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Mr Chairman

Mr Chairman

Back in the romantic past of football's yesteryear the game was soulful and pure and your club could win things. In those times, the man at the top -Mr. Chairman- knew his place though that isn't to say that he wasn't respected.

Having made his money in washing machines, drapery, haulage, stocks or some such business, he progressed to a life of civic function. Here, his success could be recognised, though after too many executive dinners and far too much time spent on the fairway he soon sought a new role; one worthy of a man of his civic status and business prowess. The football boardroom awaited.

Of course the historic chairman was also a man of your city or town; a man who more often than not supported the team. He brought his support along with his money though profit was not his goal. In his honorific custodianship of your club he was simply there to balance the abacus or to stretch the cloth as far as it would go. His job was to say yeah or nay, based on how much money the club could muster, not to query the logic of the signing or spout his own footballing philosophy into the managers ear. He did the deals, he signed the players and shook everyone's hand and then he and the board would retire with their cigars to debate the worth and virtue of the manager and his current stock, based on results. Simple.

Most importantly, other than his name and his face, none of the fans knew anything about him or cared to. He was simply a suit behind a pair of double wooden doors who made decisions with a bunch of other suits who no one cared to know either. Occasionally he'd be photographed at a charity event, his overly tanned wife on his arm, or at the unveiling of a new signing, the club's scarf hung around his neck as he read out a statement welcoming the next Bobby Dazzler down from Scotland and then he'd go back to his abacus and cigar never to be seen or heard from again. No one called him up asking him to make a statement on the direction the club was going in or to lay down the club's philosophy, or demand he reassure the fans or comment on the conduct and performance of the manager. Why would they? He was the chairman and not a footballing man. If they wanted to know about that sort of thing they'd ask the manager. As it should be.

In years of glory past, the likes of Brian Clough took Nottingham Forest, a second division provincial midland club to the summit of European glory and the late great Sir Bobby Robson elevated tractor boys Ipswich to FA Cup and UEFA Cup victories. Smashing stuff. Indeed, a club could come from nowhere and conjure the sort of seasons, the likes of which football dreams are made of. Now, unless you are a football academic or club aficionado you will not remember or care who the chairmen were back then. Why would you know or want to remember that Patrick Cobbold was chairman of Ipswich Town in the year they won the FA Cup or that S.M Dryden was Chairman of Forest when Forest achieved the impossible- back-to-back European Cups?

The modern game has undoubtedly changed our expectations of the men and women at the top, for matters off-field are now radically different than the 70's and 80's. The game has now flooded with TV money, leading to the glossy, billion dollar product that is now beamed around the world, from New York to New Zealand. With it, an endless demand for stories, editorials and pieces about every microcosm of the beautiful game. A digital world of football porn was thus born in which anyone accessible, from the club doctor to the blind referee, from a quick thinking ball boy to a tantrum throwing striker, is fair game fodder as the football media attempt to stuff their 24hr rolling information frenzy. Naturally, the modern Chair has been inadvertently cast into this consuming limelight and as a result, he or she has become an incontrovertible and unavoidable spotlight figure. They may or may not court publicity though they are, more often than not, controversial and much maligned. Certainly, Chairmen like Bill Kenwright and Jeremy Peace, seem to be last of a dying breed, men who steer their club with passion and sensibility. They are surely the minority. Goodbye then to S.M. Dryden and all that and hello to Roman Abramovich et al. So what does all this mean?

The camera pans to the chairman, who sits on his red leather, personally engraved seat, watching his opulent and most entertaining of toys- his football club. He's a new kind of chairman. He doesn't come from your town and he certainly didn't make his money in washing machines. His money will now come from off shore trading or the murky waters of foreign finance because to own a club that has any realistic chance of challenging for anything, the chairman must be a billionaire.

The Billionaire Chair is an unstable fish though. He will throw money at your team one season then claw back his loses when the trophies and the big European pay cheques fail to come in the next, leaving him with a gigantic wage bill and a group of cocktail swigging footballers who have grown apathetic and filthy rich on his excessive wealth. This is a sight he hates to see because he likes his money and doesn't want to see it being enjoyed by some two footed hot head from Bolivia who has gone from footballer to satellite launcher. As a result, the Billionaire Chairman is a roller coaster in full summer tilt and is likely to fire your manager as though he was born with a target strapped to his back- not because it makes sense but because he can; because he doesn't tolerate failure or some upstart with a designer beard and an algorithmic training model from France, who believes that he needs a right winger who is 22.5% faster in the last 12% of the game.

