Chesterfield director: 'There's no guarantee it's going to be a peaceful protest. If Dave Allen walks away from the club, it's gone'
A Chesterfield director says there's no guarantee Saturday's supporter protest will be peaceful and any sign of trouble could provoke the club's owner into walking away.
Ashley Carson has told the Derbyshire Times that he has tried to meet with protest organiser Paul Goodwin, who runs Bridge Inn Blues travel club, but still doesn’t know what the protestors’ ‘end game’ is.
The company secretary sent a series of messages to Mr Goodwin’s partner to, in his words ‘explain the pitfalls’ of the protest, but he denied making ‘veiled threats.’
“Some of this I think has been taken out of context in terms of the situation,” said Mr Carson.
“I would strongly deny there’s been veiled threats to Paul Goodwin, all I’ve tried to do is point out the pitfalls of what is happening.
“The whole issue with this protest is that Paul Goodwin wants a peaceful protest.
“If you’ve done any reading of the (fans message board) this protest could easily get out of hand.
“There’s no guarantee it’s going to be a peaceful protest.
“The point I was making to Paul was that if it ends up kicking off and you start annoying Dave Allen, he potentially will not put money into the club.
“The staff are all concerned about this as well.
“If Dave Allen walks away from the club, it’s gone.
“This is a big issue.
“I’ve spoke to Dave Allen about it, I had a meeting with him yesterday and he said well they’ll be alright if I withdraw my money. Who is going to come in then?
“People are now attacking the Assay Office (Mr Carson’s employer), they’re on about protesting around Dave Allen’s casino.
“The fans say they never see him at a game, but the actions on Saturday will almost certainly drive him away.
“We had a meeting with Martin Allen and Martin asked when he was coming to a game and he said he’d come soon.
“But obviously now he’s not going to.
“He’s got a club where they’re all protesting, he’s not coming to games, why really keep putting the money in?”
Mr Carson says Mr Goodwin will be ‘held accountable’ if there is arrests at Saturday’s protest, but won’t face a club ban.
According to the director, the club have received intelligence from the police that suggests Nottingham Forest and Mansfield Town fans could be planning to attend the game against Notts club Basford on Saturday.
And the game will now be policed, which could cost the club financially.
“If there is trouble and people are arrested then I would say Paul is going to be held accountable,” he said.
“If the protest happens he’s not going to get banned for it. We know he’s a popular person.
“But I think there’s a certain amount of naivety that’s gone into this and that’s what I’ve been trying to say to him.
“I know he wants a peaceful protest but I don’t know what the end game is, I’ve not been able to get that out of him.
“He was one of the people who applied to be an associate director, that’s perhaps one of the reasons why he’s not happy.
“Does he want Dave Allen to go? Fine, we all want to get out and go, but we can’t sell the club.
“It’s not worth anything at the moment, I’ve been offered a million for it the other day.
“He’s still set a figure of about £6m and we know that’s not achievable at this moment in time.
“If there’s any violence, it only wants someone to chuck a bottle or a cars in the carpark to get damaged, and the whole thing is that Paul has put it all together and he’s not going to come out of it very well.”
Mr Carson says he’s tried his best to avert a protest because he doesn’t believe it’s in the club’s best interests.
He offered to meet Mr Goodwin and to hold a question and answer event with the board and Martin Allen, but those offers were rejected.
“We don’t know what the end game is,” said Mr Carson.
“I won’t be there, I’m going away.
“I’m not there, Dave Allen is not there, they don’t want to meet up and ask questions properly, what do they want?
“Who are they protesting to?
“It can’t change anything.
“The only thing that can change anything is the sale of the club.”
The club’s slide from the top end of League One to near the bottom of the National League and this week’s revelation that they made a £1m loss in the last financial year has angered supporters.
But Mr Carson insists the club’s decision makers are doing all they can to rectify the situation and he asked fans to be patient.
“They seem to think myself and Dave Allen don’t care. I’m 24 hours, my life is ruined by Chesterfield Football Club 24 hours a day.
“We’re continually changing the team, continually spending money on the team, we’re not taking money out.
“They’ve got to be patient, as we’re trying to be.
“We’re up at £1.3m for the wages, currently. Bromley were £600k.
“We’re putting the money in and backing the manager.
“We all want to bounce back up. Unfortunately this season it looks like we’ve got to be patient, we’ve got to stay in this league at all costs.
“At this moment in time I’ve got the owner’s backing that he’ll continue to fund that.
“He does get very, very disillusioned when all this kind of thing looks like it’s going to go on, and all he’s doing is putting the money in.
“He put £1.3m in last year, by the end of this season he’ll have had to put in at least another three quarters of a million, to stand still.”
He also revealed that a teenage season ticket holder had made libellous comments about him and the owner on social media this week.
And he says there’s no way to ‘legislate’ for what will happen at the protest, when it comes to young supporters who have been venting their anger on the internet.
“We have got this big problem with social media, it’s a massive problem.
“We had someone yesterday who went on to the Assay Office Twitter and called Dave and I ‘crooks’.
“I spoke to Dave about this and he said let’s get them in court.
“I do some digging, we find out this person is a season ticket holder and he’s 16.
“It turns out a few weeks ago his father died.
“Is this someone just venting anger at the world because he’s just gone through something tragic, which you’d never want someone to go through at that age?
“We’ve dealt with it but we’ve had to deal with it differently.
“There were a load of people chanting ‘Carson out’ last Saturday, all got bottles of beer walking through the car park but they looked about 12.
“They’ll all be on social media, all on Bob’s Board (supporter message board). The activity on Bob’s Board during the day is ridiculous, we don’t know how old these people are.
“And with some of them, I don’t think you can legislate for what will happen on Saturday.”
The director says he considers walking away from his role ‘every day’ but the owner has asked him to stick with it.
Mr Carson is, however, considering bringing a chief executive in to take charge of the day-to-day running of the club.
His offer to meet with the protest organiser stands, although he suggests that an upturn in the team’s on-pitch results will see supporter frustration dissipate.
“If we win the next three games all this disappears. If we go through Christmas and we’re in midtable or something, it all disappears.
“I’ve said I’ll sit down with Paul, I’ve known him long enough. I’ve known his partner, I had her number that’s why I contacted her, I didn’t have Paul’s number.
“This protest is going to happen, it’s likely to cost us money because we’ll have to get police in now - it would have been an unpoliced game.
“They’re obviously concerned about it, they’ll be videoing it all and let’s hope it’s peaceful.”