I am therefore standing down from Bees United with effect from the forthcoming Annual General Meeting on the 16th March, and from the Board of Brentford Football Club at a similar time.
I am pleased to confirm that the Board of Bees United has unanimously supported Stewart Purvis as my successor both as Chairman of Bees United and as our representative on the Board of Brentford Football Club. Stewart has a long and illustrious career in media and television, and is a current Non-Executive Director on the Board of Channel 4. He is also a longstanding Brentford supporter and season ticket holder. I am confident he will be an asset to both Bees United and Brentford FC, fully able to both represent supporters and provide a valuable input in his own capacity. He takes on the Chair of Bees United with immediate effect, and will be confirmed in the Brentford role shortly.
Donald Kerr is reaching the same limit as myself, and therefore is also standing down from the Bees United Board. His contribution has been fantastic, evidenced by the fact he is now Vice-Chairman of the Football Club, in addition to being Vice-Chair of the BFC Community Sports Trust and Trustee of the EFL Trust. I am therefore not at all surprised that Cliff Crown, Chairman of Brentford FC, has asked Donald to continue in his role at the Football Club in a personal capacity. Well done Donald, and long may your tenure at the Football Club continue!
When I look back over the last dozen years I reflect on what an incredible journey we have all been on as supporters of Brentford FC and of Bees United. I joined the organisation at the very end of a season (May 2017) where we were relegated from League One to League Two. We sold players. We relied on free transfers. We went on to flirt with relegation out of the Football League, and also with running out of cash. It is no exaggeration to say there were times when I thought insolvency was more likely than not. Getting through to the next stage of a Cup competition fundamentally determined the financial viability of the Club for a number of years. What a contrast to today.
The success we are experiencing now – the most successful league performances since World War II – is fundamentally due to the support and backing of Matthew Benham. We are fortunate to have a wealthy backer, but a number of Clubs have one of those (many of whom have even more money than Matthew). Matthew stands out from other owners – partly because he is a real Brentford supporter, and partly because he is applying a real intelligence to his approach to the football Club. It is easy to say “we should find young talent, get them playing better, and sell at a profit to make the Club more viable”, but Matthew has a tangible plan to make that happen. It has transformed our Football Club. Part of that success is because the Club, the Owner and the Supporters (including Bees United) are working together – the new stadium is an excellent example of where supporters helped create a solution that needed the Club’s support and the owners backing, and the result is evident to anyone who walks over Kew Bridge!
Beyond Matthew there is a long list of people to thank. Rather than trying to list everyone by name I will cover them in groups:
• I owe a debt of gratitude to those who I can best describe as ‘Supporter Activists” – supporters who have campaigned and protected the Club over many years. It is a tradition that was evident with Lifeline when they saved the Club half a century ago, it has been continued by all those involved with creating and running BIAS, those who were involved in one-off campaigns like ‘No to Woking’ and ABeeC, as well as those who continue to fundraise (like the Jazz Club) and (obviously) those who created and supported Bees United. Doing these things means giving up personal time for the good of Brentford Football Club – without you there wouldn’t be a Club and there wouldn’t be a Supporters Trust.
• As well as supporters, there are a number of people who have been key stakeholders in the Bees United/Brentford FC journey during this time – the ‘Investor Directors’ who kept the Club afloat with personal loans in the post-Noades era; Martin Lange, now sadly deceased, who transferred his Golden Share to Bees United; Greg Dyke for being the unpaid Chairman of the Club during the uncharted territory of the early days supporter ownership; those from Matthew’s business who have represented him at the Football Club; and (of course) the staff and executives of the Football Club who have both delivered the success ‘on the ground’, actively supporting Bees United in the process.
• And finally, a special thank you to the current and previous colleagues on the Board of Bees United. It is always a challenge to give up your personal time in addition to work and family commitments, and I very much appreciate your efforts. Special recognition must go to Brian Burgess and Chris Gammon, who went on from Bees United roles to taking full time roles driving the stadium project from concept to commercial reality. What an amazing legacy you have left us! I hope all the Board Directors from the last twelve years share in my happiness at how things have turned out.
I leave Bees United with unfinished business… the new stadium is only partially constructed; we have not yet reached the Premier League; we haven’t yet won at Wembley! And I look forward to Bees United as an organisation going from strength to strength! I will leave it to Stewart and the next Board of Bees United to represent us through those happy experiences. I will be enjoying them from my season ticket seat in Braemar Road.
Chairman of Bees United 2007-2019