It is probably a reflection on the autocratic way in which most football clubs are run that when a chairman actually seems to be acting in a way that is beneficial to his club and his supporters, it can almost feel counter-intuitive. What, one could be tempted to think, is his ulterior motive? In the case of John Radford, the chairman of Mansfield Town, the answer seems to be, “the good of his football club”, and both Radford and Mansfield had a decent result at their local County Court yesterday. Keith Haslam has already tried to repossess Field Mill from the Stags once this season and today saw the beginning of his second attempt to throw them out of their home. He has failed, for now.
After his previous antics, revised terms for a lease were agreed between Haslam and the club, but the club refused to sign it and now claim that Haslam attempted to change its terms. So it was that thirty or so supporters, Radford, Haslam, Chief Executive Steve Barker and supporter-director Darren Shaw all turned out at Mansfield County Court to try and thrash the matter out. The result was a good one for Mansfield. He decreed that the club must not be evicted from Field Mill until the end of next season and the case has been adjourned to the middle of April, when it will be heard at Birmingham Crown Court. A video detailing what happened yesterday can be seen here:
The video is self-explanatory, but it is worth taking a moment to ponder the actions and behaviour of Radford. We live, as football supporters, in difficult and troubling times and there seems to be no stemming of the flow of chancers, speculators and hucksters circling the game like vultures around carcasses. Radford’s pledge on Field Mill, however, is notable – should Haslam’s ownership of it be found to be illegal and the club’s ground be returned to its ownership, he has stated that he is happy to put the ground into the name of Stages Fans United, the club’s supporters trust, in order to ensure that this situation never happens again. Meanwhile, the examination of the club’s accounts and Haslam’s conduct during his time in charge of the club, which is being carried out on their behalf by the London-based law firm Pinsent Masons, will continue. There are no guarantees of any success from this ongoing work, but it feels as if a fog is lifting from over Mansfield Town FC.
Such forward thinking from a football club chairman will no doubt bring about considerable praise and doubtlessly some envious glances from the supporters of other clubs. It really isn’t too much for all football supporters to ask for – a home ground for their club and an owner that seems to genuinely care for his club. After all, for all of the woe that you read on this site and others, it is occasionally healthy to step back and consider that this is a game. We are supposed to enjoy it. In return for gestures such as this and the placing of a supporter-director on the board of the club, Radford has received phenomenal support – both vocal and financial – from the supporters trust and from the club’s broader support.
Mansfield aren’t yet out of the woods, of course. Haslam could yet win his case to evict the club from Field Mill and both Football Conference and Football League rules stipulate minimum terms for leases for clubs at their home grounds. They could yet be forced into a ground-share or to seek a new ground within the town. Maybe, in the fullness of time, the supporters of Mansfield Town will have the opportunity to put all of this nonsense behind them and will be able to get on with just supporting their team. On the evidence of what we have seen so far, Radford is a steady hand on the tiller after years of mismanagement and being asset-stripped and we can be as sure as we can be, on the evidence of what we have seen, that he is acting in the very best interests of his club and the people of his town. If only we were all this lucky.
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