By Rob Cole
Former shareholder Rob Davies fears Swansea City could follow in the footsteps of Blackburn Rovers, Blackpool and Wigan and tumble down the leagues if the fans don’t start getting behind the team and the board.
Davies sold his shares for £9m last year when the American consortium took control and has looked on in dismay ever since as in-fighting and poor results have steered the club to the bottom of the Premier League.
But Davies, who invested £50,000 on the morning of the crisis match against Hull City in 2003 and then added a further tranche of £50,000 afterwards, believes relegation is the least of the clubs problems.
“There is so much ego, envy and bitterness involved in the current spat between the Supporters Trust, its former members and the club at the moment. There was a time when the relationship was at the heart of everything that was good about Swansea City – now it is almost rotten to the core,” said Davies.
“Now my fear is not so much that relegation will come, but that Swansea will go the same way as Blackburn, Blackpool and Wigan and simply tumble down the divisions. Oblivion beckons if Swansea City can’t recapture the heart and soul that made it such a united force.
“Huw Jenkins has admitted to making mistakes, yet only a few seasons ago he was being heralded as a breath of fresh air in the Premier League with his transfer dealings. We made almost as much money from selling managers as we did players.
“Despite a life-long commitment to the Swans, I’m sure Huw would love to walk-away from the club right now. If he doesn’t, then I think he will leave in the summer if Swansea are relegated.
“But what will happen then? The American money has kept the club afloat, but they are a bit remote on the other side of the Atlantic.
“Huw has been vital in providing a continuous, local link in the boardroom, but if he goes we could see another situation like they had at Blackburn with the Venkys.
“Now is the time for the real Swansea City fans to stop getting side-tracked by malicious gossip, and a missed opportunity, and to get behind their club. If they don’t, I fear for the club and the city.”
Davies, who is still a major backer of the Ospreys, believes a lot of the current unrest has been promoted by the former chairman of the Supporters Trust, Phil Sumbler. Having led the Trust board for more than 11 years, a period that covered the club’s rise from the lower reaches of the Football League to the heights of the Premier League, he stepped down earlier this year and was at the forefront of the creation of a new supporters group, the Swansea City Supporters Association.
The stated aim of the SCSA is “to bring Swansea City Football Club back to its fans, a position we are nowhere near at the moment.” They claim the sale to the American consortium in 2016 left them with several challenges to overcome.
They claim people like Davies and current chairman Jenkins “chose to sell the club behind the backs of the supporters” and that they did this “despite the supporters holding a significant shareholding in Swansea City”.
The SCSA also claim “the supporters’ shareholding, presence and voice have been devalued” and that the position of the Supporters’ Trust has been weakened. Davies has no truck with that view.
“The Supporters Trust has caused a lot of animosity. They have turned on the club and the chairman and broken the club,” said Davies.
“They have claimed in the past that they weren’t aware of the deal that saw the US consortium take over. That simply isn’t true.
“I sat in a meeting with the then chairman, Phil Sumbler, and the secretary, Nigel Hamer, back in March 2016 and outlined the deal to them. There was £20m on offer for their stake, but over the next four months they didn’t make a decision.
“The sale to the Americans simply had to go through because there was no money in the club. It was operating off a small facility at Barclays bank and, with the escalation in players wages, everything that came in was going out.
“Another untruth that has been pushed hard is that the shareholders took money out of the club when we sold our shares. None of the money that was paid out came from the club coffers – it all came from the Americans.
“Some people forget just how bad the situation was before that Hull City game in Division 3 back in 2001. That was the day on which I put £50,000 into the club and didn’t expect to ever get it back.
“I invested another £50,000 and was happy to sell my stake for £9m some 16 years later. But I took a risk, just as others like Huw Jenkins did, in investing money.
“Some of the shareholders took out second mortgages, borrowed money and, in Huw’s case, commuted the cost of buying a tractor to help mow the old Vetch Field into shares. Without this commitment and investment the club could have folded many years ago.
“There were dividends paid to the shareholders from the club, but the Supporters Trust gladly accepted £800,000 in their share and actively supported the move to pay dividends. My view all along, as I expressed to the Trust board members, was that they should take the money, save it for a rainy day and, if the club ever got into trouble in the future, they could use it to buy it back.
“Now they are trying to do a different deal, and are using the way in which the take-over came about to beat the board, and particularly the chairman, around the head. I wonder if that has got anything to do with the fact the money can only be used to help the club or support charitable institutions?
“There is so much ego, envy and bitterness involved in the spat between the Trust, its former members and the club at the moment. There was a time when the relationship was at the heart of everything that was good about Swansea City – now it is almost rotten to the core.”