The 1999 Power Struggle Soapbox

Comments from BOING readers during the 1999 attempt to remove Tony Hale from the WBA Board

Well can I take this oppurtunity to thank all those that voted for Hale, thus setting us up for another period of decay. This club is small time, the board of directors are small time, and fans deserve so much better. My prediction, come Christmas we will be festering in the bottom half of the table and the fans will expend most energy by protesting for the dismissal of the clown the Hale calls our manager.

Shall I start it, Smith Out!!!!!!

 - Lee Blades

To begin with, a little story. A turkey was chatting with a bull. "I would love to be able to get to the top of that tree," sighed the turkey, "but I haven't got the energy." "Well, why don't you nibble on some of my droppings?" replied the bull. "They're packed with nutrients." The turkey pecked at a lump of dung and found that it actually gave him enough strength to reach the first branch of the tree.

The next day, after eating some more dung, he reached the second branch. Finally, after a fortnight, there he was proudly perched at the top of the tree. Soon he was promptly spotted by a farmer, who shot the turkey out of the tree.

Moral of the story: Bullshit might get you to the top, but it won't keep you there.

Now I'm not exactly saying that the above tale has any relevance to the last few weeks but it should serve as a warning to the victor. As you will know from my first mail to you, I was totally committed to the idea of a Hale victory but as the weeks passed, and more and more information became available, I found myself wavering towards the end. Don't get me wrong, I'm still glad that Tony Hale won -- just, it's a creeping feeling that maybe the vote has given the green light to "carry on" regardless. For his achievements alone since becoming chairman of Albion I believe he deserved the chance and he is shrewd enough to realise that his performance from now on will be under the most severe scrutiny from shareholders and fans alike. As regards his new "mates", I would be keeping a sharp eye on them if I were him or he may find himself in the old "et tu Brutus" situation at some stage.

Paul Thompson was fighting a loosing battle from day one. All the talk of issuing writs and demanding apologies from people who, perhaps, acted in what they thought was the best interests of the football club, was ill advised to say the least. There was also an element of "who does this upstart think he is" from the Albion old guard. He did not come across as a "football" person and I believe this cost him dearly. There is no doubting his ability as a business man and he is to be commended for highlighting the problems within the club. Football is now a business like any other and if, quite apart from the playing staff, the right people are not in place (i.e. administrators, PR staff etc) then any club is doomed to mediocrity. We have seen this happen to us over the years and Paul Thompson realised this and tried to spearhead the campaign for change. Mabey he is more of an Albion man than we first thought?? He can prove that very easily by retaining his shareholding and watching developments under the "new" regime.

From reading the mails on the PS soapbox my first two recommended signings would be:

  1. A Business Development Consultant
  2. A good PR Agency

As for the team -- far be it from me to try and tell other Albion fans what is required. Altough the 2.6 Million will come in very handy -- wont it ???

Tony Hale is now perched proudly at the top of the tree but there are an awful lot of farmers in the vicinity!

 - Paul Peavoy

PS: I know it's been said a thousand times but - as regards your coverage - you set out to be the best and you surpassed yourself. BRILLIANT!!!! Just a thought but! - have you considered maybe putting all the material gathered over the past weeks and publishing it in book format. You could do it along the lines of "5+1/2 legs go Nationwide". My suggested title would be "6792 Shares go AWOL". I can see future generations of Baggies fans, leafing through the Yellow Pages and phoning every bookshop in the West Midlands asking for a copy of the "6792 Shares" by J R Saunders.

I will definitely catch up with in "The Vine" at some stage during the season and treat you to a few pints -- you've earned them.

Thanks Paul - I'll look forward to that! As to the book - I've done enough writing for now, thanks! ]

I know it is all over now, but surely the best chance in years has past and a vote for more of the same has been made. I attended the meeting, and like other contributers felt the vast majority of people there were voting for thompson, so we are left with the fact that the "old guard" won....this time. It seemed to me that the "NEWER" shareholders, like me, voted against hale, and the older ones - in more ways than one - voted to stay put, indeed i spoke to one old guy who admitted he only attended 6/7 matches in the season, but he had ten votes and they went T.H's way!!!!!!

The observation re Brandrick was spot on...i am appalled by the suggestion that he will now be working closer on the player contact CURLE the first example of this CAPT MAINWARING (sorry Brandrick) style? It is very sad that thompson, and the very impessive stapleton are no longer on the board, they stood out a mile in terms of intellect and vision. Finally, i doubt that the old guard have ever heard of e mail and the net, so i wouldn't be suprised that they do not know the extent of the problem at the Albion. However looking at the number of hits the site recieves now, keep up the momentum, the battle is lost ...not the war

 - Steve Bonser

I have to say I was happy that Hale retained the hotseat but like many others it's time we started to make progress... I find it interesting to note that many are saying 2.6 million isnt enough, but just think what kind of wages these expensive players demand... also was interested to see that Thompson saying 10 million was received beter than Hale saying 2.6 on players, 2.8 on training ground and X amount on the new stand... Thompson always stated 10 million then broke it down afterwards in pretty much the same way as Hale... so they were only ever talking the same figures... I guess thats PR for you...

Anyway it's time for everyone to pull together now and lets get on with it... I was thinking of not bothering at all next season but now its all sorted... I'll see who we buy and then will probably end up suffering another year and say after every match I'm not coming again..

So lets put the Boing back in West Brom.

 - Darren Flynn

So pretty soon EGMs and 3-year plans will be history and well be into new signings (hopefully), best formations, substitutions and the like. But IMO we shouldnt lose sight of some pretty fundamental revelations about the social framework of WBA.

One thing that struck me, as we debated and argued last night in the Turkish Baths, was that the two camps had actually swapped positions. In the end it was the Thompson camp that stood for cautious change and stability and the Hale regime that was opening up new and high risk changes. Thompson was all for wide-ranging but incremental change: keeping proven Baggies like Hurst and Staplegun on board, consulting as widely as possible and getting the full backing of shareholders and supporters for new financing initiatives. There were no attempts to buy votes, despite the opportunities, by promising quick fixes of cash for what remains of the close season. By contrast Hale was full of cash-rich manouevres (2.6 million tomorrow) and the recruitment of patent outsiders onto the board, Colston and R Thompson, whose interest remained, at best, dubious.

