The Michael Wood Column

Thursday 16 May, 2002

What kind of chairman do we want anyway?

Geoffrey Richmond missed Thursday's meeting with the rest of the Football League chairmen with the word in London being that the City headman had stayed in Yorkshire because of Bradford's pressing financial problems. For many, this will be music to the ears.

There is a school of thought that suggests that GR spends too much time on matters away from Valley Parade and that the current crisis is at least in part down to that. An alternate view says that GR's seat at the top table has given City a valuable heads up and that had we not known so intricately the dealings of the league then this crisis could have blindsided us instead of being met head on.

With all things up in the air at Valley Parade perhaps it is worth pause for thought as to what sort of chairman we do want at Valley Parade.

Despite GR's success at City he has many critics. He stands accused on separate occasions on a multitude of offences from taking too much money from the club to acting like a spoilt child mad on power.

Considering the state that GR found City in his payments, some £2m in dividends over the past seven years seem cheap, cheap that is when compared to what the likes of John Harvey Jones would expect to turn around a club going no where and put it into the Premiership.

Many have suggested that GR is paid by the club, rather than from the club, a salaried employee. It's a nice idea but infers an altruism of time that is rare. Why would a chairman who got a flat salary work eighty hours a week when they are paid for forty?

Like it of loathe it if you want a man at the top who is hungry for you to succeed then you have to make it worth that person's effort. You have to reward extra effort.

But what of GR's extra work? Is it in Bradford City's best interests to have seat at the top table? Certainly in the case of ITV Digital I think that we are seeking a proactive solution to a problem that, to use the proverbial, will bite a lot of our peers on the backside later in the summer. You cannot help but get the feeling that we have spotted the meteor heading to Earth but the merits of worrying our final days as everyone else continues in blissful ignorance are debatable.

Certainly City fans like to see chairman as Chief Executive, which is Geoffrey Richmond's remit if not hit titular role. Richmond has a guiding hand in everything at Valley Parade, his stamp is all over everything at Valley Parade. The self-made shirt is classic Richmond, getting more involved to take more of the pie for the club. This quality, above all else, is one that the majority of Bantam's fans cherish.

Not for us the chairman in the Bahamas and Chief Exec at the ground creating an middle management tier, the system that still fails to get Premiership football at Wolves despite a nine point lead at one stage this season and the system that is acknowledged as a source of many of the problems at Maine Road that put that club in Division Two.

Hands on then, and as they used to say of movie man Irwin Allen, "Hands on and mouth on". City fans bend to Richmond's every word. Not all like what he says but all want to hear. When Richmond arrived at Valley Parade he made a point of increasing the flow of information out of Valley Parade. This characteristic is another thinks that a dream chairman would have.

Mistakes though are not the stuff of dreams. We want the impossible. We want an infallible chairman, one who never makes mistakes. Certainly the chairman we dream of would never have appointed Chris Hutchings or Jim Jefferies. Likewise that chairman would have got Chris Kamara to squeeze out of the team what Paul Jewell was able to. If there is perfection in a person, then send him to Valley Parade because any failure of any magnitude at Valley Parade is laid at the door of Geoffrey Richmond. Some are his fault. Much of the summer of 2000 that has left is in the mess of 2002 is a Richmond born mistake (Although he may say that someone had to control the club back then and with Chris Hutchings wanting nothing more than to coach the side, it had to be GR) but the fact that some guy somewhere had a problem at the ticket office is more micromanagement than macro concerns that Richmond deals in.

Realism is not a factor in the question "What kind of chairman do we want anyway?" It should be. If as City fans, the fabric of the club, we want to get the best man at the top and give him the best chance then some people need to stop loading the ills of teh world in the chairman's chair. The fact that Jim Jefferies team did not perform was not down to Geoffrey Richmond, Geoffrey Richmond's chequebook policy, ITV Digital or anything other than the fact that for all his credentials Jim Jefferies could not get a team to play well for two consecutive games and had little or no idea on how to organise a back line. The job of Bradford City chairman will always be impossible if you are judged on whether Andrew Tod can keep his arms by his side in the box.

Money of course. It should be mentioned that the ideal Bradford City chairman would have a Monty Brewster style approach to spending cash and throw as much of it at VP as possible with scant regard to the chances of getting it back.

In a short time Geoffrey Richmond will unveil his plan for the future of City. He will tell us how he intends to stop us haemorrhaging money and point us back in the right direction. People will hear and some will say he is wrong. Some will say that he should not be in his the role of chairman but few will know a single worthy name to replace him.

In my estimation Richmond is doing a job as well as anyone in the role can but how can we judge that if we do not know what we want from a chairman at Valley Parade. We need criteria to judge a chairman by before we talk about how well or badly a chairman is doing his job.

Index of column & Biography | Mail