TOWN IN TURMOIL: ‘This football club is going to die’, says ousted chairman

Hucknall Town owner Steve Greaves
Hucknall Town owner Steve Greaves

WHEN 56-year-old businessman Steve Greaves breezed into Watnall Road last October, he was excitedly looking forward to breathing new life into the sleeping giant that has become Hucknall Town Football Club.

Of turning Town into a thriving community asset that Hucknall could be proud of.

Of restoring the glory days that once saw The Yellows promoted, on paper, to the Conference and contesting the FA Trophy final at Villa Park.

But now, only 14 weeks on, after being ousted after becoming the subject of a vote of no confidence from club members, his sentiments are very different. “This football club is going to die,” he said this week. “And I am so upset about it.”

Greaves’s views are an indication of how his much-trumpeted takeover of Town, alongside highly-respected ex-pro Michael Johnson, went spectacularly wrong.

And he can easily pinpoint one good reason. “I simply never knew where my money was going,” he claims.

“Yes, I am a self-made multi-millionaire but I need to know how my money is being spent.

“I knew I would have to pump thousands of pounds into the club. I accepted that because I love football.

“But I kept asking for the books — and I never got them. We were expected to put the money in without having a look at anything.

“There was no clarity and I was incensed at the way I was treated.”

Many fans will be bewildered why a man who, to all intents and purposes, was the new owner of the club, could have so little control.

But although Greaves was elected chairman and Johnson vice-chairman, Town’s day-to-day administration was presided over by chief executive Liz Morley.

Morley is a personal friend of Johnson. But from an early stage, she was at loggerheads with Greaves over the financial management of The Yellows.

“Initially, I was paying in between £2,000 and £3,000 a week,” says Greaves. “But in the end, I had to cut back to just the playing budget.”

Greaves estimates that he injected a total of more than £20,000 into Town during his tenure. And given that he viewed this as a loan, he says he will be taking legal action to retrieve it.

“I have all the receipts, invoices and cheque stubs,” he says.

Despite incentives to fans, gates for home matches remained poor.

But Greaves always insisted he had a business plan to make the club self-sufficient, rather than rely on a single benefactor, as they had in the past with Brian Holmes.

This plan included making the Talk Of The Town social club much more commercially viable.

“I have a very clear understanding of money issues in football and I am deeply offended by statements that imply an inability to produce the money,” he says.

However his disputes with Morley over the club’s cashflow got worse.

And they reached boiling point when he heard that one of the backers who had promised money to the club in return for shares — as part of a vital scheme to turn Town into a limited company — was asking for the return of his cash.

Concerned that other such promises might not be guaranteed, that he might be saddled with debts he had not budgeted for and that the shares scheme might collapse, Greaves called a meeting with the club’s trustees, demanding control over Town’s finances and the removal of Morley.

When this ploy failed, he signalled his intention to step down until the committee had decided on its future direction for the club, and he left the country for a two-week holiday.

His frustrations were intensified by the resignation of Town’s key financial adviser, accountant Mark Burnell.

While on holiday, Greaves launched a last-ditch bid, via an online propaganda offensive, to persuade the club to accept his proposals for the future of Town. That bid led to last Sunday’s meeting, and the vote of rejection.

After the vote, Greaves said: “I am devastated. I am bitterly disappointed with the result of the vote. I think a lot of the members are thinking parochially.

“However the meeting was illegal and the decision was pre-determined. It was a kangaroo court.

“We had big plans to take Hucknall Town forward and turn it into a community club. But I believe they will be in dire straits now.

“I came into this with the best intentions and I would like to thank the fans and everyone involved who have supported me.

“I fear now that the fans will vote with their feet. But my real fear is that the club will lose their ground. This decision has massive ramifications.”