The other noticeable factor was the continuing influence of the WBA old guard. As Max Bygraves used to say "lemme tell you a story". I originally got my few shares in 1995 when the old closed shop was widened slightly by allowing the existing shareholders to acquire more shares or pass them on to new buyers. I wont bore you with the details, but by a fluke - I knew no shareholders - I bought a couple. At my first AGM I was amazed at the people surrounding me. Were these people really Baggies? Most looked as though they belonged at a Conservative Party whist drive, or the Rotary Clubs long-service award ceremony. With the founding of the plc and the flotation there was a welcome influx of what I would call ordinary, rank-and-file baggies. Not exactly yer BRE footsoldiers but open, honest and quizzical.

The interesting thing about the EGM was the coalescence of the old guard into a defence force. Most seemed to sit in a bloc on the far right of the meeting by design? They seemed to ask a disproportionate amount of questions. And they exulted at the announcement of the result, in a collectively distinct fashion. The penny dropped for me. These are the WBA Establishment. The beneficiaries of the hole-in-the corner deals whereby shares got passed on, no questions asked, and favours were repaid: the mates of mates of directors or old players, the family friends. The inheritors of shares passed through generations. Those whose allegiance to WBA was a matter of personal contact with directors, managers and other staff. For these people change is anathema. It threatens their cosy world of personal contacts and privileges. Most, probably, accepted the public flotation grudgingly. And now their last figurehead, Tony Hale, was being threatened by an upstart outsider and a couple of renegades. With this background, you dont need to consider the pros and cons and the relationship of the dispute to the clubs footballing status. The challenge to Hale was a threat and challenge to their position and their whole way of football life - the Albion Way.

I tend to agree with the earlier diagnosis that the anti-Hale vote failed because of the relatively large number of automatic votes for Hale, mainly by proxy. As was said earlier this was the equivalent of the blue-rinse Conservative brigade, who will vote for their party as a reflex action. Conforming to the statistics presented earlier I contrast my own experiences last night with actual result. I think I spoke to about 14 people I know or with whom I got into conversation. Of these 13 went for Thompson and only one for Hale. Donning my political science hat, I have to conclude that this was a classic case of the masses thwarted by the better off - in this case in terms of numbers of shares held. Of course some ordinary baggies went for Hale - we hear from them on these pages and on the mailing list. But, and this is the heartening factor, the mass of new shareholders want an end to the Albion Way and a new broom. The irony of course, is that the Establishment may have ensured that cuckoos in the board-room nest will wreak a very different, and destabilising form of change to that envisaged by either side.

Sorry for the lecture.

 - Philosophical B.J.

As a Baggies fan based in Singapore I have found your coverage of the power struggle most interesting. The debate made public facts that have been obvious to all for many years. The fundamental truth is that the Board of West Bromwich Albion has lacked direction, ambition, and the guts to admit that the failing of the club should lie squarely on their shoulders.

I am bitterly disappointed that Tony Hale has won. The shareholders should have kicked him out with little need for debate. The only fact that is irrefutable is that WBA have been in decline for 15 years.

Tony Hale should recognise the following and act quickly:

  • Produce a mission statement worded along the line of "West Bromwich Albion plc is a football club based in the West Midlands who will be among the elite clubs of Europe". This is short, simple and tells the world what we are about. Now, how do you achieve this:
    1. Investment in the current squad. This is essential, as the whole plan fails if we can not get into the Premiership with 2/3 years. So we get rid of Smith and get a big name and back him with cash. My choice would be a huge offer to the likes of Lippi or Hoddle. You need a big name to attract the best.
    2. Investment in the youth system. In the post Bosman era we need this to Blossom.
    3. Set the Clubs financial structure up in such a way to encourage long term investment. At present this is clearly not the case.
  • The clubs asset are a get fan base, location and tradition. It is at present run by amateur incompetent people.
  • My prediction is that next season will be the same as the last three, that is disappointing, and as a result Tony Hale will go.

I realise this may seem to some over ambitious, but WBA must decide what it wants to be. At present what the Board are saying is that they want to be mediocre. I personally find it hard to stomach. Let's hope I am proved wrong next season.

 - Alan M. Baxter

As I am not a share holder I was unable to influence last nights proceedings but I was very disappointed by the outcome. I have watched the Baggies for nearly 20 years and feel that this EGM simply highlights the point that we need(ed) a major change. In my opinion the problem is that our Board of Directors see West Bromwich Albion as a hobby. Yes they love the club and put in their hard earned cash for which I am very grateful to them .However football is no longer a hobby it is a business and what WBAFC need is business men in charge of the club.

Surely if we could attract Business men they in turn would attract serious investors and the money could be used effectively and with the club run as a business perhaps we would start to compete in this division. We can't kid ourselves! The Premiership is a long way off but if the club was run more like a business then we could start to think about not just getting to the Premiership but staying there!

Thus in my opinion Paul Thompson appeared to fit the 'bill' better than Tony Hale mainly because he is talking in more realistic terms when it comes to the amount of money. The £2.6 million that Tony Hale is talking about is simply inadequate. £10 million is simply the bare minimum.

As others have said if we now have a poor start what will the reaction be? Tony Hale is sure to feel the brunt of it and so will Dennis Smith who is a likely scapegoat early on.

I felt last year the reactions (although often deserved!) to defensive errors was frightening but even more worrying was the fact that neither the team or the manager showed any fight or resolve. Surely we as supporters will have the chance to get the changes that we so desperately require but initially we must all get behind the current squad and give them at least a chance.

Thanks for all the information and updates!


You must be getting bored with the praise by now [ Not really! ] but can I add myself to the many who have found the coverage of the power struggle on outstanding.

I don't know if you have the stats but I'd like to see the vote in terms of how many shareholders voted for each camp. This would be the best measure of who won the argument. Amongst the Albion fans I know most felt that if Hale won we were in for more of the same. After 26 years since attending my first game I don't think I can take much more... many others must be feeling the same way judging by the pathetically low season ticket sales. I was hoping that Thompson would win, if only to provide fresh impetus.

