Walsall Web Fans looks back on some of the newspaper reports of events that were happening in November and December 1990 behind the scenes as questions were being asked by the supporters as to where the money had gone as it became clear that the club were starting to feel the pinch financially in the wake of the move from Fellows Park to Bescot Stadium.
In November, Chairman Barrie Blower hinted that he was ready to step down. From The Express And Star he was quoted as saying, “I want to make sure the club are on a sound financial footing with working capital and then I’ll stand down. There are other things in life and people do not appreciate what a massive personal commitment I have put in for no reward.” During the home game against Aldershot there were calls for him to go but Blower stated that wasn’t the reason for him deciding to want to quit. He stated, “The fans are quite right to have a go and if I was out there with them I would be shouting too. But there are things they just do not have any idea about when it comes to actually running the club. Things like dealing with the PFA, police charges and such.” Regarding Kenny Hibbitt being starved of cash to strengthen the team he commented, “Hopefully that should change soon. There are people who owe us money and we are pursuing that. We are negotiating with various people in the football world and we should be financially sound before too long. As and when that happens, I will move over.” Later that week in the Walsall Observer Blower said, ” I would like to stand down at some time in the future and become a normal Saturday afternoon supporter again.”
A few days later the E and S reported that Walsall FC were planning a share issue. An advert appeared in the Financial Times which read,… A unique opportunity is currently available to acquire all or part of a majority controlling interest in a Midlands based long established professional football club…..At first Blower denied that the club was for sale but he later admitted as such and stated, ” A 51% share is available and if an investor can be found he, she, or they will naturally take control of affairs. All we are seeking to do is to safeguard the clubs future by insisting the control is held in a trust to ensure football is always played in Walsall and the club does not fall prey to an asset stripper”
The E and S also reported that this latest development brought calls for the town council to take control and even demand for a full public enquiry into the switch from Fellows Park to Bescot which has failed to resolve Walsall’s precarious financial state. The paper also reported around this time that Saddlers had been rocked by the resignation of two of its directors, Leeds based businessman Maurice Miller, who helped pioneer the move to Bescot Stadium and Derek Lewis, whose company provide Walsall’s shirt sponsorship.
Meanwhile the Sports Argus reported that former Walsall Chairman Ken Wheldon had hinted that he might be prepared to help if the club were in any danger, although he denied being in a consortium planning to take the club back to derelict Fellows Park. Blower described any suggestion of a return to Fellows Park as “A joke.” The E and S then reported that the club had begged “Give us back our missing million” They stated that the club are trying to claw back £500,000 they paid to Walsall Council for a plot of land in the deal that moved them to the Bescot Stadium. Roy Whalley commented on this figure…. “When Geoff Edge was leader of the council he guided his council colleagues towards charging £500,000 for the purchase of a small part of the former Wallows Lane car park which previously the club had paid a peppercorn rent of 50p a year.” The club also stressed that it was not asking for poll tax payers money in its call for the return of this cash from the council. Mr Whalley added, ” The club wish to make clear we are not asking the council for money at the poll tax payers expense, but rather the return of money that ought not to have been taken away in the first place.” Several Walsall councillors had said they would support any move to repay the cash back to the club. It was also stated that the club have applied to the Football Trust for the £500,000 that all third and fourth division clubs been promised to help bring their grounds into line with the Taylor Report. Walsall had incorporated those recommendations into their new ground and are seeking retrospective payment.
The Sports Argus in December did an article in which they stated most of the development deal has focused on the fact that Walsall do not own the new ground and are paying about £90,000 a year rent, but eventually they hope to purchase the lease. The paper also reported Saddlers splashed £1,190,000 on buying players in the past Cinderella image and bring success to the town. The figure may astonish fans who who have seen the team win promotion to the second division and crash down to the fourth. During the four years referred to (September 1986 to September 1990), Walsall received £1,167,000 for out going players, which meant they spent £23,000 more on transfer purchases than they received.
Other news this month included the effects of storm damage to the derelict Highgate Stand at Fellows Park. Heavy snow falls and gale force winds brought part of the stand crashing down on to the terraces . After surveying the damage caused Roy Whalley reflected in the Walsall Observer, “There are still some people who are saying that we shouldn’t have moved to the new Bescot Stadium or indeed that we should even now be looking to move back to Fellows Park but the stand collapse alone more than vindicates our decision to move to a new ground.”
New to the Twenty Years At Bescot series? Catch up on parts 1-10 at http://www.walsall.web-fans.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=category&layout=blog&id=26&Itemid=21