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Archived News from November 2006

2nd November 2006 0:00

CHAD letters, 01 November 2006

(Haslam letter is here)


Further to Keith Haslam's letter in last week's Chad regarding Team Mansfield's (TM) activities and purpose. I'm delighted Keith has finally found the time to write a letter of such length and detail to which I feel I should respond.

Most readers of the Chad and I suspect nearly all Stags fans will be aware of TM's desire to see fair, transparent and robust corporate governance at MTFC including, where appropriate, responsible fan involvement. They will also be aware of the persistent breaches of Company Law, illegal loans, poor corporate governance (including breaching his Shareholders agreement with TM) by the Chief Executive of our club. They will also be aware that in 14 years since Mr Haslam took control of MTFC, his tenure has achieved the dubious distinction of the Stags having the worst average long term league position in its Football League history.

Despite the claim in Mr Haslam's letter that he “doesn't know what TM is about”, TM's stated aims have always been to further the aims of Stags' fans and the local community in whatever form has been appropriate at the time and to comply with the objectives of TM's published rules. Some examples of what TM has done to assist MTFC:

At a supporter level:
• TM played a key role in forming SSA and bringing about all the benefits enjoyed by fans as a result including investment in the Youth Team and Football in the Community.
• TM established Community Consultation Team Meetings (CCTs) with Keith Haslam to bring fan issues to the attention of the club. Now abandoned by Keith Haslam
• TM established the club Open Days each season.
• TM established the MTFC web site
• TM established Fan's Forums. Now abandoned by Keith Haslam

At a Club level:
• Invested £33,000 in new Community Shares in MTFC to be invested in facilities for the fans and community.
• Established entirely through voluntary work a legally binding framework for fan involvement at MTFC through a Shareholders Agreement. Breached and ignored by Keith Haslam

At a national level:
• Through national newspaper coverage brought to the attention of fans and the authorities the illegal acts and poor governance being perpetrated by Keith Haslam.
• Encouraged regulatory bodies to investigate the activities of Keith Haslam where appropriate.
• Published our Shareholders Agreement as one of the best fan involvement frameworks of its type in the UK.
• Attended and hosted regular meetings of of the Government's Supporters Direct initiative and provided positive input and constructive dialogue with other supporters' trusts, MPs, the Football Association and the Football League.

The TM board and I believe that all of the above are in the interests of MTFC. We accept they may not be in the best interests of Keith Haslam but offer no apology for making the distinction. I must also state that TM has never encouraged fans to boycott games or to not support the team, in fact quite the contrary. It is the behaviour of Keith Haslam that has led to numerous fans no longer attending Field Mill, sadly including me, a regular fan for 30 years.

Since April 2006 I, together with others from the TM Board have chosen not to make any public comments whilst Mr Haslam has continually threatened to instigate proceedings for allegedly damaging his reputation. During this time, my Co-Chairman did attempt to engage Mr Haslam, we did meet Keith in June and I attempted to meet Peter Lee, our 'new Chairman' in July. These approaches were met in varying degrees with more legal correspondence and threats of proceedings. All I can say is that this sort of action makes meaningful communication impossible; including making any postings to our web site which we believed and now know is being monitored. Could Keith please tell also us who this 'minority of so called fans' are that he blames for his problems, if it's not TM? It is not acceptable for Mr Haslam to make inferences against unnamed people which any reasonable reader would assume to be TM given his previous comments, and then to hide behind a notion of other 'so called supporters' being responsible whilst he continues to threaten action when we dare comment.

I find the inference in Mr Haslam's letter that TM has in some way failed in its compliance responsibilities disturbing. TM converted to an Industrial and Provident Society (a Co-operative) in 2002 for a number of reasons but largely to allow those wishing to donate to TM to invest in MTFC (yes, that's right, to help MTFC) to become the owners and shareholders of TM and by definition shareholders in MTFC. TM is still liable for corporation tax despite what Mr Haslam may believe, produces annual accounts, files returns with the FSA and holds AGM's, all delivered on time on a voluntary basis. Something MTFC as a full time organisation has regularly been unable to achieve.

I'm not sure whether I've ever been as insulted as to have my business acumen question by the Chief Executive of MTFC. I'm also surprised Keith is so keen to disclose certain facts about the 'exercise' he instigated on the eve of the supporters march last February. I understand some people have even suggested this 'exercise' was a panic action by someone who had no intention of seeing the process through, nevertheless it's important to state the following:

• TM requested one day due diligence for our financial advisors which was refused.
• TM requested up to one week of access to Field Mill for our valuation advisors to asses the value of the assets, this was refused.

In the context of raising finance for a bid this was vital work. This would also go some way to answering the question of what MTFC might be worth. The question of the price Mr Haslam wanted for MTFC was never answered and makes his comments about 'massive interest payments' quite revealing as he clearly had a large price in mind if the payment of interest was going to be so big. TM would have only progressed a bid at a sustainable price and are confident that MTFC, not being drained of £1.2m of working capital by its majority shareholder, would be not only be able to survive but to thrive. Simply put, we do not accept that the only ownership model for our club is an owner-managed business operated at a subsistence level, in order it would appear, to maximise the return for its major shareholder.

TM has always worked on the basis of seeking approval from its members and the broad spectrum of Stags fans before commencing any major activity. When we set up in 1999 we called a mass meeting to present our proposals, 600 people attended and with their help and goodwill TM was born. In 2001, over 98% of our members that voted agreed to enter into an agreement with Keith Haslam and 300 people (including Keith) attended a public meeting to support the proposal. Nearly 200 people donated money to TM to buy shares in MTFC and over 600 marched against Keith Haslam in February 2006 when we called for action against the loans he had taken from our club. TM will continue to seek significant governance and ownership change at MTFC and will continue to do so whilst we have the support of Stags' fans, including those on the internet who are apparently abandoning us. The coming months will see major changes for TM and no doubt we will try hard to engage with Keith Haslam again, the success or otherwise of any engagement will depend largely on the attitude of the man himself. Personally, I've tried to be constructive for over seven years as the Chair of TM and found the experience, shall we say, frustrating. I now realise that not only does Keith Haslam not recognise me, I'm also irrelevant - nice!

Team Mansfield Supporters' Society Ltd.


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