Though I've renewed my season ticket, I now have less optimism or enthusiasm for the coming season than ever before. If team performances and results are anything but consistently exceptional (which is unlikely given our lack of activity in the transfer market and IMO the greater quality of the division this time around) I predict several crowds below 10000. I can't see ?3M buying the quality to finish above Bolton, Blackburn, Blues, Wolves, Ipswich, Forest, Charlton?, Fulham?, Barnsley?. So another prediction, we'll finish lower half maybe after a flirt with the relegation struggle. We have to break this downward spiral quickly (i.e. this season) or we're going to be consigned to second rate football forever. The gap is probably already too wide for us to really return to our former status as a top-half of the top-division team (with realistic chances of a good cup run and qualifying for Europe).

Having said all that I'm not too disappointed that Paul Thompson lost. Both camps long term plans involved pinning our hopes on talent developed through the academy. This is probably our only option given the insufficient funds on offer from either camp. This makes sense and helps avoid the crazy money deals fuelled by Sky & the Premier (and maybe gives us a long term chance of receiving some crazy money for some of our home grown talent). The big problem is that by the time it's up and running and we start to reap the rewards we'll be out of the game.

The reality is that without exceptional management & funds to back it up NOW we're going nowhere.

I only hope I'm wrong, that Hale/Driscoll/R.Thompson/Waldron can find a lot more than ?3M, that Dennis Smith repeats his Sunderland success, that the assurances given to Waldron materialise, that Lee Hughes scores 40 goals, that we sign a class defender and concede 30 less goals than last year.

 - Kevin Parker

It certainly was an interesting night, being domiciled in London and not having attended any meetings I was alarmed to compare the composed, professional and eloquent arguements put forward by Messrs Thompson, Stapleton and in particular Mr Hurst to that of the ramblings of Mr Hale. I am a businessman and I know who I would prefer to do business with, as for Mr Brandrick you must admit it was like something out of Dads Army! Someone sat adjacent to me suggested that the motion be amended to get rid of Mr Brandrick instead!

It makes sense of some of the things we have seen over the last few years in terms of negotiations with players etc.

In my opinion where Thompsons challenge failed is that he did not declare enough of his own plans early enough, indeed the only time he looked uncomfortable was when questioned about exactly how much money would be made available before the start of the season he, after being pressed, had to admit that there was none. He should have worked on his plan and included details of it in his letters and discussed it in depth at his meeting, I feel that concrete committments are important to many people and he did not offer much in this regard. I beleive this might have given him the 5% or so he needed.

In the end though the result is all down to one man, Graham Waldron. What a shame he didn't make it last night, never mind perhaps we will have the opportunity to talk to him at the Hawthorns, the AGM, the supporters club, I don't think! I would not know the gentleman if I ran him over and he has had the major bearing on the outcome of this vote. I trust that he will indeed ensure, as far as he can that, Hale addressess the areas causing concern as he is reported as saying.

To Paul Thompson, Barry Hurst and Clive Stapleton I sincerely hope they stick with us, I for one feel that their chance may well come sooner rather than later.

 - Steve Nock

To be honest, when I heard the results read out on WM, I was devestated. A man put himself forward to rectify the exact problems that we all saw as the key failings of the club that had held us back for the last 15 years - and we said "no thanks - we're doing just fine". I can only hope that Tony Hale recognises that plenty of shareholders have been completely dissatified with his performance, and that he doesn't see the vote as a ringing endorsement of "the Albion Way".


  • Hale sees the result as saying "more of the same please"
  • Hale sees the result as saying "that Richard Thompson bloke sounds useful"
  • Hale sees this as a mandate to remain chairman for another five years. Hale feels free to blame the (very possible) failings of our upcoming season squarely on the shoulders of the manager, and we get back into the changing manager cycle - just as we were starting to realise that maybe the manager (whoever he was) wasn't the fundamental problem
  • Hale thinks everyone sees ?2.6m as being a passport to the Premiership
  • Hale thinks it's still OK not to have a proper business plan


  • Graham Waldron's conditions of support were that TH had to sort out the areas that PT highlighted as the major areas of failure
  • TH realises that it he will be judged as much on how the business is run as on whether he strong enough to threaten to sack the manager after an awful result
  • TH realises that the level of progress in the last five years has not been enough
  • TH attracts people with real business acumen and lets them have a major say in how the club is run (not "back me or leave")
  • £2.6m is just to tide us over until the real money comes in
  • TH learns that it was his mistakes that brought about this whole sorry affair

Observations on the process:

The major mistake by the Thompson camp was to concentrate on Hale's five years as a whole. They should have acknowledged the areas where Hale had modernised the club - particularly his role in changing the constitution, and bringing in the likes of PT himself - and then they should have concentrated on the way this modernisation had ground to a halt in the last two years, with half of the job still left to do.

The way the printed media very quickly became even handed on the eve of the vote was suspicious - did they suddenly become worried that Thompson might just record a popular win, leaving the papers alenated from their readership?

It was a shame that Tom Ross wasn't around for all the fun - would he have become more even handed if he'd realised the level of popular support for PT? His early involvement (notably his TH phone-in) made Don Beddard look even-handed.

Here's genuinely hoping it all works out for the best. Come on you baggies.

 - Adam Thorpe

So its all done and dusted, and I for one feel pretty flat about it all; it was clear from the mood last night that most of the rank and file shareholders (or certainly the ones I spoke to) seemed ready for change and totally disillusioned by the result.

It appeared that the club has not really moved forward, since when it came to the crunch, all the old guard of shareholders; who have held power for so long simply rallied round and used their block votes to cast down the upstart newcomers. This makes me wonder if we ordinary shareholders will ever have a real influence on changing the club (and I suppose whether my purchase of shares was really worth it)

My real concern is, what happens six games into the season if the team are not meeting our expectations on the pitch, does Mr Hale then have to dismiss Mr Smith before the chants of "sack the board" ring loudly in his ears. We'll have stewards sitting behind us in the Halfords Lane stand again to protect the board from unruly elements. Yet another manager will bite the dust and to what end.

I have a real fear more upset is yet to come I'm afraid.

Anyway, on a more positive note, lets hope we sign somebody of quality over the next three weeks with the £2.6 million the manager now has!

Thanks once again for the website, superb coverage.

