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Old 02-01-2009, 16:28   #1
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Southampton FC's recent AGM

Amazing scenes!!

Southampton Football Club’s stormy AGM saw all the major players in the club, aside from absent football board director Michael Wilde, who was spending Christmas with his family in New York, have their say on the current problems. Sat on the top table answering questions from the floor were PLC chairman Rupert Lowe, finance director David Jones and director Andrew Cowen. All three, along with Michael Wilde, were re-elected to their posts. Echo reporter ADAM LEITCH was also there and here he brings you the highlights of an incredible meeting...

Rupert Lowe: First I have two apologies to make. The first is that I’m losing my voice.

Cheers from the crowd.

Lowe: The second is for the date the meeting is being held. As the going concern note says it has taken this long to get all the various parties lending money to the club to agree and move forward. Anybody with any degree of financial knowledge will see from the accounts that the club is not in good health. Anybody but a kindergarten child could see this… In the two years after my departure we had a big run at getting promoted and ran up an unsustainable level of debt through player transfer and wage bills that we couldn’t afford and the result is financially we are very weak. The important thing is that we all pull together…The important thing is for everybody to unite… Unity brings success whereas division brings failure. I’ve come back to resolve the financial difficulties and that’s what I’m intent on doing… I have received a letter that is sadly anonymous this morning. It says keep the faith in your head coach and his staff, keep the faith in your team and in your youth policy and yourself…

Leon Crouch: Rubbish. It’s your handwriting!

Question from the floor: At last year’s AGM I invited the board to resign and I’m glad they took my advice. It’s clear from the heckling why we’re struggling – you’re an example of what’s wrong with this football club. We should get behind Mr Lowe. My question is…if we receive a sensible offer during the transfer window will you have to sell a player?

Lowe: It states in the accounts from our financial advisors that the club may need to raise money and that is something we are working on. In our current financial state it is very hard to hold together the squad of players. As common sense dictates through the economy if one doesn’t run one’s affairs well the bank and loan note holders dictate. We are grateful for their support but it has taken a long time to hold this meeting. We are playing a very young team, we’d like to hold that team together but it does need people’s support.

Question from Duncan Holley: When are you going to stand up and accept some of the blame for the position we are in today? I’ve never heard you accept any responsibility for the situation of the club. You mismanaged us into relegation and then mismanaged our parachute payment for the first year and mismanaged Harry Redknapp. You are not welcome, you don’t unite the club and the sooner you are gone the better.

Lowe: Thank you for your observations. I stepped down in June 06 to unite the club and took my share of responsibility but I wasn’t here for two years. I came in a [executive] box to support the team. I’ve come back because the club is in a financially parlous state. I certainly take no responsibility for the way the club was managed during the two years I was not here. That is the responsibility of a board promising new investment and new money who took a big roll on going up. When I left the club was financially stable, in rude financial health…I am proud of my time at the club, I’m proud of the stadium, of the academy of the training facilities, of the FA Cup final…It pains me to see the club in this state.

Question from Brian Marshall: I’ve been a season ticket holder for 35 years and I’m fed up with what’s going on – I’m sick with worry. What have you achieved since coming back and where did all the money go from recent years? Another thing, another man started the academy and that was Lawrie McMenemy.

Big cheer from the crowd.

Lowe: ...During the time I was out we sold Blackstock, Best, Martin Cranie, Chris Baird, Kenwyne Jones, cashed in on the trail payments on Theo Walcott and money has disappeared in four ways – player wages, player transfer fees, agent’s fees, paying off board members who have resigned. The club was financially mismanaged… On the academy I don’t agree with you. When I arrived Graeme Souness had shut the academy down, the staff had been fired. We set it up and set out with a plan to bring in the players and coaches and create the structure for them to flourish.

Brian Marshall: Lawrie McMenemy started the academy.

Crouch: Mr Chairman. I accept the figures in the accounts but I don’t accept who’s to blame. Michael Wilde came into the club promising everything and delivered nothing. The executives took over the club, including Dave Jones who was working with Jim Hone. They knew we had to implement ‘plan B’ when we didn’t get promoted. I was keen to do that but Jim Hone and Dave Jones weren’t there to cost cut. They carried on spending money, bought six players…they said they had the SISU investment but Dave Jones knew we had to approve it. They didn’t care and carried on spending money. For where we are I’m not taking responsibility. The bit I will take responsibility for is when I got control of the club and I was appointed chairman.I was working with the bank and our bond holders and appointed a good manager who was going to take us back to the Premiership.

