Remembering Buck Chinn – a Villa Champion
In the Premiership era, we have got used to fans organisations like Supporters Direct and the Federation of Football Supporters. Most clubs have got Trusts or other Fan Organisations, right across Europe. It is hard to remember a time when they did not exist, but over three decades ago Villa fans did not have an organisation. One man stands out as having started regular fan meetings and proper fan organisation, and that man was Buck Chinn. He deserves to be remembered.
There had been fan protests, especially the legendary Barwick Street meeting in Victorian times and the 1969 Digbeth Civic Hall Meeting – which got us ‘Deadly’ Doug Ellis. But for over a hundred years, Villa Fans did not organise. As Carl Chinn, his son, remembers in his own blog about his dad, it was Buck who got the fans organised, first in the Villa Democracy Group. The family had been long standing Villa supporters – like me, Carl is a third generation supporter – but my family were never more than faces in the crowd. Over forty years ago Buck saw that something like a pressure group was needed if Villa fans were to have a voice in the club, and set up the Democracy Group with the aim of getting people elected to the board.
The problem at the start was that while no one person had a majority shareholding the fans didn’t have enough shares to get anyone elected. This became more of a problem after Ron Bendall, the chair who let Ron Saunders go, sold his shares to “Deadly” Doug Ellis, who then had 40%. Buck argued rightly that this left 60% to play with, so he could be outvoted. This was true in theory, and at one shareholders meeting Buck was elected on a show of hands. But ‘Deadly’ Doug then called for a vote of the proxies – the business people who had not even bothered to turn up – and he got his majority.
But if Buck never got on the board, he organised a shareholder’s association for two decades – until Randy Lerner bought the club – which was the real voice of the fans. The annual meeting of the shareholders was much better than the shouting match that the official AGM became before ‘Deadly’ sold the club. Nothing was properly debated at the AGM as Doug simply steamrollered the opposition which either did not turn up or did so to vent its frustrations while losing the votes. Not a good event at all. However the Shareholder’s annual meeting was much more open to different ideas, and most years the manager turned up and answered questions in a friendly atmosphere.
I particularly remember Brian Little and John Gregory being very open and informative, within the limits of not annoying the board, and their contribution was always good fun. It is a pity managers are more reluctant to meet fans today, but they have to trust that the chair of the meeting will get them a good hearing. They trusted Buck Chinn, and they were right to do so. Buck was a real fan’s champion and genuinely tried to get supporters listened to. His passing away left a void that has yet to be filled, and he should never be forgotten.