 - Steve Sutton

When the dust has settled, I sincerely hope that Tony Hale will remember that, effectively, 46% of shareholders have lost faith in him. Mr. Hale is always quick to remind other people at the club that he wants results. May I take this opportunity to remind him that I am sick and tired of seeing the club struggle to achieve mediocrity - year in, year out, on and off the pitch. If he cannot produce the goods, we shall be in an identical situation in twelve months time and I cannot imagine any circumstances in which he will gain votes from the 46% who voted against him on this occasion. The feeling for change will only grow. Mr. Hale, this result is a warning. Please take note.

 - Adam Penn

My final observations on this issue, because it's pointless continuing the debate at this juncture are:

  1. The meeting was something of a farce and I don't think anyone came out of it with any credit! Except, perhaps, Clive Stapleton because at least he introduced some wry humour into the proceedings!
  2. Despite the huge number of people at the meeting, and the difficulty there was getting in due to the method employed to give voting slips to the shareholders, it was amazingly easy to get to a ballot box (of which there were only 5 or 6) to cast a vote. This suggests that a lot of those present had already voted postally.
  3. I think the other BOINGers will agree that a clear majority of thos present at the meeting supported PT. This being so, the fact that he was defeated was down to postal voting by people not present. It is likely that a lot of them were old guard shareholders who wouldn't go to the EGM, probably don't go to many games, and historically tend to vote against change at the club - whatever that change might be.
  4. Hale might do as well to show some humility bearing in mind that 47% of shareholders voted against him. There was no sign of any humility after the result was announced. With such a hefty vote against him, the spotlight is very much on Mr Hale.
  5. I look forward to seeing what happens with the 2.6 million pounds Hale claimed was immediately available for new players.

 - Chris Wright

Well done to Tony Hale, although I must admit I would have supported PT if I were a shareholder. I guess a majority of the WBA shareholders just weren't ready for too radical a change just yet entrusted in the hands of an "outsider", but do still want to see a great shake up at the Hawthorns - every Albion fan will want that in all areas of the club. With the slenderness of the victory, TH will have to preside over vast improvements on and off the pitch, or he will most certainly be on borrowed time, as I am sure PT will not just walk away. If he senses any swing in opinion away from Hale as a result of poor perfoarmances (after a reasonable amount of time for improvement of course), he could always just repeat the process we have just seen.

My real area of concern now is the future addition of the other Thompson to the Board. I imagine there will soon be some sort of rights issue to raise the money TH needs to enact his promises. Please Tone, do not let Thompson MkII get over 25% shareholding in the club, as heaven only knows down what path that could take us. I'm sure it will be a case of "once bitten twice shy" for TH, and he will not allow himself to be put in that position again by somenone he does not really know too well. In any case, I am sure this will be difficult given the extent of PT's holding, unless PT decides to sell and walk away. I for one Hope PT does not lose interest in WBA, and maintains his shareholding by taking up the rights issue - if nothing else, it will serve to keep TH on his toes to prevent a reapeat performance of the last few weeks.

We all know that the club has been through a lot of upheaval as a result of the EGM, but I am sure that it will now emerge much the better for it, as the leadership now needs to analyse all areas and improve matters, or it is simply on borrowed time. At least we can now all get back to the football and to pulling together in the business of supporting West Bromwich Albion.

 - James Roberts

Thanks for the great, unbiased reporting on the power struggle. I'll hold my hand up and say Thompsons got my vote but there is one question I am not sure has been asked of the gruesome twosome. Will the looser continue to go to games as a fan and maintain their shareholding? If anyone has seen the answer to this can they point me in the right direction.

 - Alex Dickinson

For what it is worth, here are my thoughts on the Hale v Thompson battle. I have five shares and like most people became a shareholder three years ago and I am grateful to Mr H for helping give me the opportunity to have a say in the future of the club I support with a passion. I will always be thankful to Mr H and I belive under him the club finally started to turn round.

However, I have considered all the arguments and my vote must now be in favour of Mr T.

I do not believe he is the Messiah, but I believe he offers us the best chance of building on the solid foundations laid down by Mr H. Mr T works in I.T., a leading edge and he will be able to bring in new ideas, new approaches, fresh capital and above all involve the supporters in the club.

We all are aware of the P.R. fiascos e.g., the Liverpool ticket allocation, lack of proper merchandise in the club shop (I have been promised an item for five months now - still not in stock).

Even simple things such as the way 'downbeat and dreary music' at the start of the match and the way the team is announced (visit some away grounds to see the comparison) shows we are losing touch with other clubs.

I believe we should say "thank you for all you have done" to Mr Hale and look forward to change and a new future under Mr Thompson.

N.B. The presentation of the debate on the site is first class - I have followed it for many days and it has been most informative.

 - Steve Barker

I'd like to thank you for all the hours you and your team have put in to help clarify the debate. Fabulous page, fabulous service over the last few weeks. As a minor shareholder, with all of three shares, I know how I vote is relatively unimportant, which is maybe a good job as I am still undecided. The current situation at the club is obviously unacceptable, mid table mediocrity in Div. 1 is not good enough. There have been some shocking games last season, where the players looked entirely unmotivated, games where it looked suspiciously as though the players wanted the manager to get the sack. However, does a divided board have much influence upon events on the field? In many respects this is an argument for change, and PT has made some very valid points. However, I'm sure that Crystal Palace didn't think that they were changing the frying pan for the fire. So many clubs in our division are in a desperate financial situation, that we are positively well off in comparison. If we stick with TH, we probably will have an underachieving selling club, but we will still have a club. PT may be the greatest thing since sliced bread, but he may not be, and we have no way of knowing in advance which one it will be. I'd be very interested in anyones views that helps me to make my mind up, do we risk it all, or do we stick with security.

A couple of points have surfaced from all of that paperwork, what really happened with Ray Harford? Did he leave because he was dealing with PT, or did he leave because he had to return to dealing with TH?

The Shareholders Association seems a very strange beast, the first I've ever heard of them was the now infamous letter. But it does beg the question as to whether we should create an Independant SA, limited maybe to people with 40 or 50 shares and below, so interested in the club as fans not investors. Such an organisation would have been of enormous use during this debate, and could be a powerful force for the future, as it seems about a third of the shares belong to the 'little people'. The arguments marshalled on the Boing page have been an inspiration for how such a forum could have influence upon whatever board we end up with.