The plan we are working on now is my plan but there is a difference. I would have had experienced players, loan players and free transfers, but you bought young ones and they’re not strong enough. You’re a disgrace. You have appointed a manager who is out of his depth and who hasn’t a clue. You’ve cocked it up. Where is Nigel Pearson? Top of the league. He had the fans, the players, the board, the staff – they loved Nigel Pearson and they hate you. You came back because of your big bloody ego but you’re not wanted here. This club will go into relegation and administration and you know it…

Lowe: We’ve had enough of this now.

Many people from the floor stand and shout at Rupert Lowe.

Lowe: We will adjourn this meeting unless we behave in a fitting fashion... [Speaking to Crouch] You acted as the king maker to Michael Wilde. You acted as the king maker. You listened to it all and Mr Trant made a promise to me to put money in and didn’t do it. You are as much to blame. The club you inherited and became a director of and are now abdicating all responsibility – you were on the board, you were chairman.

Crouch: When I was chairman I had control.

Lowe: I’m sure from your actions as the king maker you know these are the finances the club has and I had no part in that. Nigel Pearson was given the opportunity to do the job but we couldn’t afford the salary you were paying him.

Dave Jones: I’ve been finance director for 11 years. My role is to provide the board with financial information to enable them to make decisions. There have been opportunities I could have left – in June 06 Michael Wilde asked me to stay on. I’d been a supporter of Rupert and Andrew for the nine years previous. I stayed to help the new board…they had expectations which weren’t there and became at loggerheads with each other and Michael departed after eight months. Jim Hone and Ken Dulieu took up the trail for investment. They worked quite hard and saw lots of people. At one point we thought Paul Allen was going to offer 65p a share but that was a false dawn and they spoke to several other parties and we received an offer from SISU.

The accounts we are looking at reflect a situation we can look back on in hindsight and say ‘how did we allow that to happen?’ O6-07 George Burley came close to getting promoted and that is the answer to our financial difficulties. We finished sixth, got to the playoff semi-finals and we then had a situation where we did sell Gareth Bale for £5m plus another £5m, sold Chris Baird, Kenwyne Jones and Pele and had unexpected cash. The manager said he needed some and he wanted experienced players which he got in Marek Saganowski, Stern John, Jason Euell, Wayne Thomas, Youssef Safri and Andrew Davies. With those six players coming in, all experienced players all earning big money, some of the transfer funds had been used to fund player wages which explains why they went up.

At the same time we were speaking to investors. To my thinking SISU would have injected substantial cash and that’s why I voted for it. It was pretty clear from the start the shareholders didn’t want it and that’s all the board could do. Once that happened and SISU disappeared, the executives all took a pay off and I was being encouraged to do the same. I stayed and supported Leon Crouch, Patrick Trant and Lee Hoos to try and resolve the situation. After not accepting the SISU bid we were in a dire financial state which we still are. We do forward forecast and the player wage bill was 81 per cent in June 08 but, with Claus Lundekvam, Chris Makin, Alexander Ostlund, Inigo Idiakez, Mario Licka and Jermaine Wright out of contract, the player wage bill was an artificial blip… I’ve been here all the time as finance director and accept my share of responsibility. It was a gamble to an extent but with the right intentions – to get back in the Premier League and the squad should have been good enough but it wasn’t.

Leon Crouch is not happy with the replies and shouts at the top table.

Andrew Cowen: At the EGM in May 08 we had a 4-1 vote for the return to the board.

Leon Crouch again shouts back.

Lowe: You’ve said enough, Leon.

Question from the Saints Trust: How much longer can we accept a tactically inept head coach?

Lowe: We appointed Jan at the beginning of the season because our young academy players have all been taught to play attacking 4- 3-3 football. He came in as part of a process where we looked at what was available. We’ve cut the squad substantially because we had to – nobody would like to see the club strengthen more than me. We are playing with a young team and have played some wonderful football. Leon is right and we have been bullied out of some games but we are in the same position as the latter part of last season when we had a group of highly paid individuals which has resulted in the financial situation now. I fail to see how anybody can say the football we are playing is unattractive. The results, you are not expecting to shoot the lights out to start with with young kids… The board’s job is top keep the situation under review…I think those young boys have achieved a lot and they need people’s support, not criticism. They have come up through the academy, they are Southampton players through and through and want to play for the club. Lawrie?

Lawrie McMenemy: With respect, to the club that is, I’m pleased you know my name – you must recognise me from the picture!