The Billionaire Chair is the real manager and if he wants to fall in love with his club again and spend £40 million on a striking prodigy from Luxembourg then you'd better hope that the next manager who comes in gets the best out of him or he'll be for the chop too. Of course all this will happen because he isn't just the chairman but the owner as well, a man whom the fans believe has an inalienable duty to spend his billions sending their club to the promised land, last experienced by them when dinosaurs ruled the earth. The fact that it makes no financial sense might not matter to him because he has more money than sense in the first place. Then again he might decide to turn off the tap completely and sell your beloved club in a cut-price deal to a toy manufacturer from Guangdong province, simply because he wants rid. After all, the same principle applies because anything is possible for the he or she who has -yes you've guest it- more money than sense.

Of course, some of these new style supremos aren`t here for the game; they're here for the gravy train of cash it generates. Arise then, Profiteering Chair and why not? After all, they're skilled, highly successful business people who can smell a profit margin in a capital venture from the centre of a volcano. Further, they don't live in your town and they don't want to. Why? Because your town is rubbish and full of rain. Your club is simply a highly valuable asset in which they are the principal shareholder and they are going to take their slice of the action whether you like it or not because it's a gold mine league and there is money to be made. Thus, any manager who can ensure that the gravy keeps coming is all right by them. You can sign a Japanese whaler and stick him in midfield if you think he's good enough. Just keep the money coming and don't damage the brand -and good luck with that whole soccer league thing whilst you're at it.

Of course, both the Billionaire Chair and the Profiteering Chair are likely to appoint a middleman, a Chief Executive or Director of Footballing Operations or some such highly paid intermediary who acts as both buffer and communicator, padding out the gaps between football manager and chairman, ironing our the ruffles that develop when a footballing philosophy meets a business strategy. The intermediary is a PR guru and a freshener who presents the chairman's vision. Of course, the manager now has to fly out to meet the chairman in such far flung places as Singapore, Abu Dhabi and India as and when he is needed. If the chairman/owner fires the manager he can at least be be guaranteed a 20,000 mile journey home.

Of course, we have not as yet mentioned the Celebrity Chair - the individual who can't get enough of the limelight. He or she will gatecrash the managers interview after he engineers a last minute defeat of the club's deadliest rivals and will appear on every phone in show or punditry based programme that can spare a chair or a phone line. He or she is bursting with anecdotes, pearls of worldly wisdom and advice for his or her manager as though it was their God given right to give it. They've been there and done it and were instrumental in taking the club from their old ground in the back of Granddad`s garden to where they are today. The poor old manager can't get a look in.

Finally, the Dynastic Chair who is not only a Billionaire Chair but the head of a dynastic family backed consortium, whose wealth and power is derived from foreign oil, often middle east based. Their acquirement of your club is part of a sporting project that is destined to lead to silverware and excellence whilst promoting the business and corporate interests of their various commercial ventures. Money is no object. FFP and proposed changes to Premier League financial rules will be nothing but a hindrance, although loopholes can be and will be strategically employed to ensure the trophy cabinet gets full. Within years a galactico assembly of world footballing talent will leave your club looking looking like an ragbag band of donkey farmers..

As the stranglehold on the League continues and four or five clubs cement their sporting monopoly through finance, more and more will be asked of the Chair, who now represents the commercial and fiscal power of your club. It is that power and his wielding of it that will determine whether the Ecuadorian Midfield Genius your club desperately needs gets signed, even if the club itself cannot afford him. Cries of 'sign him up' will ring out this January and so the Chair must once again decide if he will underwrite that £20 million purchase and the extravagant wages that will follow. One person will make that decision and if he or she will not make it then your club must cut its cloth accordingly. As fans we can either like it or lump it.

Of course, the consequence of competing within a footballing monopoly has meant that we have gone from needing respected millionaires to philanthropic billionaires- and all within a generation. The chair is now morally expected to spend his own brilliantly assembled fortune in a bid to satiate the club's fan base and its desire for success, no matter how precarious or unsustainable such a practice might be. It is though his money is now rightfully their for the club to spend and we are all doing that -even if it be in our heads.