Let's hope for a sucessful season whoever is in the chair

 - Helen Middleton

As both a shareholder and fan I recognise the urgent need for change within the whole club - from top to bottom. At the end of last season I saw no hope, and dreaded the forthcoming season as I felt the spectre of relegation was once more hanging over the Hawthorns.

I think like many shareholders, I was initially suspicious of Mr. Thompson's motives and had a feeling of mistrust.

Given all the information that both sides have provided shareholders with, and the additional information you have provided via your excellent web-pages I feel Mr. Thompson is the best choice.

One of deciding factor for me was Mr. Hale's letter to shareholders, in particular:

  • I do not take kindly to it being implied that I may lack the intelligence to formulate my own opinion.
  • Ensuring that Albion remains with Albion people - bringing in R. Thompson is really going to do that - I think not Mr. Hale (living and working in London I remember R. Thompson's reign at QPR).

Like all fans I want what is best for the Club, now and for the future. As a shareholder I now have an opportunity to do something about it.

Let's hope the morning of 9th July is a brave new dawn for the Baggies...

 - Chris Pennington

Firstly congratulations on the superb coverage.

It is time for change! Everything without exception proposed by Hale is a knee jerk reaction to the challenge by Thompson - where were these proposals last year? Hale has conducted a very poor campaign in my view, so much so that Thompson has been able to conduct his entire campaign on the back of discrediting Hale without revealing very much in terms of his own concrete proposals for the future.

It now appears that neither Hughes nor Curle will have signed by tomorrow and that "feelgood" opportunity has been lost. Indeed I understand from a friend in the Midlands that Curle suggested in the Sunday Mercury that the Board had treated him like a YTs Trainee at an interview. At a time like this, will they ever learn?

Nothing is guaranteed in life but sometimes you have got to take a chance, as Keith said Hale may hold it together for a while but in the end a betting man would say that at some point in the near future we will be back where we are now.

Thompson is our man

 - Steve Nock

For those shareholders democratically casting around for the opinions of those of us without a vote, here's my view for what it's worth.

Given where the club was 5 years ago, I think Hale has done a reasonable job in many respects, bringing in new money, improving the ground etc. However, I think he's taken us as far as he can - we've had 18 months or more of stagnation to my mind, the admin functions are still shambolic and there's little evidence that things are going to improve dramatically.

In the last 10 days or so, Hale has done huge damage to his own case with his now infamous letter to the "intelligent" shareholders and the recruitment of Driscoll and, especially, the Lone Queens Park Ranger. To allow Richard Thompson to get his hands on the club is foolhardy and not a little frightening. To me these moves show a worrying lack of judgement from Hale.

Paul Thompson is first and foremost a businessman. In one sense that in itself can be scary - why does a businessman want a football club, is he going to asset strip to get the money back? But now, football is a business and needs to be run as such, however much that upsets we purists. And even assuming the worst, that PT's motivations aren't altruistic, he's only going to make real money if Albion get into the Premiership and stay there. Which doesn't sound that bad at the moment. At the very least, the club will be more businesslike in its outlook and that alone would be a step in the right direction.

Albion needs to be shaken up and PT is the only candidate of the two who might be able to do it. It might make for a bumpy ride, but better that than more complacency and stagnation.

 - Dave

When this sorry episode first started my mind was already made up, I would support Hale as I was suspicious of Thompson and his motives. As the campaign has unfolded and in no small measure due to the informed debate on the list, my mind has been changed to the point that give it another few days I could have done a complete turn around. As it is my 50 shares will go Hale's way. Why I am staying with Hale is partly due to the illogical loyalty that makes me an Albion fan in the first place. He deserves another chance because god knows I've given the club enough chances in the last 30 years.

The more I think about Thompson the more I think he must be committed or else why put himself to all this trouble, why have an egm, why issue a writ, why commit yourself to being a chairman for 3 years. He has to be sincere to do all these things. And Stapelton and Hurst, for all their deficiencies, they too surely wouldn't put themselves through this unless they were felt it was for the good of the club.

Little things have tilted me towards the Thompson camp: Hurst phoned me three times over the weekend to find out which way I was voting. I've not had a single contact from the Hale camp. I appreciate Hale's a busy man, too busy to answer the Boing questionnaire, but I know if I was fighting for my life I'd find the time.

In the end though I have stuck with Hale because I feel all he's done for the club over the years should not be easily dismissed and count for nothing. I cannot treat him like a prime minister might treat one of his cabinet in a government reshuffle.

I do not subscribe to the view that Hale loves himself more than he loves the Albion. Hale has said that he would stand aside if he felt it was for the right man and it appears Hale was prepared to stand aside for McGinnty (if McGinnty hadn't decided to stay at Coventry). So I don't believe Hale is fighting Thompson because he wants to hang on to power. Hale for whatever reason doesn't feel Thompson is the right man.

If Hale wins it looks as if the old guard will have won it for him and I am sure the more recent shareholder will feel frustrated at this. However the door has been battered and is only hanging on its hinges. The thought of a rebellion like this would have been inconceivable 5 years ago. If Thompson remains a fan and sits in the Brummie like he says he will, his day could yet come. Even from the outside he could still subscribe to a new share issue launched by the Hale / Driscoll / R.Thompson camp and still maintain his 30% shareholding. There is no reason, if Thompson is the fan he says he is, why this should be the end of the story. After all, does anybody reading this intend to stop supporting the Albion? So why should Thompson.

So Hale has a second chance, but like Denis Smith, time is not on his side.

 - Julian Rowe

P.S. Well done on the brilliant coverage on the website

Hello Julian

I saw your message to the list giving your reasons for sticking with Tony. My sentiments are very similar to your own. I started from the Hale camp, admiring him for the change in constitution etc. Thinking him a modern man.

But as the debate has worn on I've swung further than you towards Thompson.

I can't bring myself to vote for more of the same. I think the game has changed far too quickly and the custodians of the club have tried too hard to cling to the old ways. I won't be part of that.

I do think that when the next ten years have passed there will be Europe, the Premiership and there will be the semi-pro game. The football league as we know it will no longer exist. It is already anachronistic.

As it stands we're odds on to be one of the losers.

