Earlier on today I did an interview on BBC Radio Stoke, talking about how Port Vale has been put up for sale by owner Norman Smurthwaite (if you’re interested it’s 14:50 min in on Sport at Six http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p04zr3d2)
There’s a tendency when these things happen to talk about ‘investors’, and how the club should be an ‘attractive proposition’ for potential owners.
I did talk about those issues, and how difficult it might be to sell a club where Smurthwaite has apparently split the ownership of the club and the stadium (not something I would personally recommend – see: too many examples to mention), but I made the point that in the end you’re buying a football club with supporters, and those supporters need understanding, listening to, and their worries and concerns taken seriously.
Speaking to Paul Camillin, head of communications at Brighton and Hove Albion as I did earlier today, reinforced to me the point that each club has its own unique culture, and its fans, their own experiences that make them what they are. They’re a club that has been almost literally rebuilt by supporters and people who care about it, and that includes rebuilding respect and relationships between those owning, running and supporting it.
It concerns me that in the last 15 plus years Port Vale supporters have had it up and down more than most rollercoasters, with owner-after-owner, consortium after consortium, sometimes trying their best, maybe sometimes making mistakes, some of them avoidable. Ultimately they’ve all sold up and moved on, but the supporters have been left behind to deal with the fallout.
Whoever is thinking of bidding, make the supporters the first people you plan to meet. You won’t regret that investment.