Lions chairman Reg Burr is already
assured a place in Millwall folklore as the man who master-minded the
club's triumphant march into the First Division after a 103-year wait.
By Rob Bowden
Now Burr is determined to safeguard
Millwall's coveted position amongst the country's elite, by dragging the
club, kicking and screaming into the 1990s.
Burr's ambitious plans include a £5
million share issue, and most controversially they mean moving from the
Den, Millwall's home for nearly 80 years.
The Lions chief is adamant it's the
only way forward for a club whose gale receipts will never provide them
with the son of resources enjoyed by Liverpool, Manchester United,
Arsenal and co. But his plans have already been slammed by some
supporters who fear that the club's unique spirit wouldn't survive a
move from the Den, and that a share issue will surrender Millwall into
the hands of business entrepreneurs more interested in profit than
success on the field.
Burr believer those fears are
groundless, born out of an understandable emotional attachment to the
Den and a lack of understanding about the club's financial problems.
In today's SLP Sport he spells out his
vision of the future and explains why the club must move from its
beloved New Cross home.
Instead of moving from the Den a lot
of supporters would rather see the ground improved and modernised. Why
isn't that possible?
"It simply isn't viable! The
Football League and Football Association have recommended that all First
Division grounds should be 60-75 per seated. If that recommendation is
included in Lord Justice Taylor's final report on the Hillsborough
tragedy it is likely to become law by 1992 or 1993."
"It throws up the possibility of
us being kicked out of the First Division, not because we aren't good
enough, but because our ground doesn't come up to scratch and that's
something I am determined to prevent."
"To bring the Den into line with
that all-seater recommendation would cost between £15 and £20 million
and there is simply no way we can raise that sort of money."
"When the idea of moving from the
Den was first raised I thought it was a pipedream which would never come
off, but now it's not an option it's absolutely imperative.
Do you understand why people are so
reluctant to leave the Den?
"Of course! I've had letters from
people who say that when they stand on the terraces at the Den they feel
the strength of their fathers and grandfathers."
"I can understand that, but would
those same people want to stand on the terraces and watch Third, Fourth
or even non-League football because that's what the future holds if we
"Far too many people have worked
themselves into the ground to get this club into the First Division for
us to give up lightly."
THE Lions were highly successful
during their first season in the top flight, and you've started the
current campaign in similar fashion, so why are any changes necessary?
"John Docherty and his staff have
done an absolutely marvellous job. I'm the first to acknowledge that and
I for one don't think we have seen the best of this side yet.
"But the harsh facts are that
despite last season's success our total income was just under £3
million of which £1.2 million came through the turnstiles.
"Unless we have a decent Cup run
it is hard to envisage our gate receipts will increase dramatically this
season - and of course you can't budget on Cup runs."
"In today's transfer market
improving on our current squad would cost John £600,000 - £700,000 a
time minimum, on our current income that sort of money isn't readily
"We've got a squad of players who
are tremendously loyal to this club. But if we don't match the wages
other people are paying we won't be able attract new players or keep the
ones we've got."
"If that happens the result,
inevitably, would be a decline in standards and a return to the Second
or Third Divisions."
"I'd love nothing better than to
be able to stay at the Den. I don't need all the work that moving to a
new ground will create."