It’s difficult to pinpoint the exact time when things started to turn sour for Chairman Charlie Clapham. He is the first to acknowledge that amongst a certain section of support he had never been a popular figure but following successive years battling relegation the pressure and unrest from a wider group had been growing throughout 2016/17.
With the appointment to the board early in the season of 3 popular figures, Nigel Allen, David Barron and former two time title winning manager Liam Watson, there had been signs that steps were being taken to strengthen the off-field leadership, hinting at a longer term succession plan.
Following the sacking of Andy Bishop after an appalling start to the season the club interviewed a number of candidates for the vacant position at Palace Chemicals, the offices of the club chairman. Amongst them were Andy Preece and Steve Burr. Andy Preece had held position in the Welsh Premier League as Director of Football at Airbus up until the end of 2016 however his 9 game touchline ban in 2015 that had been handed out by the Welsh FA for the abuse of a match official, seemingly tipped the balance in favour of Steve Burr.
When the former England C manager (Steve Burr) was announced it was received well by supporters. Widely considered the best qualified candidate available, fans were patient as he began to rebuild a side acknowledged to be grossly underweight for the division. One of the many criticisms that had been labelled at Charlie Clapham in the years since the departure of Mark Wright had been a tendency to appoint a manager that could be viewed as a “cheap” option. Indeed that too had been the view when Liam Watson had been appointed in 2003 even if that appointment had turned out to be a masterstroke. Burr therefore was a noticeably different appointment and various comments were made about him being “backed” heavily. With Watson in position as director of football to help identify players and Burr’s relationships with agents and scouts built up over a long and successful managerial career, even with a lack of a scouting network a high number of players were brought in to steady the ship.
By mid January 2017 thoughts were well and truly returning away from immediate danger and towards future progress. Nigel Allen and Liam Watson attended a public Trust In Yellow meeting where they discussed their new roles at the club and development plans for the future, including a new disabled shelter and plans to be involved with a number of Trust-backed events looking at the history of the club.
Given the patience displayed by supporters during the rebuild, Burr’s dismissal at the end of January was entirely unexpected. With 11 wins and 7 draws from 30 games, Burr’s spell in charge was not disastrous by any measure and the supporters had not shown any real signs of discontent.
The official statement read:
“Following a disappointing series of results the Board have taken the above decision in the best interests of Southport Football Club to move forward in a different direction. With 19 players recruited during Steve Burr’s tenure and significant financial backing to strengthen the squad the performances and results recently have not shown signs that confirm the club can get to a position in the League that provides the security as required”.
Rumours began to circulate that Burr had applied for the vacant Wrexham job and that either travelling from his midlands home to Southport was proving too much for the experienced manager or that he sought a higher profile role. His subsequent appointment at Stalybridge Celtic cast doubt on both of those rumours.
The following day the club board invited Andy Preece back for a further chat and he was appointed as his successor. With hindsight Burr’s departure was probably the nail in the coffin for the season. Andy Preece’s subsequent spell in charge was barely better than Andy Bishop’s. Many of those players Preece had identified during his initial round of interviews were no longer available and he was left with a dressing room reeling from two quick fire dismissals. The job he had taken was a far cry from the job he had initially applied for.
By comparison to Steve Burr, even if Preece had premier league experience as a player, he was considered a relative unknown in managerial terms and was therefore another surprising choice to the supporters.
On 22nd Feb 2017, at a scheduled Trust In Yellow board meeting, Liam Watson and Nigel Allen were invited back to discuss the previously discussed collaborative projects. At this meeting however Trust In Yellow informed Watson and Allen of their intention to hold an open meeting in April where the future of the club, and more in particular, it’s leadership would be discussed.
Despite promises of considerable performance related bonuses for the players had they been successful, by the start of April it was clear that relegation from the National League was a foregone conclusion, even if not yet a mathematical certainty.
On 3rd April 2017 Trust In Yellow issues a statement on its website confirming that it would hold an Open Meeting on 11th April.
Statement from the Board of Trust In Yellow
The Board of Trust in Yellow realises that it does not speak for ALL members and supporters and feel it is essential that all Southport FC Supporters including those who have drifted away in recent years are able to put forward their views on how we can help get the Club moving in the right direction once again.