Some fans would point out that it's not even silverware they are after but the chance to enjoy a competitive game over a pie and a pint though competing with the likes of Man City, Chelsea, Spurs, Liverpool and Man Utd is starting, in itself, to cost the earth. Along with the historic Chairman, the historic game has gone with it.

Perhaps I am wrong. Maybe a day will come when the Chair is once again a largely anonymous unknown figure though I do fear that those days are now sadly gone. Indeed, the role has changed so significantly that the Premier League should take note of it if they wish to stem the growing tide of financial brinkmanship and fiscal escalation and return the league to sporting parity.

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The Journalist

Writer: Villa_Grizzly Mail feedback, articles or suggestions

Date:Wednesday January 2 2013

Time: 10:23AM

Your Comments (oldest first)

Change to most recent first
Competing with Liverpool ?? they are a mid table club and always will be from now on ! lol
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02/01/2013 10:40:00

did anyone else get half way down and skip the rest?
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02/01/2013 10:48:00

Too long :-/ Blame my adult ADD. Oh look, a blue car!
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02/01/2013 11:02:00

I was hoping for some sort of climax, some point to the article! I thought it was all building up to a 'and this is you Randy, and this is why you're doing well/badly'. It is, after all, aimed at Randy with the 'Mr Chairman' title, no? Still, wasted 5 minutes at work on the first day back...
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02/01/2013 11:11:00

Maybe it would have been better to take a leaf from The Great Clough and put in the title of the article and leave the rest of the page blank. God I miss him.
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02/01/2013 11:28:00

Grizzly always an interesting read ...... as well as chairmen, there are different types of consumers on Vital Villa.
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02/01/2013 11:30:00

I could sum it up in seconds.... "Randy, this is the Premier League, having a wage cap of £30k a week might work in th Championship but not in the Premier League.... tell Lambert to go buy some golden oldies.... Scott Parker, Nicholas Anelka, Joe Cole....all experienced enough and crowd pleasers which the current crop of youngsters should aspire too".
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02/01/2013 11:31:00

U can do better by breakin the article in series...its damn too long
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02/01/2013 11:34:00

Don't be put off by the critics Grizzly (cheeky f*****s!). The changing role of the chairman is a subject worthy of analysis. The chairman as portrayed in the book/film, This Sporting Life by David Storey, reveals a lot we know to be true. Vanity and social prestige, just to mention two.
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02/01/2013 12:21:00

How can we pay more than 30k in wages on crowds of 30k? If we want top players then we need 40k every home game. Don't complain then decide not to go to games
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02/01/2013 13:03:00

and your point was ? Oh right, he probably needs to go. BTW I think you meant a quick thinking (volley) ball girl.
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02/01/2013 13:15:00

Very well written. The madness that prevails in the Premier league and below just defies logic, Man City 150 million on the bench over 200% wages to turnover. The biggest club in the world Man Utd £700 million in debt. Us with 85% wages to turnover with a chairman who has spent more than his fair share suddenly told he needs to throw another £30 or £40 million this Jan... I hope we will survive, hope for better but hope Randy Stays as although he has made mistakes I am not sure even his most vigorous critics could say he has not had the club at heart.
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02/01/2013 13:31:00

Decent article but must say perhaps a tad too long. Get your point though, the chairmans roll is changing and perhaps will continue to for a good time yet as the business of football continues to evolve and spin hopelessly out of control...
Pride of Lions
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02/01/2013 14:13:00

An extra 10,000 attaendance will only give us around £7m a year to spend on wages (£135k a week). Attendance cash is finished for midtable clubs, it's the Sky money all the charman want. I bet Randy couldnt care if the seats are empty as it's not our main source of income. The TV cash gives us 55% of our income, without it we are nothing
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02/01/2013 15:16:00

Good article but it has the underlying idea that this is the way that football will always be a boom business. Football is a precarious business and its basic model in the Premiership is the classic economic 'bubble'. All it would take is a couple of slipped tiles and the roof could come in, look at the collapse of the TV deal a couple of years ago for the Championship. Moving this on the Randy, what type of Chairman is he? I get the feeling he is a bit of a throwback but is sufficiently business savvy to not be burned twice by some sweet talking, overly confident manager whose claims are only surpassed by his finacial demands. Surely the smart chairman looks for a different model like, gulp, West Brom...
Mervin King's Pocket
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02/01/2013 15:24:00

