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Mark Hodkinson: Inside the Boardroom Pt. II
Monday, 22nd Mar 2021 18:02 by Mark Hodkinson

Vital reading for all Dale fans – in a bid to help better understand the inner workings of football clubs, and Rochdale AFC in particular, we’ve asked journalist, author and Dale supporter, Mark Hodkinson, to write a short series of articles on the subject. He continues today with a look at the personnel at the heart of the club.

Rochdale AFC Ltd currently has four directors, an executive director and a non-executive director. Until just a few weeks ago, the chairmanship was held by Andrew Kilpatrick, a merchant banker with a long family connection to the club. His father, Littleborough-born Brian Kilpatrick, worked in banking throughout the world before retiring to Cheltenham where he owned a string of racehorses.

Brian regularly sponsored the club and had two spells as a director, in 2003 and 2012. It is widely held that, in January 2010, he single-handedly covered the transfer fee, reportedly £100,000, for Chris O’Grady from Oldham Athletic, providing a vital player for the squad which gained promotion five months later. Brian had been a Dale fan from a child and his season ticket was placed in his coffin when he died in May, 2014.

Brian’s shares were passed on to Andrew who largely deferred the day-to-day running of the club to others. He resigned from the board last month ‘for personal reasons’; there has been no formal expansion on his original statement. Fans immediately feared that his shares might be sold, potentially causing instability at the club. This seems unlikely. He has stated his love of the club many times and considers it an important part of his family’s legacy. ‘I am a lifelong, passionate (afflicted?!) fan of RAFC,’ he emailed me in January.

The remaining directors are:

Andrew Joseph Kelly (acting chairman), age 77. He joined the board on 14 June 2019 after a previous 11-year spell (2006-2017). He is a well-known local estate agent and former schoolboy affiliate of the club’s playing staff. He is often said to be ‘hard to read’ and ‘straight-talking’ but is, ‘Dale through-and-through’. He has earned great praise for the work done at the club’s academy.

David Roger Bottomley, age 60, joined the board on 29 June 2015. He spent more than 30 years working in the toy industry, principally at the world’s largest toy company Hasbro, which is responsible for Trivial Pursuit, Action Man, Star Wars and Connect 4. In 2002 he co-founded a specialist science toy company called Trends UK. Born in Rochdale, he lived for many years in Henley-on-Thames.

Anthony John Pockney, age 56, joined the board in January 2019. He is ‘a versatile, highly effective, hands-on Business and IT Executive, Programme Director and Consulting Practitioner. Operates at Board level as a successful leader of large scale business transformations…’ from LinkedIn. He is a keen runner and committed Round Tabler.

Graham Frank Rawlinson, age 66, joined the board in August 2014 after a previous spell, 2006 – 2010. He works in the licensed trade.

Nicholas James Grindrod, a non-executive director, age 38, joined the board on 9 April, 2020. He is the owner of an accountancy practice and is said to have ‘an excellent relationship with Tony Pockney, who is the main Board Director for all things finance.’ His company, NJ Grindrod & Co, has on its website: ‘Official accountants of Rochdale Association Football Club’ and features the club crest.

Frances Fielding, executive director, joined the board on 26 November, 2018. On LinkedIn she describes herself as, ‘a friendly, happy and approachable person able to get on easily with others…I am a professional, resourceful, highly organised and accomplished individual.’

Neither Nick Grindrod nor Frances Fielding can vote at board meetings, though they might be asked their views.

Two recent resignations form the board are: Andrew Simon Ashton Kilpatrick, former chairman, age 60, from 7 Dec 2018 to 18 Feb 2021 and John Andrew Smallwood, club secretary and former associate director, 15 June 2019 to 28 February, 2021.

In football club terms, four is a small number of full directors but not unprecedented. The recent illness of Andrew Kelly, however, and his possible absence or inability to commit himself to the club’s business, leaves only three directors, one of whom, David Bottomley, is also in the remunerated position of Chief Executive Officer. Again, it is not particularly unusual in business but it leaves steerage of the club in relatively few hands.

It appears a vacuum had formed even before the resignation of Andrew Kilpatrick. This was somewhat inevitable as a consequence of having a chairman based so far away from the club and a board comprising but a few directors.

Ordinarily, this might be of little significance but when matters go off-centre, as they have at Rochdale, it can draw concern. Football clubs are often mini-empires run by a single, strong figure with a clear vision. This is fine, of course, if this particular person has the attributes and qualities to run a club to its maximum potential and is also mandated by fans to do so. But is this the case here at Spotland?

READ Part III here: https://www.fansnetwork.co.uk/football/rochdale/news/54615/mark-hodkinson-inside

Photo: Action Images

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