Paved with good intentions: the world according to Baz

Cod Almighty | Article

by Barry Whittleton

15 April 2021

Despite the rejoicing, 1878 Partners and B Corporation status are no substitute for community ownership

The impression that Grimsby Town under John Fenty is Fred Karno’s circus reached its zenith at half time on Saturday, passing a high bar for this season.

In the last 10 days alone, we have had the last minute of withdrawal of Tom Shutes from the club takeover for personal reasons. Allegedly Jason Stockwood and Andrew Pettit would not sanction a docks-based ground without first exploring all other options, including re-developing Blundell Park and the council's preferred site of Freeman Street. Chair Phil Day's statement saying no further statements would be made while negotiations with the remaining partners continued was inevitably followed 15 minutes later by a self-pitying diatribe from Fenty. You have to wonder how many times Day will be mugged off by his puppet-master before having the good sense and principle to resign.

Maybe it is a question we should all be asking? But what do we do? It is like a toxic relationship that you know you have to break from as it is doomed to fail, but the love runs too deep. As long as Grimsby Town remains in the hands of, and at the whim of, the moneymen it will not be the community-led asset it should be.

B Corp status is a little like the Red Tractor logo on foodstuffs: it is no more than a commitment to good intentions

There has been much rejoicing over the prospective takeover by Stockwood and Pettit - 1878 Partners Ltd. There is further optimism that the club will move to B Corporation status, a testament to the new owners determination to be open and transparent. The Mariners Trust are certainly effusive in their support of the new regime.

Why? At the risk of being labelled a malcontent, why should we accept the word of 1878 Partners word more than any other buyer? B Corp status is a little like the Red Tractor logo on foodstuffs: it is no more than a commitment to good intentions. And the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

John Fenty began with good intentions. He was, and is, a Town fan; his whole family are. He didn't buy Grimsby Town with the intention of relegating us from the League and being forced to invest a total of £3 million to cover his own mismanagement. It is his actions, his narcissism and his demand to be repaid every penny he has badly invested that deserves our contempt, not his initial intentions.

I'm sure Stockwood and Pettit also have plans for a sunlit uplands of success, a beautiful, sustainably-built ground at the heart of our community, packed to the rafters as Town secure their position back in the second flight of English football; all achieved while maintaining supporter harmony and financial stability. We all do. We're all Town aren't we. But history has taught me to be mistrustful.

If they truly wished to make the club the fulcrum of the community it serves, instead of going for B Corp status make us truly a community club. Remove the profit motive. Don't welcome two trust members onto the board to represent the fans: make the club fan-owned. The overall investment of 1878 Partners is around £2.4 million. If 3,000 Town fans could be persuaded to invest in 750 £1 shares, paid at £20 per month over three years, the club could pass into supporters' hands within a relatively short space of time. Any fan or investor could invest more, on the understanding that all decisions would be "one person one vote".

Idealistic? Deluded? Perhaps, but until the profit motive is removed from the running of the club Grimsby Town - like Bury, Portsmouth, Leeds, Oldham, Colchester, Macclesfield and many more - will not be safe from the whims of the moneymen.

Is Baz right to be sceptical of 1878 Partners and B Corp status? Tell us