As a result we have arranged an Open Meeting on:
7-30pm on Tuesday, 11th April at the Southport Railway Club on Sussex Road
THIS MEETING IS OPEN TO ALL SUPPORTERS
Trust members and non-members, are welcome to attend and we want to see as many fans there as possible who care about the future of Football in this Town..
The object of the meeting will be to discuss:
1. Ideas for the future strategy and direction of the club.
2. How supporter involvement in the club could be improved and what positive benefits this would bring.
The meeting will be Chaired by Martin Robinson from the Trust and after brief opening statements by Trust Vice- Chair Noel Warham and the founder of Trust In Yellow Jonathan O’Byrne, it will be open to all present to add to the debate.
The only condition is that contributions should be constructive and not contain derogatory comments.
We appreciate that not all supporters will be able to attend the meeting and so welcome comments sent in advance to firstname.lastname@example.org
We really do want this consultation to be with as wide a range of supporters as possible and we welcome all views and opinions.
These contributions will also be considered when an open letter is written to the Club Board after the meeting.
On 11 April 2017 around 150 people attended an open meeting for supporters at the Railway Club on Sussex Road organised by the Southport FC supporters trust, Trust In Yellow. Fans raised concerns about the way the club was being run and almost unanimously the blame was laid at the feet of the chairman.
Within 24 hours Trust In Yellow released a statement. “There was a clear message from the meeting that the majority of supporters felt the time had come for major changes in the way the club is run,” it says.
Some supporters discuss protesting at home games by showing Charlie Clapham the “red card” and walking out on 78 minutes, in reference to the year Southport lost their Football League status (which incidentally had nothing to do with Charlie Clapham as he wasn’t to set foot inside Haig Avenue for a good few years to come!)
Two days later, after a 3-0 defeat at Dover Athletic, and with three games left to go, relegation to the National League North was confirmed.
In a move which proved to be unpopular with the rest of the board, Director Nigel Allen took to Twitter to address the supporters on his private account: “The manner in which we have gone down is unacceptable and as a supporter at heart it has hurt for months now. The supporters, particularly those who travel long distances away, have been fantastic and deserve so much more”.
Press officer James Cave drafted and shared a 98 word statement with the board encouraging them to publicly face up to the now confirmed relegation.
Released moments after relegation it read [we promise to] “work tirelessly to ensure a strategic framework is in place to allow the first team to have a much more successful 2017/18 campaign”.
On 19th April at a Trust in Yellow board meeting it was decided that as the club’s third largest shareholder, they would write to the club and call for an Extraordinary General Meeting. On 20th April therefore, Trust In Yellow served a section 303 notice to the chairman.
NOTICE PURSUANT TO SECTION 303 OF THE COMPANIES ACT 2006 (AS AMENDED) (THE ACT) REQUIRING THE DIRECTORS OF THE COMPANY TO CALL A GENERAL MEETING OF THE COMPANY
As a registered shareholder of the company holding 32,280 working in unison with the following shareholders, Jonathan O’Byrne (100), Robert Carr (200), Jean Carr (250), Ian Coward (50), Warwick Monk (50), Jeff Reason (100), Colin & Carol Waring (200), David Jackson (700), Unique Treble Ltd (500) Brian Sutton (100) – 2250 shares collective voting rights in excess of 10% of the total voting rights of the company.
Trust In Yellow gives formal written notice that in relation to the aforementioned shareholders action is exercising its right under Section 303 Companies Act 2006 to call a general meeting of the company in accordance with the provisions set down in the act.
The general nature and purpose of the meeting is for the directors to attend such a meeting to discuss the future direction of the football club. Specifically the proposals include:
- A vote of no-confidence against the current leadership of the club.
- For a change of chairmanship and a vote of no confidence against the chairman of the football club and to call for his subsequent resignation from the board of directors.
- For the remaining directors to constitute a new board of directors and seek external investment and input to begin the re-building of the football club.
- A clear strategy for progress which formalises with the Trust a pattern of regular consultation.
