OPINION: Satisfaction is in short supply at Chesterfield's AGM
It was all the fun of the fair at the Proact Stadium on Tuesday night '“ in the carpark at least.
While the lights of the Garry Evans fun fair blinked and flashed outside the ground, inside Chesterfield shareholders demanded answers to a variety of queries, all of which could be fairly summed up in a single question – where did it all go wrong?
The 2018 edition of the club’s annual general meeting was at times a fractious affair, but for all the anger and mistrust in the room, proceedings never descended to insults or aggression.
Mike Warner hosted the meeting in his role of Chesterfield FC chairman and there were moments when he took on the guise of a particularly defensively skilled boxer, parrying a number of blows with quick wit.
That’s not to say he ducked questions, it was more the incredulous replies to his answers that he bobbed and weaved.
The defensive shell was not impenetrable, however, and a couple of body blows did get through.
By the end of the evening, they appeared to have taken a toll, Warner holding up his hands on the board’s behalf to poor managerial appointments and apologising for not being able to answer a number of questions to the satisfaction of shareholders.
There were notes of bewilderment and perhaps even hurt in his voice when he asked why everyone was so ‘suspicious’ of the board.
Raucous laughter in response won’t have eased the pain of a man with 25 years of Spireites service at board level.
But when you’re staring down the barrel of Football League relegation and up to your neck in debt, sympathy, like cash, is in short supply.
The chairman’s admission that he is still mystified by events ‘across the road’ involving Chris Turner and Liam Sutcliffe’s disastrous and now liquidateddevelopment school, did not help.
Shareholders wanted to know why the ‘Player Progression Pathway’ shambles was allowed to sully the club’s name and who authorised the payments that broke FA rules.
That was an area in which the ‘punters’ were given no satisfaction on the night, but with an FA investigation ongoing, perhaps it was wise to stay tight lipped on the subject – even if Warner himself still has no knowledge of the affair anyway.
A more satisfactory line to take might have been to promise full disclosure upon the completion of the FA probe.
That, of course, is still an option open to the club and presumably one day the game’s law makers will reach the end of their now seven-month long enquiry and allow us all behind the veil.
Very few will have left the AGM with any satisfaction at all, be they shareholder or decision maker.
And nor could anyone genuine expect to.
The directors could not expect an easy ride, something both Warner and Ashley Carson admitted afterwards, and even the angriest of supporters could not have anticipated resignations or any real change. in how the club is run.
Chesterfield FC is in a state of flux as everyone involved awaits with baited breath a potential takeover and the outcome of a relegation scrap.
The club’s very existence rides on both events.
Very little could be said by Carson on the consortium who have shaken hands on a deal with owner Dave Allen, understandable given the probable confidentiality agreements.
But, at least, a line can just about be drawn under the failed attempt to acquire the club by the Chinese firm.
Despite the well intentioned grenade thrown into the mix by MP Toby Perkins, with revelations of Allen’s insistence that he never accepted an offer, it was diffused by matching accounts of the saga from Carson and fellow director John Croot.
Also sitting at the top table, often looking bemused, was first team boss Jack Lester.
The third manager in all-too-quick succession to sit, like a rabbit in headlights, through a stormy AGM.
At least Lester’s contribution appeared to be the one time the room was united.
His vow to do everything in his power to keep Town up and the unshakable self belief he expressed received the biggest round of applause and ended the night on as high a note anyone on the CFC 2001 Ltd rollercoaster could hope for.