A right of reply

Cod Almighty | Article

by Dave Roberts

11 September 2020

Recent Cod Almighty diaries, and the discussions they have provoked, have touched on several issues relating to the administration of Grimsby Town and the Mariners Trust. Dave, one of the trust representatives on the club board, responds.

EFL Trophy

The first thing to say is that the Mariners Trust has been against B teams in the EFL Trophy from the start. It is well documented that we had a major disagreement with the club about it when it was first voted on. Subsequently we have persuaded the club to vote against it. As part of our memorandum of understanding we have a written declaration that the club will never vote for B teams into the Football League structure; as far as I know we are the only club that has this. Although the trust is against it, we also think that supporters should be free to choose whether to support it or not, and not be criticised whatever their decision.

Personally, I have developed a slight different view in that, as chair of the Youth Development Association, I can see the great value the youngsters are getting from playing in these games, and as long as we are using the tournament for that purpose I believe it has some purpose. To my knowledge we have never played the first team in this tournament and if we did my view would be very different. Of course, I don't want the B teams in it, but that is not going change this season or next, no matter what we do. If you speak to the likes of Matty Pollock, he will tell you the value of playing in front of a crowd (albeit a small one) under floodlights and the benefit it has had as part of his development. Tuesday's game was a prime example of how it can benefit the youngsters with the debut of 15 year-old Louis Boyd, and him scoring a fantastic goal. Imagine what it would have been like for him and the others if that had been in front of a decent crowd.

When crowds are allowed back, the question fans should ask themselves is: by attending am I supporting the tournament or am I supporting our academy? Whatever decision they reach it should be respected.


I accept and take on board that the trust and the club could be better at communication: it is something we are always grappling with and can always be improved.

All I would say is that it needs to be judged from the point of view of all communication and not just that from the Trust. On some issues, communication is more appropriate coming from the club, and I hope you will agree that has improved significantly over recent times, particularly since Philip Day has taken over as club chair. Not always but often it is because we have pushed and prompted for that communication to take place.

I work very closely with Sam Strandt at the club and often ask him to put things out on the club website and social media: again that has improved significantly in the last year. Just to be clear, Sam deserves all the praise for that, but the point is that sometimes the content is driven by me and the trust.

In the same way we are also very lucky to have Kristine Green on the trust board and she is very proactive at communicating with fans from the Supporters Liaison Officer's account. Sometimes she will initiate this herself and sometimes it will be from discussions with me or other trust board members.

To be honest, I am not precious about the banner things go out under as long as regular and good communication is taking place. Also it is not all about social media and sometimes other forms of communications are more appropriate and effective. We are actually very good at answering emails and direct messaging. When things get back to normal we are always available for chats at home and away games. One thing we have failed on lately is group-emailing of newsletters but this will be resolved in few weeks time with the introduction of a new membership system which has improved emailing capability.

Communication is something that I will continue to bang the drum about within the club and the trust. As a club we actually score very well in the independent fan engagement reports and are well regarded for this within the Football Supporters Association so it can't all be bad.

Anthony Limbrick

One area where our communications did fall down was with the Anthony Limbrick issue.

First of all, to be clear none of the other Trust board members knew anything about this ahead of it happening and nor should they. When it concerns an individual’s employment it clearly comes under the banner of confidentiality which is something both myself and Jon Wood take very seriously indeed. Although I knew conversations were taking place the speed of events was a total surprise, but sometimes that happens during negotiations.

What should have happened next is that the club should have put out a statement and taken control of the communication. That didn't happen and consequently the rumours and questions started in abundance. The first thing I did when I heard it had happened was to push for a statement to be issued which it finally did the next morning. Both Jon and I have taken this up with Philip and he acknowledges it should have been handled differently and has apologised to us.

As the club statement points out this is still a current issue and it is not appropriate for me or the trust to comment any further.

The board

As you know, the only person with any money on the board is John Fenty and as far as putting money into the club this season is concerned, he is the fall back as he always is. When the cash runs out he will keep the club going. Thankfully, that has not been needed for a number of years now and is something we should be proud of.

The fact that JF has taken some of his loan money back in recent seasons also seems to be a bone of contention. The board agreement is clear in that loans can only be paid back if the club can afford it and that will generally happen if there is a windfall such as the Omar Bogle transfer money. As well as paying back some of the loan that money was also used to pay off the bank overdraft (we now don't have one) and also on ground improvements.

