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Providing strong leadership and guidance

“Ask me some football questions, dad,” was a constant plea by my ten-year-old self to my poor father, who wasn’t remotely interested in football. “What’s the point?” was the essence of his response. “I don’t know what to ask you and even if I did, I wouldn’t know if your answer was correct”. “It will be,” I responded, with all the confidence of someone who had spent the month of August memorising the contents of the 1957-58 Wee Red Book. “Just ask me about managers, any team”. It never occurred to me to get my dad to ask me about chairmen. I didn’t know the names of any chairman, nor did anyone else in my class. These board leaders may have been listed in the Wee Red Book, but if they were I took no notice. I didn’t even know who my own team’s chairman was, although sadly most football fans in Scotland would later learn the name of a man whose deliberate mismanagement led to the demise of Third Lanark. Off the top of my head, Bob Lord at Burnley and Tommy Trinder at Fulham were two of the best known, but very different, chairmen in the 1960s but they were still the exception; most of their peers preferred to remain unnoticed and unscrutinised.

Away from the soap opera that is modern, top-level football, some common sense still prevails. I recently read about a chairman (pictured lef) who walks round his club’s stadium on matchdays, not only to ensure everything is running smoothly but also to make himself visible to fans so that they feel they can approach and chat directly to him about any facet of the club. Those supporters who don’t attend games but who have taken the trouble to express an opinion of social media are encouraged by this chairman to drop into the club at any time during the day. “Our door is always open”, he says. “We have supporters who call in daily to chat about anything from the team to the weather and there is always someone at the club to address any concerns.” During the week, the chairman often has an office set up in the club’s coffee shop at the stadium and in his absence other club officials are available and, in his words, “are more than qualified to discuss any issues that supporters may wish to raise.” He added: “I believe that personal relationships between the club and fans is very important therefore I would rather speak to supporters myself than have our social media team answer on my behalf.” To counter any cynicism that such talk is easy, earlier in the season this particular chairman travelled to and from an away match on a supporters’ bus. The long return journey may have been the more challenging for him, following a 5-0 defeat. Having lost several key players at the end of last season to full-time teams in higher divisions and then experiencing a poor success rate in attracting potential signing targets, this part-time club has struggled from the very start of this season, and it remains in bottom place. The club’s geographical position compared to other clubs in the same division has played its part in this recruitment effort, but so too has the budgets of several clubs, not yet in the SPFL, but well backed financially in their campaign to achieve that status. Some heavy defeats have had to be endured and supporters’ patience has been tested but the club refuses to deviate from principles which have served it well. “There is no apathy on our part,” reiterated the chairman. “We have always been ambitious as a board and therefore there can be a temptation to spend more to entice the players we want, but as custodians of the club we have to safeguard its financial longevity and for that reason we cannot overspend our way to success.” It's probably not the message that some supporters want to hear, and this experienced chairman is aware of this. “It is very easy to call for a knee-jerk reaction when results are not going our way but my thirty-five years on the board has taught me that such a response is not always the solution, and a more measured approach is often required.” One of the tasks associated with being a football club chairman is to provide strong leadership and guidance to steer the club forward. It seems to me that Peterhead Football Club are very fortunate to have as its chairman the admirable Rodger Morrison.

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