David Pendleton examines Geoffrey Richmond's unglamorous rags to riches tale
Habitat A self made man. Bought Ronson Lighters when they were insolvent, turned the company around and sold it for £10m plus. Now being the Chairman of Bradford City is his full time occupation, he is always first to enter the building and last to leave. Opens all the mail, occasionally answers the phones and has been known to work in the ticket office. Hands-on is an inadequate term.
What Use is He? Highlights since arriving at Valley Parade: paid off debts and reversed the history of heavy losses to one of ever-increasing profitability. Built the long-awaited Midland Road stand – and got the Queen to open it. Crowds increased by largest percentage in Britain to current average of 15,500 – and this in midtable. But his main achievement has been to change even the notoriously pessimistic Bradfordians into dreamers – everyone expects Richmond to achieve his main aim, that is to take City into the Premier League. A few years ago you would have been laughed out of town had you mentioned the words “City” and “Premiership” in the same sentence.
Who Remembers His Birthday? If he continues to push City forward at the current rate he’ll probably get invited for a civic reception on his birthday. He even got away with attaching a sponsor’s name to the ground – ‘The Pulse Stadium at Valley Parade’. Had he not kept some mention of Valley Parade he would have risked alienating the fans who see Valley Parade as something more than a football ground – an attachment that stems from the fire of 1985.
Quote/Unquote “Let’s cut the pleasantries and get down to business Mr Mellor,” was his opening line in the memorable clash of the titanic egos on 606 recently. Though many believe that Richmond made a bit of a fool of himself on 606, it was fabulous radio and in the city that was the birthplace of the Labour party any attack on a prominent Tory is guaranteed to boost the popularity rating of the assailant.
Other Offences to be Taken into Consideration Arrived at Valley Parade from Scarborough in a strange swap deal which saw the then City Chairman David Simpson take over the “hot seat” at Seamer Road. Subdued initial scepticism by revealing that his wife is a City fan and then by letting all the kids in free of charge for his first match.
The recent sacking of Chris Kamara saw anti-Richmond views to the fore for probably the first time, the fans are still evenly split on the decision. There was a growing feeling of discontent with Chris, but it had yet to become vocal. Nationally the sacking seemed harsh, but locally there was more surprise at the timing as opposed to the decision itself. However, Richmond lost a certain amount of credibility when he said “back me or I’ll quit” to the dissenters.
Everyone in Bradford realises that Richmond uses the club for self publicity, but his achievements are such that he’s excused his indulgences. More importantly he is genuinely liked – after all how many other club Chairmen could you phone and be put straight through?
From WSC 133 March 1998. What was happening this month