I don't think Hale has a clue about all this and thinks that we can carry on as we are. We probably can for a year or two but we'll be back here again before too much time has passed.

Let's hope that when that time comes there will still be someone willing and able to do something about it and it won't already be too late.

Someone like Paul Thompson who sees the writing on the walls and understands the absolute urgency of that Premiership place and at all costs. I think this is at the root of his frustration with Hale and the reason for his current actions.

I hope I'm not saying "I told you so" as we wait for the fixtures for the 2008/9 season, wondering when we'll play Kiddy on Boxing Day on our shared ground.

 - Keith

Thank you for the excellent coverage you have provided of the power struggle. As a long distant fan now living in Harrogate your site is invaluable to me, keeping me upto date on these crucial events. Once again thank you.

Many have described these events as sad and a debacle, but disturbing as they may be, they are not as unpleasant as the events that have taken place on and off the field for the last 25 years, as a result of the management of our great club.

There is no doubting Tony Hale's credibility as an Albion fan, however there is every reason to question his suitability for running West Bromwich Albion PLC and FC. The desperate attempts by Tony Hale and his supporters to justify his record to date and try to put forward a credible plan for development would not be happening if Paul Thompson had not resigned from the board and started the events which will come to a head on Thursday. Their campaign presents the image of someone grasping at straws to maintain power for the sake of it, not someone with a clear vision and plan to develop the club and make it great again.

Although there have been some positive developments, the reign of Tony Hale has compounded the events of those who have gone before him and resulted in our very proud club being viewed as an also ran, fast losing ground on those who have not an ounce of our history as a provider of entertaining football amongst football's elite.

There are enough people around the club, in the guise of the supporters and shareholders who provide the support and the foundation of the clubs income, who are Albion people. What these people need and deserve are a board that can plan, maximise and deliver long term success. Not a board who have made some changes but can obviously not make the events happen that will move us forward to a premier position.

Nobody seriously in their hearts believes that our current structure will deliver what we want. If these EGM events were not happening who honestly could look forward to the new season with a feeling of optimism and belief that we would succeed. The sorry close to last season should be the final curtain on Tony Hales' control, this should not be done in a malicious way but in a positive manner.

Give Paul Thompson the chance to put his three year plan into operation. There will be many thousands of people who will judge him if he does not deliver but the "missing thousands" from our gates and our state of mediocrity provide the verdict that now is the time for change.

 - Roger Bloxham

I'm sure most people are sick of reading essays so I'll try and keep this as brief as possible. Paul Thompson has been roundly condemned for not being a local man, yet it has not been until he called this EGM that anyone has tried to ruffle the feathers of the tired old faces that have been responsible for the demise of a once great club.

Having read all of the correspondence sent over the last few weeks, I have been shocked by some of the nonsense contained in the letters from the Hale camp. These are the people casting doubt over PT's motives yet they then invite Richard Thompson to join them, a man famous for leap-frogging from club to club as the mood takes him.

As if that wasn't enough, in Hale's latest letter seems to suggest that anyone voting for PT lacks intelligence. I find this comment unnecessary, childish and insulting to all those trying to make a reasoned decision.

Well Mr. Hale, you have only succeeded in forcing me to vote against you. I hope my honours degree and post-graduate professional qualifications will be enough to persuade you that I am not that thick.

 - Adam Penn

Firstly can I just say thanks for the fantastic job you (and the team) have been doing in compiling the information on this fiasco at our club... as an avid follower of the BOING web page over the last couple of years or so, can I say you have surpassed yourselves this time.

I've been fortunate enough to have been in the Far East on holiday for the past three weeks and so have missed out on all the Radio and press interviews and the opportunity to attend any of the forums organised by the two factions.

However as a shareholder with some 40 odd shares plus a Premier Share (at the moment this alone feels like a life sentence, - based on last seasons performances I'd have more hope of getting out of a Thai jail than seeing the team achieve the promised land!) I have had the pleasure of being bombarded with ever increasing loads of paperwork from both sides to read.

Interestingly, reading the papers chronologically in one go without the days in between to digest and take other outside opinions (other than through this web site) has probably helped me to formulate a decision.

I have also had the opportunity to speak at length to Dr John Evans last week on the subject who was, to be fair, straight down the middle and, quite rightly, told me that as Company Secretary he could offer no guidance or insider information etc.

All he would tell me was that, as both camps appeared (as of Friday) to be fairly equal in their split of votes from major holdings or supporters, i.e. 30 odd percent each, the remaining third, namely from ourselves as shareholders would be critical.

Apparently my 40 odd shares is actually a relatively substantial holding compared to most people having one or two or a Premier Share. Oh dear, the pressure...

Seriously, it is vital all people able to vote do so on Thursday, I will be and (unless something absolutely amazing transpires at the EGM) will be voting for Paul Thompson.

I do this based on three things:

  • Firstly reading and evaluating the correspondence;
  • Secondly like previous correspondents have indicated I'd rather have Paul Thompson running our club since at least he will probably remain the majority shareholder for the next three years and I'm not sure if Tony Hale can do this with other potential investors in the wings who may put more funds in than he;
  • And thirdly (and purely subjective on my part) I sit in the row of seats in the Halfords Lane stand - right in front of the Directors box. At most games, before and during half time, whilst he has been a Director, Paul Thompson spends most of his time (with what I think are his two sons) talking to fans about the game, his feelings, frustrations etc. He does not retreat to the comfort of the Directors Lounge.

This has convinced me he has the interests of West Bromwich Albion at heart and no matter what others would say, appears to have been committed for a while now to what we all want. To be clear I have never spoken to Mr Thompson at games nor do I have any connection to him in any capacity it is just a feel I get watching him from some twenty yards away.

Can I just finish on saying once again, please keep up with the good work, lets hope the club gets itself on a stable footing and we all move forward together.

 - Steve Sutton

We (some of us) vote on whether Hale should stay as chairman of WBA plc. But we also have to figure out the consequences that follow from the vote.

There is an urgent need for change at WBA. The relatively poor performances on the field, IMO reflect deficiencies off it. Managers and players have been recruited whose abilities, on the whole have been limited. IMO Smiths transfer decisions have been no worse than Harfords. So messrs Brandrick, Hale, Hurst and Thompson and Wile have to take some responsibility for these shortcomings. Either for appointing the managers or for shaping the transfers and contract criteria. The question is who takes most of the blame?