- Receiving a commitment to improve spectator facilities.
As committed, shareholders, stakeholders and supporters we look forwards to receiving the date of the meeting, attached is a copy of the open letter which will be issued to the press and to supporters, who have voted overwhelmingly for this course of action following our publicised open meeting held at the Railway Club, Sussex Rd, Southport on Tuesday 11th April which was attended by over 150 supporters and also recieved 40 written submissions.
Trust In Yellow Board
A lengthy statement is released alongside the request directly calling for him to step down and transition the leadership of the club to the remaining directors. Little did they know that earlier in the same month Charlie Clapham had already begun to take steps to transition away from his chairmanship. Well aware that the groundswell of opinion was that his time was drawing to a close, in a series of meetings with the board he had agreed a plan to transition away from the club over a period of time leaving the remaining board members, with the exception of Sam Shrouder who had decided to stand down, in a position to take the club forward with Nigel Allen assuming the chair.
The Board of Trust In Yellow was delighted with the response from members and from supporters in general to their meeting last week to discuss the future of the club.
In the region of 150 attended and the Trust has also received over 40 written submissions from other supporters. What is clear is that there is great unity amongst the vast majority of supporters in wanting changes in the way the club is run.
Any potential investors and sponsors in the club who had been at the meeting could not have failed to be impressed by the potential amount of goodwill there is towards the club and a willingness to support and help it in many ways. Furthermore, this would be particularly the case if the club is run in a way which recognises and values the views and importance of supporters and is open and transparent in sharing information with them.
Whilst relegation is difficult for any group of fans to take, supporters’ main concern is not, in fact, one season’s failure but the lack of stability and direction shown at the club over several years, which has culminated in a season with nearly 50 players and four managers.
The constant changes have meant that the essential bond between players and team has been broken. We no longer recognise from one week to another who is playing and there has been a disenchantment with the club which has resulted in a dramatic fall in the number of regular supporters attending matches. If not for the initiatives with the hospitality marquee and primary schools the attendances would have sunk to record lows for our years in this league.
Supporters see a ground which is decaying and where any major recent or proposed improvements to permanent facilities such as new floodlights, new disabled area and supporters’ bar only happen as a result of the efforts of the Trust and supporters.
As a major shareholder in the club, the Trust along with other shareholders has started the legal process for the club to call a special meeting of shareholders to discuss the present position. TIY appreciates and is grateful for the many years of hard work and financial commitment that Charlie Clapham has given to Southport FC since the early 1980s.
However, the view expressed by the large majority at last week’s meeting and in written submissions, is that the time has come when changes in leadership have to take place or the club will not just stagnate but decline to a position from which it will take many years to recover.
The Board of Trust In Yellow asks Mr Clapham to organise a smooth transition of the chairmanship and leadership of the club to other directors. We hope his service would be honoured in a major way by the club and his experience in football continue to be used in his in his role with the Vanarama National League and on the FA Council.
Even in this very difficult period there are positives at the club notably the excellent community programme put in place by Haydn Preece, the increasing number of sponsors and the appointment of three new directors last autumn, who have shown by their initiatives that they have the ability and energy to reinvigorate the club. Under new leadership we hope the board of directors will provide the stability and direction the club needs both on and off the field.
Any review it undertakes should include submissions from supporters and lead to a clear strategy for progress which values the views and role of supporters, formalises with the Trust a pattern of regular consultation and shows a commitment to improve spectator facilities. Unless changes are made we fear that the hope brought by the new directors will be lost and the calamity of this season will lead to disaster for the club’s short, medium and long term future.
On 20th April 2017 at a board meeting held at the club Charlie Clapham outlined to the rest of the board his decision to step down with immediate effect. It has been suggested since that there had been suspicions of a collusion between the supporters trust and certain members of the board to force a change of chairman. All parties deny this, but regardless, it ended any hopes of the previously discussed smooth transition arrangement. Dave Barron made the decision that with his considerable business interests in town he would need to stand down and Haydn Preece decided too that his time was up.
Within 24 hours Southport released a statement to confirm that chairman Charlie Clapham would be stepping down with immediate effect. The statement references personal reasons for his decision but adds that he had faced attacks on social media and in the media.
