On Tuesday night, I tendered my resignation as a director of Lewes FC. It was a miserable moment for me, because it was a great privilege to be voted in as a director, it was a role I loved doing and I gave it my all.
I had planned to step down at the end of the season, as I felt I’d done my bit and didn’t want to re-stand for election next autumn. Alas, a recent incident — which I’m not going into further detail about here or elsewhere — left me convinced that much of the hard work I and others had put into building the club’s reputation had been needlessly squandered.
That, combined with a long-term frustration at the direction in which the club is headed, left me with an unshakeable feeling that this wasn’t a board I wished to be part of anymore.
The club has become overwhelmed by the single issue of the equality campaign. I joined a football club and feel like I’m leaving a political party.
I had my doubts about the pay parity initiative, I still do (my side bet is it will be abandoned as impractical once either of the first teams is promoted without the other), but there’s no doubt it’s brought a lot of attention and success to the club. Elevation to the WSL was won on the back of it, attendances are well up and Fran Alonso’s revamped side have made a very good start to this season. It’s been much more successful than I ever imagined it would be and the board members who drove it deserve credit.
All of that is great, but it’s not the be all and end all. The equality campaign has become an internal crusade that trumps all else. Just last month, a couple of directors suggested it should be the board’s “priority” to attend a literary festival the club was running an equality event at, instead of a game at Margate on the same day. My view was that we were running a football club, not a think tank.
There are some board members who can’t seem to accept that some people’s primary motivation for being part of a football club is the football, not the club’s politics. A democratically elected board of directors should represent a range of views, but some on the board crave groupthink.
In the end, I felt it best to go, rather than risk further confrontation.
Before I sign off, I want to thank all the board members I’ve worked with over the years, all of whom have made enormous contributions of time, money, effort or all three. In particular, I want to thank two people. Kev Brook was my predecessor as club secretary and was unstintingly patient with me when I called him at 10pm on midweek nights to ask which of the 18 forms I was meant to use to sign a loan player. He’s been invaluable to the club in so many respects for a decade and remains so to this day.
I’m also enormously proud and grateful to have spent the past five years working alongside our chairman, Stuart Fuller. His support, knowledge and work ethic have been immense. I can’t remember us having a crossed word in five years, despite the fact the man’s in a near permanent state of jetlag.
Finally, I want to thank Darren Freeman, Ross Standen and Tony Coade for the absolute professionalism and devotion they’ve shown since the moment they walked through the gates. I spend more time talking to Darren than I do my other half, and though there were times when I could cheerfully — if not physically — have throttled him (“Baz, I know it’s nearly midnight, but can we sign six players on by tomorrow morning?”), he’s pulled this club around by sheer force of will.
And that’s not to mention the players, staff, formidable volunteers (Roger Feltham deserves a statue, next to Ethel, David and Barbara’s) and supporters who make this club what it is.
I won’t be mingling back into the terraces just yet. I’ll continue as club secretary (if I’m still let in the gates after this) until the club finds a replacement and I’m already talking about ways I might help out in my ‘retirement’.
I’m probably the first football director in history to stand down to spend more time with the football. There’s another Lewes first.