We know from long and painful experience that the organisational, commercial and PR arrangements are amateurish and often incompetent. Recall Roy Broadhursts bitter experiences when trying to lend a hand, and his related diagnosis of an organisational culture of indifference and cynicism? So the problems are deeply embedded in the Hawthorns organisation. What evidence or prospects for change?

Judged on most of these yardsticks Tony Hale, as chairman, has been a failure. He isnt solely to blame, but from what we have learned about the chairmans role at WBA he has the decisive influence. Hale has achieved some successes, as he has been quick to remind us: rebuilding the stadium, floating WBA as a plc, bringing in the (poisoned chalice?) Thompson-geld, the youth developments, and possibly the new training ground. But his management style is very much 'seat of the pants' improvisation. Some of his achievements are temporary gains. The money from the float is all gone, the ground is not finished and is being overtaken in quality by competitors. The training ground is yet to be completely financed and agreed with the authorities. It will take another cash injection to realise this. To use an athletic metaphor TH helped put us in touch with the pack, but the leaders (in Div 1) are pulling away again and weve little left in reserve.

We will only get back in the race if: 1) organisational and commercial efficiency is improved and, 2) there is a capital injection for the grounds, players, and infrastructure. PT has mentioned a sum of 10 million. That is surely a minimum. Where will it come from? For Hale and his backers who have shied away from total figures - it would mean his three new directors finding around 8 million pounds to add to the 1 million Hale has promised and being outrageously optimistic one million that might be raised from punters and fans. If we assume that Colston, Driscoll and R. Thompson put in 1 million, 2 million and 3 million respectively (judging from personal profiles this seems the most likely ratio) that would make the latter pair the biggest shareholders and give them the 25% blocking position.

If they dont put in these kinds of sums it is difficult to see how the club can advance. But if they do, it probably means bye-bye Tone at some later point, and the prospect of WBAs fate being decided by the man who put paid to QPR.

IMO all of this points to Hales leadership being only temporary. He will probably be forced out either by more fan unrest or because his new backers play the Thompson gambit when their investments arent repaid with success. So assuming Hale were to go now would we be better off with a Thompson regime? On the commercial and organisational side, there would almost certainly be some improvement, bearing in mind the present, low level. Hurst and Stapleton would remain but probably only as bit players. Thompson would hold most of the reins and bring on to the board people with more money and ability than the latter two. On the other hand, he'd be keen to keep the biggest shareholding. So would probably recruit about four new people at about a million or two each - he's said that theres no reason why the board should not be bigger. Though I guess he'd take care they were unrelated and put in more of his own cash to underwrite the issue and maintain his proportion of the total shares. I doubt he would set a target of 10 million if he didn't think he could achieve it.

The weak point in the Thompson plan is that he envisages only 3 of the 10 million going on new players. Though he does say this should ideally be higher. We will surely need more to finance a realistic promotion team. Doubts also arise in relation to his attitudes to transfers. He's partly answered the accusations of his meddling with Harfords decisions, but might his procedures for evaluating and agreeing new signings - a committee of: manager, CEO, chairman and other appropriate people - be too rigid? Perhaps, but many signed under the present system - DeFreitas, Van Blerk, Quinn, Bortolazzi - have not been unqualified successes; and thats not to mention all the ones that got away - the Pearces, Hinds, Calderwoods etc.

So on balance I score a Thompson regime as more likely to achieve success than a new Hale line-up. PT has set a target of top six in all categories - ground, commerce. League position, in three years: not very ambitious but realisable. Hale has set no specific targets to work to. And, if I'm right and Hale is on borrowed time, PT is also more of a known quality than the likes of Richard Thompson. He has proven commercial ability and has so far been forthcoming as regards his interests and motives. Whatever you think of Hurst and Stapletons abilities, they don't seem to be given to untruths, and they have, in public and private comments, been genuinely full of praise for Thompsons ability and integrity. He may not be the answer but he's all thats really on offer. Like Alan Sugar at Spurs, he may not have started out as a genuine fan, but he's likely to get the bug the more he gets involved.

I am not 100% happy with PT. If he gets too much of a hands-on involvement in player-deals we could lose better players than we recruit. But he's surely intelligent enough to realise when he's messing up his own targets. With Hales new line-up the predictable 'soldiering-on' could lead to another crisis when the new backers 'do a Thompson' because there's no sign of achievemnts from their investments. The Thompson regime therefore looks a bit more predictable in that sense and more progressive. Thompson has asked, in effect, for three years to make an impact.We've got that in writing. That seems a reasonable offer under present circumstances.

Hale is no longer the safe bet. PT has answered several of my concerns. There's an element of risk but the old phrase "beggars cant be choosers" comes to mind.

 - BJ

Firstly, may I congratulate you on an excellent web site. I have followed with great interest your superb & most detailed coverage of the "Power Struggle".

Secondly, I feel it necessary for me to comment on Mr Hale's most ignorant and appalling final letter to shareholders dated July 2nd. He obviously does not understand or has not read any of Mr Thompson's letters.

Re. 1st Paragraph:
"Unnecessary meeting....reasons that he never established"
The meeting was called quite simply because of our poor performances on and OFF the pitch over the past five years under Mr Hale's leadership - or lack of it.

Re. 2nd Paragraph & beginning of the 3rd
"..ill prepared and badly construed letters...half facts and misleading statements, would have failed to impress intelligent shareholders...not once...did Mr Thompson..submit a plan...because he did not have one...and more importantly could not produce one"
I was correct, he has not read the letters has he ? - They certainly were not badly construed, neither should I think they were ill prepared. Could you spot any misleading statements or half facts? I believe many intelligent shareholders would have been very impressed by Mr Thompson's letters and surely would have been insulted by Mr Hale's statement.

The next point is incredible. Mr Thompson submitted his plan to the board two years ago! This was revealed to Shareholders in Mr Thompson's letter dated 30 June 1999. He has not read the letters, has he?

His comment, "He did not have one...Could not Produce one" must surely be bordering on the libel. Hardly surprising he already has a writ against his name.

