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Rough ride for Board at AGM

Filed: Monday, 9th December 2002
By: Graeme Howlett

West Ham United's Board of Directors suffered a rough ride at this morning's AGM after several shareholders grilled Chairman Terry Brown and co. over the Club's current predicament.

The meeting, which took place at Upton Park this morning gave disappointed shareholders the opportunity to question Terry Brown over the Club's current problems. It was a rare chance for the supporters to quiz the Chairman face to face, and it was far from a comfortable ride for Brown who was subjected to a stream of questions and angry exchanges.

During the meeting Brown reiterated his earlier statements confirming there was no money available for transfers. Indeed, the clubs current debts amount to some 40m - with the projected total reaching some 48m by the end of the season.

Much of this figure is contained within short terms debts although the majority consists of long-term loans taken out prior to the rebuilding of the West Stand. Whatever the exact figures, the state of the Club's finances will surprise many.

Brown also confirmed at the meeting that he was prepared to stand down as Chairman if a suitable buyer for his stake in the club could be found. Yet he added that any potential investor would have to convince him that they would be buying into the club not purely for financial reasons, but also for the good of the club - a criteria which could potentially rule anybody out of contention.

Disappointingly for many the Chairman also revealed that the Club would not agree to invest in new players (as they did when faced with a similar situation back in 1997 when late signings John Hartson and Paul Kitson ensured Premiership survival) in order to fight the ominous threat of relegation - in fear, according to Brown, of following the same path as recently relegated Clubs.

"We do not at this present time have the funds," he said, "and what we don't want to do, as happened with Leicester City and Derby County, is invest money to try to stay up then ultimately go into administration.

"Therefore we have to be creative and bring in new players on loan or on Bosman free transfers."

The biggest shock of the day arrived with the vote to retain Brown as Club Chairman. The vote went narrowly in favour of keeping Brown, but by the narrowest margin - 55 votes to 47 - thanks in main to a group of newly installed shareholders present in order to condemn Brown to an embarrassing defeat.

Had that happened the final decision would have passed to the major shareholders - and with Brown the largest of those it is extremely unlikely that he would then have voted against himself. However a defeat in the vote would in itself have been a major embarrassment to the current administration.

We'll have more on the financial implications of today's revelations later in the week ...

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