Padraig McKenna gives his assessment of chairman and lifelong Forest fan Eric Barnes
Distinguishing features A new face to those of us who do not consort with the business elite of the east midlands,our only exposure to Eric so far has been through the media. The image that springs to mind most readily is a rather severe looking, balding man with big glasses standing uneasily in a deserted City Ground, presumably trying to exclude the thought that this could be a foretaste of our future.
Habitat His business credentials appear impeccable. As deputy chairman of Great Universal Stores, the owners of Kays catalogues and Burberrys and Experian, one of the world’s largest consumer credit information groups, he is entrusted with the success of a company worth almost £3 billion. He has been a Forest season ticket holder for many years.
What use is he? He was voted on to the board in January, without making any significant personal investment. His appointment was heralded as being of great importance because of his Nottingham origins. Fans initially saw this as another half-hearted PR exercise from our beleaguered board, but since then things have shown signs of improvement. When chairman Nigel Wray stepped down, Barnes was installed. Immediately he made efforts to sell himself to the fans, which was a significant departure from the style of the previous regime. Wray had called the people of Nottingham “hypocrites” due to our collective failure to throw money at his business.
Who remembers his birthday? In the light of the recent resignation of Irving Scholar from the board of Nottingham Forest, I would have thought that any football fan owes Mr Barnes some appreciation. Should the “courageous” appointment of David Platt as manager turn out to be a success then a host of finger-uncrossing, exhaling Forest fans will have even more reason to be thankful.
Quote Unquote When Barnes was appointed as chairman, he stressed his background as a fan: “I have been a supporter for 40 years and think and feel like a fan.” After an initial flurry of interviews Barnes went worryingly quiet against a background of boardroom intrigues. However, he has now resurfaced and was happy to remind Scholar, our former director of football, of his culpability in the transformation of Forest into a team to be pitied: “The responsibility for the playing side seems to me to have been in the hands of the director of football.”
Other offences to be taken into consideration His major gaffe to date has been his attempt to tie the future fortunes of the club to the continuing loyalty of the fans. Though this is unarguably true, it was perhaps inadvisable: we feel entitled to soothing and remorseful noises from the guilty partner in our uneasy relationship. However, for any inhabitant of the boardroom at Forest to survive last season with a good relationship with the fans has been a major triumph. Barnes has managed just that.
From WSC 150 August 1999. What was happening this month