As some people are aware I have been a fan, sponsor, CTSA board member and general irritant at Crawley Town Football Club for a number of years now (not always in that order). And at the start of this season I was asked by the Crawley News to write a weekly column in their paper and on their website about the goings-on in and around Crawley Town FC. It was always intended to be a “fan’s view”.
I have managed to keep to my commitment of a weekly column on all but two occasions this season, despite being excluded for a number of weeks and on more than one occasion being 8000 miles away setting up a new office in South Africa. I have tried at all times to be fair and honest and attempted to represent both my views and those of the fans that I share my matchday experience with.
Now the Crawley News knew full well who they were asking to write this column. Indeed in a couple of my initial exchanges on the matter my previous role in the “outing” of Paul Hayward as the previously referenced “Hong Kong Paul” was discussed at length. So it should not come as a surprise to them then on occasion my column has been a little irreverent.
In fairness to the Crawley News, (or maybe they didn’t proofread it well enough!) they’ve let me get a couple of jibes in. I’ve had some great feedback on my weekly column from fans and club employees alike and I’ve enjoyed writing it immensely.
Last week however things started to take a slightly distasteful turn: As all but the most detached would know, we have recently been taken over and bought by Zira Eren, the largest Steel Magnate in Turkey. Exciting times for our club and quite frankly an opportunity to say good riddance to the secretive and at times disruptive and duplicitous regime that was overlooked and actively managed by Paul Hayward. It is not unnatural for me therefore to make reference to such a takeover and the fans view behind it.
I made reference immediately after the sale was confirmed that Michael Dunford had publicly stated in the press how well he had done making the club more financially stable an no longer reliant on outside money. Two days later an article appeared in the Crawley News from Paul Hayward stating that he had put in his own cash again to make payroll. I asked quite openly how the club could balance these two statements and made reference to the fact that I doubted very much this was the first time it had happened.
Then, as I was submitting my weekly column the following week I received the following message: “Hi Mat, are you writing a column this week? Any chance it can be looking forward rather than mentioning the previous regime? To be straight with you, HKP wasn’t massively pleased with last week’s and we want to keep him happy for a few more weeks while he’s sending us stories”.
Now, whilst many of us openly accept that Paul Hayward was the effective owner of the club (and Mark Yates has referred to him as such on more than one occasion), his name appears on no paperwork whatsoever. Indeed at the last “Audience with the Directors”, he claimed to be just a benevolent benefactor. Dave Pottinger even publicly stated that it was “my money, my shares”. So something, not for the first time of course doesn’t smell quite right.
The sale has gone through now and whilst we are undoubtedly in a league position that we would not currently be enjoying if it were not for the cash injection from Paul Hayward, I am personally glad to see the back of dirty, immorally gained funds being pumped in and cleaned through our club.
I would very much now like to move forwards and focus on the times ahead of us. Times that on the basis of the first few meetings with the new owners and board look friendly, open and quite frankly the way things should be with a club like Crawley Town.
I am extremely disappointed therefore that the Crawley News seems fixated on running a weekly column from Paul Hayward on his skewed view of the club which are littered with inaccuracies and no right of reply. Very synonymous some would say with the way he presided over the club for more than five years.
The Crawley News has ample opportunity to engage with the new board to help engender a positive, community angle for the club within the press, but seems hell-bent on muck-raking, and tittle-tattle from someone who has been implicated in numerous financial scams and is allegedly the man behind the master lease on the Nana Plaza complex in Thailand. (Google it if you’re brave enough…!)
So, with all of the above in mind I have decided to continue my weekly column, just not in the Crawley News. I am fully aware that on occasion my moral compass has been known to have all the directional ability of Captain Jack Sparrow’s, but I can’t, with a clear conscience continue to have my articles edited without my knowledge or permission to fit the agenda of a person whom I find thoroughly distasteful.
From now on, I’ll continue to write my articles and share them with the masses (well, a couple of you) through my own website as I have done here. This way I can write what I want and upset who I can without fear of censorship, however minor, in whatever form.