I have never truly trusted or rated Lerner (from the outside) though that was more a gut feeling initially than anything else if I am honest, but it wasn't so long ago that many of your fans were hailing him as the best owner/chairman in the Prem. How times have changed
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02/01/2013 15:26:00

This is the type of chairman he is - I quote from an official Browns interview in Ohio in Jan 2012 : "Says the soccer team doesn’t take up any of his time at all and doesn’t take up time away from the Browns " Here is the link (cached)
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02/01/2013 15:31:00

I should add this was an audio interview so probably did not think it would ever show up on the Internet in easily findable form
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02/01/2013 15:34:00

Its difficult to know my theory is he is either looking to sell or, and this is probably the truth he simply wants the club to run on a sustainable footing... I dont believe he wants to run on a profit so he can take it for himself... Businessmen live by the bottom line of making a profit and if the company isnt doing that they see it as a failing business... Unless Lerner comes out and reveals his intentions, the earliest we will know his plans is by the summer should we qualify for the EUROPA LGE via the League Cup... I suppose even then we probably wont know based on everything Iv seen its either sell or be sustainable thats all I can see...
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02/01/2013 15:39:00

BTW - if we reach the LC final and its v Chelsea and they subsequently come 4th or higher - do we automatically qualify for the Europa Cup/League/whatever.....?
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02/01/2013 15:46:00

Well I enjoyed it. Well written and interesting. :)
Adam Deuce
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02/01/2013 15:58:00

or if we win the final of course.
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02/01/2013 16:01:00

Yep Mala if we play Chelsea in the final and they finish in the Champions Lge places we go straight into Europe even if we're relegated... Of course I like to be optimistic so Im going for we will exact revenge on Chelsea win the League Cup and finish in safe league position...
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02/01/2013 17:00:00

No malacaxeta, sadly it doesn't work that way. We would have to beat Chelsea or whoever to enter the Europa League competition.
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02/01/2013 17:26:00

Should've done an article on Owners and not Chairmen. They are totally different in the modern era. Randy is a chairman only in title and rubber stamping big deals like new managerial appointments though surely!!!! And as Glensider says malacaxeta and CDX, we need to win the final or the place goes to next team in the league. FA cup is different. We're not ready for Europe anyway, look what it's done to Newcastle!!!!
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02/01/2013 17:34:00

I thought as long as you played a team who made the CL in the final you got Europa regardless of whether you win or lose... I suppose that situation hasnt happened too often in the past we were probably the last team but we finished 6th so it didnt matter... I do agree with V444 Europa Lge might kill us but its more of an injury issue for Newcastle IMO although I suppose you could say the run in Europe caused some of those injuries or contributed to most if not all of them... Like anything theres upsides and downsides; Europe would allow us to attract better quality players but will PL go for them (I say yes) and would RL provide a significant cash injection? (which we already need) probably not...
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02/01/2013 19:19:00

Can I just point out that Roman Abramovich is not our chairman - he is our owner - our chairman is Bruce Buck - small point for some but a big point for others!
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02/01/2013 19:27:00

Piper- most of our squad for the last 3 seasons or at least certainly our starting eleven have been on £60k plus. Fact. Attendances this season aren't much different to the last two.
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02/01/2013 19:58:00

Bent - £80k a week, heskey 65k aweek! I wouldn't pay him in carrots! Don't get me started on the rest! Embarrassing
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02/01/2013 20:00:00

yes but, "Europa League" is just two games against Austrian skinheads anyway, not much scope for injuries there.
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02/01/2013 22:16:00

I dont believe that Bent is on 80k a week. More like 45k
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03/01/2013 10:55:00

Interesting article while I appreciate the difference between owners & chairmen think we all get the point the guy pulling the strings is the one we are talking about. One big thing that is obviously in place at Villa Park is that every manager who comes there is GAGGED from telling the real story and has to tow the line. EG funds are available but not how much just how much is the wage cap ? and if we are losing money still then surely the focus must be the team to try and improve our gates. Maybe in future this greedy game of players & agents will be called time on,but I wont expect it any time soon while the tv companies continue to pour money in .
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03/01/2013 11:35:00


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