20 December ~ Originally planned as a day Port Vale fans could finally honour a club hero, their 4-0 victory over Aldershot on Saturday was overshadowed by fan protests against chairman Peter Miller, chief executive Perry Deakin and the directors Mike Lloyd and Glenn Oliver. The Port Vale supporters' club intended to unveil a statue to Roy Sproson, the Valiants' record appearance holder, before the match. Sproson, a one-club man, started 837 times for Port Vale between 1949 and 1972 and managed them for three years in the mid-1970s when he finally stopped playing.
The supporters' club have been raising money to fund the Sproson statue for years but the ceremony had to be cancelled, with supporters accusing the club of refusing to provide free hospitality for VIPs at the event.
It was the latest in a long line of disagreements between fans and the board. The supporters' club did not want the ceremony to be ruined by protests caused by revelations in the local media concerning the arrival of Miller and Deakin onto the club's board. The Sentinel newspaper reported that neither Miller nor Deakin had paid for their shares in the company, despite supporters and shareholders being told they had invested a total of £350,000, which resulted in their election onto the board.
There have also been concerns over the long-running saga with Blue Sky International, an American-owned company that was supposed to have made a deal to invest millions in the club. Blue Sky's CEO, Hank Julicher, says the deal is dead and that no money will be invested, while also suggesting the original deal wasn't worth anything near the £5 million quoted by the club.
To tangle the web further, Julicher claimed he knew nothing about Blue Sky owning shares in Port Vale, despite 30,000 shares being registered in his wife's name. Those shares were used to vote the chairman and chief executive onto the club's board.
These reports fuelled the fans' protests against Aldershot, where they held red cards up towards the directors box to demand the removal of Miller, Deakin, Lloyd and Oliver. The protest was hailed as a success by the supporters club, but the four-man board have not yet been removed and it remains to be seen what the next step will be. Tom Hocking