At yesterday’s Board Meeting the first item on the agenda was the future position of the Club going forward. It was confirmed by Charlie Clapham that Sam Shrouder, Haydn Preece and David Barron would stand down as Directors at the end of the Clubs Financial year end the 30th June 2017.
As Chairman I confirmed that I would step down with immediate effect (21st April 2017) Sam Shrouder will also step down with immediate effect whilst both Sam & I have personal reasons for resigning our positions, the recent attacks that have appeared on social media and in the press and media following the open meeting of the Trust in Yellow and supporters has meant our position is untenable therefore we take our decisions with heavy hearts but in the best interests of Southport Football Club in the short and hopefully long term.
Haydn Preece shares the same views in regards to the vitriol and ridicule that has been aimed at the club and himself personally, David Barron has been shocked by a section of the supporters by the behaviour towards myself and the Board.
Nigel Allen and Liam Watson are considering their positions, Nigel has agreed to act as Interim Chairman until the 30th June 2017 during which time the Board will seek a meeting with the Trust in Yellow Board to establish their views for the future as the call for change has come from them following the Open Meeting.
The Board will urgently seek to establish any level of interest in bringing in investors who may wish to take a controlling interest in the ownership of the Club.
I would like to place on record my thanks to Sam, Haydn & David and my family for their support towards me over the many years they have worked with me, I would also like to thank Ken Hilton along with all volunteers and supporters who over the last 35 years have treated me with respect “Thank You.”
The Board will work diligently over the coming weeks to find an outcome that will ensure the security & sustainability of your football club.
On behalf of the Board
Charlie Clapham MBE
As a result, planned protests by Southport fans – including showing red cards at Clapham at games – are suspended.
Trust In Yellow release a statement in response “putting on record [their] appreciation and thanks for the many years of hard work and financial commitment that he has given to Southport since the early 1980s”.
The Board of Trust In Yellow acknowledge the statement released by Charlie Clapham MBE on Southportfc.net and would like to put on record our appreciation and thanks for the many years of hard work and financial commitment that he has given to Southport FC since the early 1980s.
The same applies to the other departing Directors particularly Sam Shrouder who has been a loyal and supportive Vice-Chairman to Mr Clapham and has himself shown great commitment to the club over many years. Haydn Preece has shown great enthusiasm and has worked extremely hard to create some very positive community and business links over a number of years for the Club and Dave Barron, in his short time as a Director has introduced some excellent initiatives that have been very valuable to the Club.
The Board wish all departing Directors and their families well in the future and it is our hope that the service of Charlie Clapham MBE should be honoured in a major way by the club and his experience in football should continue to be used in his in his role with the Vanarama National League and on the FA Council.
The Trust never wished for the discussions on the club’s future to include any personal abuse and have been meticulous in trying to ensure that our official statements and discussions at the open meeting have been conducted in a way that respected individuals. We are sorry if any of the directors felt that a section of the supporters went too far which is something we would never condone.
As discussed in the statement the Trust Board will look to work with and support the Club Board over the coming weeks to find an outcome that will ensure the security and sustainability of the football club. Alongside this statement is a copy of the open letter the Trust Board wrote to the club before hearing of Mr Clapham’s resignation.
The Trust Board will meet over the next few days and issue a further statement next week.
In a post match interview on 22 April, Director Haydn Preece gave an interview to the club’s media team urging the “silent majority” to step forward as chairman Charlie Clapham does not deserve the treatment he has received.
“We have been inundated with people saying ‘can’t believe what has happened with the chairman’ and I would ask that silent majority to come forward and raise their voices,” he says.
Interim chairman Nigel Allen says it is time for the club to unite and says: “What has happened over the last 10 days has damaged the reputation and brand of Southport Football Club. It’s not going to make my job or anybody’s job easier in terms of engagement with attracting players to the club.”
29th April 2017: Outgoing Chairman Charles Clapham pens his final programme notes:
It is with a heavy heart that I have decided to stand down as Chairman of the club after 35 years.