Re. 3rd Paragraph
"...involve the Club in the unnecessary costs in excess of £25,000..."
He cannot be serious, can he? Why should shareholders pay for him to defend his position as Chairman - Particularly, as I think he will find, most Shareholders do not even want him as Chairman? The Club will not be paying Mr Thompson's bills and he is the largest shareholder. If I was Mr Thompson I would insist on the club sending him the bill - this I hope he will do should he become the new Chairman.

Re. 4th Paragraph
"...the manner in which I plan to take the club forward..."
Mr Hale's plan is just a regurgitation of the plan Mr Thompson put forward in 1997, which I understand Mr Hale rejected out of hand!

Re. 5th Paragraph
"...Mr. Richard Thompson...well known within footballing circles..."
Well that just about says it all, doesn't it ? - I wonder who the next club will be that he tries to get involved in? He failed at Q.P.R. and was hounded out by the supporters after relegation from the Premier League. He jumped ship at Leeds United just when the club was going through a purple patch - why?

Re. 6th Paragraph
"...the beloved Albion remains with Albion people"
Compare the two groups of these three gentlemen. If Mr Thompson is successful:

  • Clive Stapleton - Life long Albion man & Director for eight years.
  • Barry Hurst - Life long Albion man & Director for seven years.
  • Paul Thompson - Supported Albion for the past three years home and away. Has injected more cash into the Club than any other man in the Clubs history. Committed to the future success of the Club and will put in more of his own money.

If Mr Hale is successful:

  • Don Colston - A known Birmingham City supporter. Lives 5,000 miles away. Has only ever been to a handful of Albion games and only one as a Director.
  • Jim Driscoll, MBE (must remember that just for Tony - he got it from the Queen too didn't he ?) - Reportedly an Albion supporter but again has only been seen at a handful of Albion games and I understand that's only when he gets an invite from Mr Hale.
  • Richard Thompson - Well, enough said...

Could you please tell me which group you believe are the "Albion people"?

How can Mr Hale accuse Mr Thompson of providing half facts and misleading statements?

As I am sure you are aware, I will be supporting the resolution, the call for change. This I am sure will give us the opportunity to gain a leader with stature who will restore the pride and former glory of our once great Club.

 - Mr. Harris, Shareholder & Life long supporter

Hello Finbarr, riveting stuff soo far!! If it wasn't so bloody tragic it would be farcical. From the genuine supporters viewpoint it's terrible to see the club being torn apart in public and the dirty linen hanging out for all to see.

Once again, you are to be congratulated on the excellent presentation and coverage your web site has given to the whole matter and I look forward to following the saga to it's conclusion on July 8th. From reading the early exchanges between the combatants, I was reminded of the words from the old ABBA song "One of us is lying".

The picture that has emerged is of a board that have been deeply divided for some time and of a simmering personality clash between two very able and capable adversaries. I told you the first time of writing that I did not fully trust Paul Thompson and was dubious concerning his motives for wanting to take over at the Albion. I can confirm that from reading the information you have made available, my position on this matter has been reinforced and I now firmly believe that it will be a sad day indeed if this man is allowed to gain control of the club. The letter from Alan Reynolds to Paul Thompson, whilst being emotional, was from a genuine and articulate supporter and the views and concerns expressed were spot on and would reflect the feelings of many of the genuine fans of this club. I was delighted to read that this letter had been circulated to all shareholders via the Supporters Association.

The Radio interview with Tony Hale was also very interesting especially when he mentioned that it was Paul Thompson who had been dealing with the manager and not himself. It may go a long way to explaning the sudden departure of Ray Harford.

Tony Hale has now revealed his backers and has the support of Graham Waldron who I was delighted to see was seeking assurances before committing his vote. It looks very much like it may well be the votes of the ordinary Joe shareholder that will decide the outcome of this matter and I firmly believe that this is way it should be. I have no doubt that TH is totally genuine in his committment to this club and of the two candidates would have the long term interests of WBA a lot closer to his heart.

One way or another, when the smoke clears, the complacency should be gone from the Albion boardroom and woe betide the victor if promises being made are not kept because, if nothing else, the supporters have, between the team and the board, taken enough crap recently and will not stand for any more.

 - Paul Peavoy

Thank you for your most informative commentary on the "Power struggle".

Change is needed at WBAFC for a number of reasons. The playing staff, the public relations, the business ethos, the organisation on the field and off the field, the relations with the fans both existing and prospective, the lack of business plan and timetable for improvement, the isolated nature of the club's set-up within football ... the list is endless.

Change is needed and needed fast if we are to keep up with the likes of Blues and Co. Put away your Conservative, Traditional and insular views, it is time to progress from the parochial family club that we are, to the sleek business model that most successful clubs have become. Like it or lump it that is the future and we, dear reader, our miles away from it.

There's no point patting yourself on the back in the Halfords Lane when you think you've arrived and are finally part of the Establishment, when the club that you support is nothing more than a has-been dinosaur long left behind by its close relatives.

And it is all very well carping on about the training initiative and the blossoming of the younger players but five whole years to achieve this? The rate Messrs. Hale and Co. are going it won't be until at least 2005 until we will be in a position to improve our status.

Call me impatient but to have spent nearly 20 years in the doldrums is quite simply not good enough. Where is the sense of urgency? Where is the sense that we the punters will not take it any longer? Where is the sense that all the lapsed and disillusioned fans are going to return?

I say that Hale may well be able to play the "Albion fan" card but be very wary of he who sat there jealously guarding his own position at the helm of a very mediocre football club, rather than selflessly dragging it kicking and screaming into the Millenium. Be very wary.

I find it quite telling that it is only now, when he is under pressure that he can be bothered to approach cronies about supporting him. Not, mark you, to plough funds into our beleaguered club but only to back him in his selfish pursuit of remaining as Chairman.

Hale may well appear more of an Albion fan than Thompson but above all, he is a Hale fan whereas the latter, at least, appears to have no delusions of grandeur.

Shareholders everywhere, please, please, please vote "For".

 - The Jackal

Dear Chris, Please find below brief notes on the points that I was trying to make at the meeting of shareholders the other evening. I hope that you find them to be of some use. My thoughts are based upon many years of experience in organisational and institutional development in many parts of the world.

If I can be of any further help to you, please let me know.


 - Arthur Rothe

Related Articles

  The 1999 Power Struggle

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