Lowe: Do you have a question?

McMenemy: That thing in my arms in the picture was called the FA Cup. I’m trying to ask you man to man to ditch your natural pomposity, arrogance and ignorance of football and listen…

Lowe: I stand up and face people. I don’t back off…

McMenemy: I don’t think you realise you’re talking down to people. You’ve got a room full of people, not shareholders but loyal supporters. The academy is just a new name for what we called the youth policy – you might have heard of Matt Le Tissier, Alan Shearer, the Wallace brothers, Steve Moran...You talked about the players sold in the last two years but you didn’t mention the players you sold in your time… They were sold for money that came in and there was £3.3m in the bank when you left but as I pointed out it was only money that was passing through like money for the radio station and insurance which were both losing fortunes and had to be got rid of… You didn’t mention Agustin Delgado, Kleber Chala and Jelle van Damme who were disasters financially to this club.In the ten years you had ten managers. Any business with ten managers is a failure. Your management is a failure.

Lowe: I’ve come back to sort out this situation…

McMenemy: I think Jan shouldn’t come here (to the meeting). He is a nice man, a football man, and I would never criticise him but he hasn’t got a cat in hell’s chance with you. Rupert, I’m sure you’ve got many strengths but not in football. You are not welcome here. When are you going to face the truth and resign?

Lowe: That’s very easy. I came back against the wishes of my wife to steady the club financially. I’m not going until I finish the job I came back to do – to try and restore Southampton to financial health. I might not achieve that. If you read the accounts that is an uphill task. It is disappointing to see so many people criticising somebody doing their best for the club. I’m not resigning.

Edited question from the floor: Are the directors cutting their salaries to a sensible level?

Cowen: I earn £25,000 as a non-executive director.I am a full board member and chair three committees. I think that is reasonable reward.

Questions from Brian Morant and Ted Sainty: [Both call for Rupert Lowe to resign which he again insists he won’t do]

Following a question asking David Jones to stand down, Leon Crouch shouts from the crowd. Rupert Lowe asks him to quieten down. Crouch storms to the front of the room and asks for a vote of no confidence in the chairman and for a show of hands in the room. A majority raise their hands. He sits down. Richard Chorley then storms to the front and hurls a handful of silver coins towards Rupert Lowe while shouting at him. He is removed from the room by security.

Mary Corbett: You have basically criticised Michael Wilde and I was a fool to have supported him when we knew you weren’t the man for the job. We supported him when Leon Crouch was of the view we shouldn’t support him. Michael Wilde thrust upon us the names we didn’t know of the executives. He arrived with this group and Dave Jones supported them on every single move. I wasn’t a member of the PLC board, he was...

Question from the floor: I didn’t come here for history lessons. I’m not clear what your plans are. How are you going to get us out of the situation we are in?

Cowen: There’s very little we can do other then what we are doing.

Crouch: Put some money in the club.

Lowe: You’re making a fool of yourself. Sit down.

Perry McMillan encourages Rupert Lowe to try and get kids to come back to the ground as they did at reduced prices for the Forest game and jokingly threatens to throw his shoe at him.

Anne McMenemy (wife of Lawrie): I would like to ask why the only photograph of my husband in the stadium that was in the boardroom with the FA Cup was removed and replaced by a painting of a train from Doncaster? ...after all he did for Southampton Football Club.

Lowe: Quite simply we were given a picture by Doncaster to commemorate their new stadium and had nowhere else to put it.

Mixture of laughter and anger from the floor.

After Anne McMenemy comes back again, Rupert Lowe wraps up the meeting – just before people from the back half of the hall stand up and walk out in protest. As Leon Crouch leaves, he shouts and points at Rupert Lowe ‘this man is not wanted at the club.

They can halve their valuations for Llalana and Surman now!
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Old 02-01-2009, 17:40   #2
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Ouch, I heard about the Photo in the boardroom, his reply is laughable

sadly this appears to be happening in a number of AGMs across the country (Norwich for one) football in general is a mess, unfortunately the lower leagues don't have billionaires to bail them out.

Last edited by Big A; 02-01-2009 at 17:40.
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Old 02-01-2009, 18:37   #3
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wow that's a real spicy AGM!!! Love to have watched it
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Old 03-01-2009, 09:15   #4
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Why does Lowe bother is he is so hated?
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Old 03-01-2009, 11:37   #5
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God knows. He seems to view himself as some kind of saviour figure. Whereas Leon Crouch justs sounds like a lunatic!
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