LFC and the HJC - Part 2

Posted by Maggie May on April 20, 2004, 11:30:59 AM

Here is part 2 as promised.

After the 1999 AGM I decided on another plan of attack, and so on 16th January 2000 I wrote to Jules Burns, the Managing Director of Granada Productions who, because of Granada’s large shareholding, had a seat on the Board, to ask his help.  It was a long letter (7 pages with enclosures being the HJC Aims and Objectives and the Message to All Shareholders which was prepared by the HJC and handed out to shareholders as they were going in to the 1999 AGM).  The letter explained why I felt it necessary to raise the matter at the AGM, the nature of the HJC and its aims, and drew to his attention the tribute programme their Mr Andy Gill made following the death of Joey Glover (God rest his lovely soul).

I also drew to his attention the very great assistance the Glover family and Joey were to the Granada Media Group in the making of the award winning Jimmy McGovern programme.  I wrote “ … I would earnestly urge you to look to the reputation of the Granada Media Group.  I believe the Group is in danger of being seriously compromised given its previous sympathetic and positive treatment of a founder member of the HJC and the HJC itself last May, its close connections with the Glover family and the brutal treatment taking place in its name as a shareholder now.”

Exactly a month to the day, on 16th February Mr Burns wrote back saying, amongst other things “Andy Gill and his colleagues therefore do seek out comment and information from the HJC, as representative of some of the most closely affected parties, and will, no doubt, continue to do so as our coverage continues and follows the course of events.”  He described my letter as “thoughtful”, said he was discussing my correspondence with the Club and said “that either Rick Parry and I will write to you again.”  He has never written to me since.

On 14th April (yes, April) Rick Parry wrote to me and advised me that the Board had not changed its stance but that it had asked him to write to me explaining why that was the case.  He said he was preparing a draft for approval by the Board and “then be adapted by the other Directors.”

On 16th May Rick Parry wrote back.  The Board’s stance remained unchanged.  Part of his letter read:

“Now the HJC, which has similar objectives to the Hillsborough Family Support Group but very different strategies, is seeking formal acknowledgment or recognition by the Club.  This poses two very real questions for the Club:

How can it sensibly offer equal status to an emergent group, alongside an existing group in whom the Club retains confidence, when in practice the two will often be in conflict?  It will inevitably follow that the Club becomes cast in the role of peace-keeper or arbitrator and it is hard to see of what possible benefit this is to victims.  It will also create confusion and lead to a potential loss of public sympathy.

How many groups should be acknowledged in the way that you seek?  Should the Club recognise every group with similar objectives but different approaches?  Imagine the position if a third group emerges next year or even a fourth.  Or, indeed if a number of individuals seek a similar acknowledgement of their positions.

In giving careful consideration to these questions the Board has formed the view that the appropriate course is to acknowledgement one group.

It is unfortunate that two groups now exist but the Board has no wish to diminish, challenge or comment on the work of the HJC.  Nor does it hold anything other than the utmost sympathy and respect for individual victims and their families.”

Realising it was pointless to argue that the Club has no problems dealing with a vast variety of agents, press and television companies and sponsors I made no reply.

However, determined not to let the matter rest, on 23rd August 2000 I wrote to Bryce Morrison saying that I wanted a formal item placed on the agenda for the forthcoming AGM proposing that the Club acknowledges and deals fully in all regards with the HJC, and asking his guidance as to how this should be done.  I said I wanted the item to be on a free vote so proxies may speak, and said it was my intention to call John Glover together with others of the bereaved and survivors to speak.  I also requested that a statement of my case be sent to all shareholders prior to the meeting so those unable to attend be enabled to nominate me as their proxy in the unfortunate case that the Board maintains its (in my view) untenable position.

Mr Morrison wrote back to me on 4th October saying that his legal advice was that it was possible for shareholders to move resolutions under Section 376 of the Companies Act and enclosing a copy of that Section.  Six weeks notice had to be given and the relevant members had to pay a “sufficient sum to the company to meet the costs.”  Reading the Section, I realised that there was no possible way to meet the requirements in time for the six weeks notice to be properly given.  A kind person may have thought that Mr Morrison is a very busy man and it took time for him to obtain his legal advice.  An unkind person may have thought that Mr Morrison ran me out of time.

However, I realised that I should, in fact, save myself the trouble, as Mr Morrison then went on to say:

“I hope the above is helpful to you and whilst there appears to be a way in which you and other members could move a resolution, I would remind you that there are shareholders who hold between them shares representing more than one half of the total voting rights attaching to all shares, who have indicated to me that they would be likely to vote against such a resolution.  I say this, not in an attempt to dissuade you from taking steps, but merely to ensure that you know what to expect.”

Mr Moores holds 51%  Granada holds 10%

So, come December, off I went to the AGM accompanied by Sheila Coleman and John and Teresa Glover as my proxies (Kevin Robinson was ill and unable to come).  At the call for Any Other Business I was the first to speak.  I reminded the meeting of the events of the AGM last year, and reminded them of the continuing excellent work of the HJC.  I dealt at length with the matters contained in the letter from Rick Parry and then went on to advise them that I had tried to get an agenda item on for debate and the response I had received.

I reminded them of who the majority shareholders were, and advised them that I had with me a bereaved mother and father.  I then walked directly in front of Mr Moores and asked him if he would now please tell John and Teresa why he personally refused to allow the Club to acknowledge the HJC, because his continued refusal was causing them pain.  He stared at me and refused to answer.  Now, I have to confess that many years ago, somebody said to me “You don’t DO anger management do you?”  Two years of frustration of having my (sometimes pleading) correspondence ignored and being told absolute rubbish boiled over, and it was at this point that I shoved the microphone virtually up David Moores’ nose and shouted “Answer me, go on, answer” three times.   (Sheila said afterwards that I sounded like Judge Judy - oh dear!).  He looked at me like a cod on a fishmonger’s slab (or, as one Mr Steven Kelly put it, like a rabbit caught in the headlights) and still refused to answer.  Someone said “Are you finished” and I said “For now”.  I stood back and Rick Parry stood up and calmly announced that the stance of the Board was unchanged.

A terrible scream rang out.  It was Teresa Glover, and she started to flee the room in tears.  I dropped the microphone and rushed after her, narrowly missing tripping over Phil Thompson and Sammy Lee, their mouths agape in horror.  I saw Teresa making for the door, faced by a steward with outstretched arms as if to grab hold of her.  I yelled “Don’t you touch her.  Don’t you dare touch her”.  He dropped his arms and stood back, doubtless thinking “Sod this for £4.50 an hour”.  Teresa stopped and  I was able to coax her back to her seat in time to hear both John Glover and Sheila Coleman giving the Board the benefit of their views (and proxies aren’t allowed to speak - oh dear again).

Unsurprisingly there was no other business, and the meeting closed.

For the first time I can remember, Mr Moores and the Board did not come to the reception afterwards to mingle with the rabble (Mr Moores obviously deciding to drink like a fish and sweat like a pig elsewhere).

Anyway, we all determinedly stayed at the reception to the bitter end, and then took ourselves back to Gerry McIver’s house where we told unsuitable jokes and did serious damage to his whisky.  The best part of the entire night was Gerry saying of Teresa “You know, that’s the first time I’ve heard that poor woman laugh.”

At the 2001 AGM, the minutes say “However the Club was not prepared to tolerate the abuse and disorder of the last two years. …. The Chairman stressed that no further discussion on rival justice organisations or on topics outside Club or football matters would be heard.”

So there you are!
© Janet Ireland 2001/2004

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