County in turmoil with chairman on verge of quitting after abusive calls
Newport County chairman Chris Blight is on the brink of quitting the club due to personal attacks that culminated in abusive phone calls to his house this weekend.
In an explosive interview the long-standing chairman also revealed that:
- Talks are ongoing with a group of businessmen keen to provide financial assistance to the club;
- The proposed cash injection would allow Justin Edinburgh to further strengthen his squad and sign a new contract;
- He feels potential investors are scared off by the level of criticism aimed at board members by supporters on messageboards;
- There is no rift between himself and Matt Southall, one of the men believed to be willing to make a financial contribution to the club
- He is furious over rumours that he would slow down/prohibit any potential cash injection to protect his own position as chairman;
- Whatever happens now he is likely to walk away from the club for family reasons and to protect his reputation in the local community.
Speaking exclusively to the Argus, an emotional Blight revealed that he feels he’s being unfairly victimised and scrutinised, based on hearsay stemming from inaccurate online speculation.
“This weekend is probably the lowest point I’ve experienced in almost ten years as chairman of the football club,” he said.
“On Sunday I received telephone calls, both to my mobile phone and home phone, with levels of abuse that were very distressing to both myself and my partner.
“I have given everything I have to this club for a decade. I’ve spent a lot of money out of my own pocket that I will never see again, and I did so willingly.
“Just a week ago I paid a painter £150 out of my own pocket to paint the new office at Rodney Parade. Over the years there have been hundreds of similar instances.
“I never, ever asked to be chairman of the club and when it comes to this, with my partner crying hysterically because of abuse on the telephone, you wonder if it isn’t in fact time to walk away.”
Blight’s anger is centred around a messageboard attack alleging that he stalled a move to bring in new financial backers.
In fact, he is eager for the potential investment to still occur and made clear that first contact was made on Thursday, July 5, between himself and Matt Southall, acting on behalf of a group of local business people. He asked the Argus not to name the backers.
Blight took the proposal to a board meeting on Tuesday, July 10, and then it was taken to the Trust committee on Wednesday, July 11.
E-mails were then exchanged between Southall and Blight on Wednesday evening.
After not hearing from Blight for six days, Southall offered to withdraw the offer, something Blight dissuaded him from doing – and discussions are now planned for later this week.
Despite accusations to the contrary, it is understood the group looking to invest in the club are NOT seeking to remove Blight from his position, though his departure is now the most likely scenario.
“One thing I am distressed about is the inference that there is a personal issue between myself and Matt Southall, that is categorically untrue,” he said.
“It is being presented to supporters that Matt wants me out and I’m refusing to budge, but that simply isn’t the case. Furthermore, I can state categorically that my position was that if it is in the best interests of the club, I would happily step aside. Now it is more the case that whatever happens, I think it is likely my time to step aside has come for my own reasons.”
Blight works in Newport and feels the level of criticism and scrutiny coming his way is unfair, and he rejects the accusation that he “answers to no-one”.
“We have two Trust members sitting in at every board level and, as far as I am concerned, the Trust is an authority, a regulator who we answer to, they police our decisions if you like,” he said.
“But by the same token, I can’t have my personal reputation damaged by working for Newport County. “The reason why people looking to come on board don’t want to be named is because they are professional people with business relationships in the city they don’t want to compromise.
“And if misrepresentations and accusations are going to fly around internet forums, that can call into question whether it is worth the bother of getting involved.
“We’ve lost directors that way, including John Bowkett last season. It is not helpful to anyone.”
The Argus understands he will make his decision later this week.
Matt Southall was unavailable for comment.