I was impressed by Synectics Solutions attitude to the financial stability of Vale. In answering one of the questions of The Sentinel they responded by saying:

“You have to know as a fan that if you are buying a match day ticket, a shirt, a drink on the concourse or having your party at the club, that all the revenue is going into Port Vale FC”.

Looking at the current accounts I have no idea if this is true or not at Vale ark. It does give me confidence to put money into Vale. At the press conference in November 2012 Norman stated:

“Every penny we bring into this club will go back indirectly into the playing staff of the club. It’s that simple. No clever business plan here, you get more pies and pints down you… the profits from that will go back into the playing [side].”

Until such assurances are given, my money will be staying in my pocket. Perhaps lack of money will be more of a motivation for Norman to sell at a reasonable price than fans’ protest?

Let me finish with a summary of Mr Smurthwaite’s tenure as owner. In his own words he has
taken us from being in a “financially in a good place” to owing him £3m, so unless he is going to write that debt off and sell at the price he paid for the club, we are truly in a dangerous financial situation. Norman, it is time to go.

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