A Black day for Jeremy Wray as STFC Chairman is dismissed
With news of Jeremy Wray’s departure as chairman of Swindon Town and replacement with Sir William Patey, Ron Smith asks whether this change at the top is really a shock.
In July, Paolo Di Canio’s greatest supporter, Jeremy Wray lost the Interim’ part of his job title, on Friday 12 October, he lost the ‘Chairman’ part too. And, according to a club statement, it was done so ‘at the specific request of the club’s majority shareholder, Andrew Black’.
Speaking after his removal became public on Monday, Wray said: “When I agreed to take over as Chairman it was on the understanding that the Board would confirm the appointment of Paolo Di Canio as manager and would commit to a three-year plan to support him, his management staff and players in the attempt to achieve promotion back to the Championship.” Reading between the lines it seems that the ‘understanding’ to back Paolo Di Canio’s and Wray’s ambitions has been broken down somewhere.
Wray departs after overseeing a year of success by winning League Two and cup runs aplenty for the first time in years. Given the meaningful progress the club has been making supporters are rightly questioning why has a ‘fantastic chairman’ gone now?
The former chairman has been fighting Di Canio’s corner one too many times in the eyes of the rest of the board, who have noticed significant truth in the chorus ‘Paolo Di Canio, he does what he wants’. With 39 permanent and loans players joining in total, then a significant number paid off with a year left to run on their contracts plus those who failed, couldn’t settle or fell foul of Paolo’s disciplinary regime; the backing of the board was always crucial. For this is also a turnover of players that few would see as sustainable, and it seems that Andrew Black agrees.
Is it really a surprise that Wray has been dismissed only a week after his manager spilled the beans in a post-match press conference at Bury? Evidently frustrated by having his hands tied, the Italian revealed all about the transfer embargo, when perhaps a complicit manager – I’m thinking Maurice Malpas – would’ve kept chosen silence on such ‘behind the scenes’ matters.
It now appears that all or part of the £2m investment secured from multi-millionaire backers Black and Sir Martyn Arbib in July failed in its objective to circumvent the newly implemented Salary Cost Management Protocol (SCMP) and so prevent the Football League introducing the embargo.
After the AGM, Wray explained: “Very simply, the wage cap constraints that we are under means that the money we put into the club has to come in as equity, it cannot come in as loans because we have to use 65% of our turnover plus any funds that we put in directly as equity. That is what is available for the playing budget. We’ve gone out and said that we’re trying to put together a playing budget that gets us to the Championship and it’s necessitated putting funds directly into the club.”
With equity funding likely to be excluded from allowable turnover under the Football League rules, Wray may have paid for this miscalculation with his position as chairman. Without the ability to artificially inflate turnover, Town’s board now find themselves with a frustrated manager gesticulating to the stands, using the press to pressurise his board, and perhaps broken promises all round.
Whatever has happened behind the scenes, it’s evident that Wray’s affinity with supporters and honesty will be big shoes to fill for Sir William Patey (now known as SWP). As a senior diplomat he’ll be no short of experience appeasing the many and often conflicting interests, but can a diplomatic mission to Iraq or Afghanistan really prepare him for one of Rome’s most infamous sons…
With Sir William immediately confirming his task will be “to secure new investment to support the programme of ground redevelopment and to co-ordinate the execution of the Club’s longer term strategic plans” he’s clearly focusing on the long term sustainability option, not necessarily coming out in support of securing funding now to allow Di Canio to rebuild his squad.
Crucially SWP adds a caveat. “I look forward to working with those who share the same ambitions for the Club both on and off the field and relish the opportunity to take on this challenge.” With Di Canio already stating Wray’s departure has “changed the dynamics” at the club, the key question moving forward is whether the current manager shares SWP’s ambitions?
When swift changes are made, from a fan’s perspective & without an overview, any annoucements like these can be taken as a surprise. Surely, those in the know understand that Jeremy Wray has been one of the better links we have had between Chairman and manager in such a long time. It is a surprise that he has gone. His open dialogue,communication and clear intruction made JW a chairman that the fans could believe in. His conduct was always correct, I could never imagine him being like Eddie Mitchell at Bournemouth for example and being a hot head. It would seem that PDC also saw those qualities in him and trusted his opionion. I really hope that this ‘miscalculation’ does not cost us our manager or our promotion shot.
Despite being totally taken aback, it would seem from the clues in the comments that Mr Black wants someone who he feels will do some joined up thinking regarding finances and palying matters.
It appears a slight coincidence that this has occured simultaneoulsy with the revelation that the transfer embargo has been placed on the club.
The only other scenario as far as I can see is an attempt to reduce the outbursts from PdC about matters the board could consider best dealt with behind the scenes. Maybe JW was perceived as having a foot firmly in the supporters and managers camp.
Being totally frank and open is great for supporters, but a bit more uncomfortable for those in charge.
I just hope that Patey remains matey, in the Black is where Swindon stay, and PdC does not throw his toys out of the pram when accountability is increased. Promotion is a difinite possibility, even with the players we have now. having watched the majority of games there has always been a lingering feeling that we are 4th despite only playing at 70% of potential.
As supporters we have mostly seen the external part of his duties as chairman, which he clearly performed extremely well. With all that has happened this and last season, sometimes seemingly more in a role as ‘Director of Communications’ than that of ‘Chairman’, he was the calming influence when things were seemingly unsteady. Despite speculations and some claiming otherwise, what has gone on behind close doors remains known to only a few. A successful chairman will always balance the short term objectives and longer term ambitions of its backers. This is also the case at a football club. From the announcements he may have placed too much emphasis on the short term goals in support of Paolo’s needs once too many times to upset the major backers resulting in his removal. Is it harsh? Well, from a selfish supporter’s view it certainly is; he expressed the way the fans felt, he shared our passion for success on the pitch, he was articulate in difficult times (McCormick situation) and it felt the club was in good hands providing the right external balance between a temperamental manager and the rest of the club. His departure even made some former players to chip in saying he was ‘one of the good guys in football’, so his departure clearly is a big loss.
But we move on, we support our club whoever is in the chair or on the pitch; some seem to struggle to come to terms with change more than others, but such is life.
And that brings me onto Di Canio. He has done very well in short amount of time. I would prefer to see him finish the job and take us to the Championship be it this year or next (keep in mind it was a 3 year plan, not a 2 year plan). The plan has not changed, the squad he himself assembled has not changed, but it seems his tune has somewhat.
Each team has to cope with injuries during the season, but why assemble a squad and then when there are injuries state those about to step into the breach are now not good enough. With Williams injured, there’s still Collins, Rooney, Bostock in addition to Benson and Storey. Why bring them to the club if they are not good enough now. Why did he bring in Archibald-Henville and Ward in addition to Flint and Devera and then complain when McCormack is out; similar for Roberts when he was out.
It’s at uncertain times like these that the manager can show his management credentials by giving full support to the club and getting the best out of the squad he has assembled. I hope that is what he will do and that he will see the bigger picture from the club’s perspective rather than his short term goal of getting back to back promotions at any cost.
I am looking forward to 3 points against Scunthorpe on Saturday and the visit of Aston Villa later this month with PdC in charge. But if he’s decided it’s not for him, then so be it.
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