Since I announced my decision I have been overwhelmed with messages of support and thanks from Southport supporters, former players and former managers from all around the country.
Thank you, they have meant a lot to me and my family.
It’s fair to say this season hasn’t been the best and I can fully understand why people are feeling so upset. I am sorry the club has been relegated to the Vanarama National North – this has hurt no one more than Sam and myself. We have done all we can to avoid the drop, but it just hasn’t happened. Three Managers and 50 odd players and the largest wage bill in the club’s history, along with Liam as Director of Football since September – it just never happened!!
Like you I crave stability at the club. I want players to be with us for 100 games plus to join some of the great lads that are in our 100 Club. Players like Earl Davis, Kevin Lee, Dicko, Kevin Mooney, Gambo et al, have graced the Merseyrail Community Stadium turf in my time here and I would love us to get to that position again with players playing here who are in it for the long haul.
I recognise our manager turnover has been too high. This is something we will have to address. I can assure you that when interviewing for the job as Southport Manager I have never done this on my own, always having Sam or Haydn by my side. Latterly for Steve Burr and Andy Preece I was accompanied by Nigel and Liam. If there was a magic formula for selecting a successful Manager I am sure someone would have bottled it by now.
By bringing in Nigel, Liam and Dave we were looking forward to a bright new future at the club as we increased our commercial activity and sought new revenue streams, most of which were a huge success, with the Jack Carr/Main Stand/Poplar Terrace all sponsored for the 2017/18 season. We must thank Dave for that along with the marquee success. The Trust in Yellow sponsored floodlights are sponsored by Thrifty Car Hire in 2017/18 and we must thank Nigel for that, so off the field we have done really well!
Unfortunately our relegation has put the plans that we had for the Club for 2017/18 on hold as everyone must focus on getting back into the Vanarama National League.
Having seen and heard the amount of criticism aimed at myself in recent weeks, my position at the club has become untenable and I have made the decision to move aside. I don’t want my family to be sitting in the stand listening to people who don’t want me here.
There are so many people to thank and by doing so I may miss someone out, but I am sure everyone who has had anything to do with me will know their efforts are always appreciated.
Sam, Haydn and Dave have also decided to step down. I would like to thank them for their support. Sam, my friend, has been alongside me for 27 years and I couldn’t have asked for more from him in terms of personal support … as well as the substantial financial backing he has provided. His departure will be a massive loss to the club. I am sure the club will show the correct recognition to Sam in due course.
On reading some of the comments over the last few weeks, it has amazed and saddened me that people feel it necessary to attack the lifeblood of the club, our volunteers.
The hours that some people put in voluntarily are gold dust to the club. We simply could not operate without them. As I travel around the National League, I see how many people are employed at some clubs in a paid capacity. We rely so heavily on people to give freely of their time and it’s these people who deserve the biggest thanks of all. You know who you are … thank you all!
The last few weeks have been difficult for me in a lot of ways with family and footballing matters coming to a head. Sometimes you just have to say enough is enough and that’s how I felt when I made the decision to stand aside. Is this how I would have chosen to stand down as Chairman? Not in a million years!! Whilst I have given 35 years of my life to the club I go away with my head held high with many happy memories – Port Vale in 1988, winning the League in 1993 to get into the Conference and, of course, Wembley in 1998 and so many more moments. I cherish the fantastic people I have had the pleasure to have worked with, particularly Jack Carr, the most incredible and enthusiastic character you could ever meet. He will be disappointed with this outcome.
Now is the time for the supporters and shareholders to regroup. The opportunity is there to invest in your club so please take this opportunity to support the club financially.
Regarding my departure I have heard the word “bitter” quoted. Please be aware I am not bitter but so disappointed that I felt it necessary to stand down but, as I said earlier, sometimes you just have to do what’s right for you and your family. I would like to publicly thank my family for their support, particularly my wife Mavis who has put up with me travelling round the country all these years. Maybe she will get me out shopping now!
It will be a new beginning as the club starts its fortieth season in Non League Football in National North in 2017/18. I wish everyone well and hope that it is a short stay and we are back in the top flight sooner than later.
Enjoy your Football
Support Your Football Club
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