Like you, we want the dependency to reduce not increase and so personally I do not have a problem with this approach. Of course, we would welcome any new investment into the club and if there was a serious bidder wanting to take over then the lower the outstanding loans the better.

A question has been asked about John Fenty's continuing involvement. John has certainly stepped back a lot but the one role he has kept, which was fully agreed by the board, is that of contract negotiations. That is why you will often hear Ian Holloway refer to John when he is being interviewed. Like the rest of us he is also mucking in at the moment and can often be seen around the ground doing jobs ready for the return of fans.

The board are a group of passionate fans of the club who are working bloody hard to try and steer the club through this crisis. It's not perfect by any means and could do with new blood, but it is definitely not a cushy gentlemen's club. The money might not be there but time is also a valuable commodity

None of the other board members, including myself, are wealthy people but we contribute financially as best we can like any other fan. It goes beyond the financial contribution though.

Michael Chapman is not able to contribute much time or money at moment for personal reasons, but he was there when the club needed him in the past and he has my utmost respect. When he is able to contribute it is usually with great wisdom.

My fellow trust director Jon Wood has a very demanding full-time job but chooses to give a lot of his precious spare time to the trust and the club. His experience and management skills are really valuable and often brings a different perspective to the table.

Stephen Marley is much maligned since the fans forum in 2017, but I can only speak as I find. Over the years I have met many professional people but not many with the level of professionalism and integrity that Stephen has. He is definitely more of a behind-the-scenes person than front-facing but I can tell you that on a regular basis, and even more so in recent months, he has given hundreds of hours of his time to the club to help plan our way through this massive financial challenge.

He should have handled the forum better, but equally the person talking over him was out of order and needed to be told, just not in that manner. The comment he made about Operation Promotion was in the context of some heated board debates, which I was part of, to do with use of the funds and the expectations it created. Like the rest of the board, he is hugely appreciative of what the fans did on Operation Promotion, he just thinks we could have been handled better and avoided the friction it caused. Unfortunately he has now been pigeon-holed by many as one of the bad guys, while in actual fact he is a major asset to the board and we are lucky that he is prepared to offer so much of his time for free.

Hopefully, you will agree that Philip Day is also a man of the highest integrity and in my view has stepped up to the role as chair extremely well. Again, he is spending almost all of his free time working for the club. As well as the financial challenges, the club are knee deep in operational requirements for the return to football and return of crowds. it is a massively time consuming and complex job which Philip is leading.

Personally, I have spent some time at the club virtually every day over the last few months whether it has been simple things like helping the club shop, share sales, book sales, organising volunteers to help around the ground or more difficult things like getting involved in the return to football planning. I am definitely not looking for plaudits, it is what I choose to do. I do get annoyed when I see comments like "it's just a gentlemen's club" or "they are all just a waste of time".

At the end of the day the board are a group of passionate fans of the club who are working bloody hard to try and steer the club through this crisis. It's not perfect by any means and could do with new blood in my opinion, both in terms of skill set and diversity, but it is definitely not the cushy gentlemen's club some suggest. The money might not be there from most of us but time is also a valuable commodity.

Season Tickets

It is actually not new that season tickets are not transferable, it has been part of the terms and conditions for years. If you look at the back of last season's book the first line states "Season tickets are non-transferable or refundable". This has never been enforced in the past, partly because it was really difficult to do, but for what I would have thought were obvious Covid-related reasons, it is now vital that we know who is entering the ground and where they are sitting.

This will be made easier by the new ticketing system which is currently been installed. It is something Sam and I have been pushing for since late last year and will be a great asset going forward. At the moment we have it all on to get it up and running and get the cards issued for the first game, but once it is live we will be looking at things like memberships, loyalty schemes, and ticket buy backs.

Trust minutes and agendas

A question has been raised about the Trust and agenda’s minutes being taken off the website. We are not trying to hide anything and to be honest I wasn't aware of the issue. Now I have looked into it, it seems that after some work was done on the site, the menu was left pointing to the wrong page. I will get it corrected asap. If you notice any other issues like that, please just email us.

I hope these explanations inform your understanding and discussion of the club and the trust. Remember that I am always available and, within the bounds of confidentiality, I am happy to answer any questions. I don't always see Twitter but I do answer emails as quickly as possible.


Cod Almighty's thanks to Dave for taking the time to address these issues. You can contact the Mariners Trust in several ways