The battle between directors at Chelsea Club escalated dramatically last night when Ken Bates, the chairman, barred Matthew Harding from the directors' box, the players' lounge and the car park after a week in which the growing disharmony between the two men broke out into the open.
In a letter to Mr Harding, the Chelsea chairman writes that being a director brings three things: responsibilities, duties and privileges. "In view of your behaviour your privileges are hereby withdrawn," Bates writes. He goes on to say: "Your directors' box tickets and car park pass are no longer valid and you will not be admitted to the executive area or the directors' box in either your own right or as a guest."
"The press lounge and players' bar are similarly off limits and you can no longer enter that area. I hope that you will abide by this ruling but if you do not the stewards will be instructed to refuse your entry."
"Seats in the directors' box will no longer be available for away matches.
"It gives me no pleasure to do this," Bates writes, "but clearly you can no longer run with the hare and hunt with the hounds." Bates said this would "at least stop the embarrassment in the boardroom" caused by Harding's presence "both home and away."
Bates says that if Harding has any specific proposals to put to him, they will be considered and the situation can be reviewed so long as they are written direct and "not through the columns of that well known financial paper, the Sun".
He accuses Harding of being nice to his face while taking every opportunity "behind my back" courting certain parts of the press and "your jackals in the Independent Supporters' Association."
After Harding was read the letter on the telephone - he had not received it last night - he declined to comment.
The public row between Bates and Harding, long anticipated by those close to Chelsea, broke out last weekend after Harding wrote to Bates, resigning his position as a director of Chelsea Village, the company that controls the assets of Chelsea Club.
Earlier in the day Harding defended that decision, saying: "Inevitably, the job of the parent company, Chelsea Village, has wider objectives..." Of course we've got different views but we've always said that's healthy."
Harding said he had no intention of quitting Chelsea. "I'm not going to pack up my kit bag and walk away," he said last night.
Today, at least, he will not be missing out on his seats in the Stamford Bridge directors' box, as Chelsea are away at West Ham for Alvin Martin's testimonial. Prior to receiving Bates' vitriolic letter, Harding had already decided to sit in the away end with the bulk of the Chelsea supporters.
"I was always going to do it tomorrow, before all this... don't misinterpret it, I'm not being dog in a manger about it," Harding added last night. "It's a nice chance to take my three boys to a game and sit together... and I arranged the tickets before I went to America." Just as well...
Wherever Harding watches Chelsea from in future, he will, after all, be able to see Terry Phelan wearing a Chelsea shirt, after the protracted transfer of the Republic of Ireland full-back was finally completed. The pounds 750,000 deal was threatened when Phelan demanded payment for the remainder of his two-year contract with Manchester City.
After further talks with club officials, Phelan settled his differences and he will fly to London to complete the move at Stamford Bridge this morning.
Phelan, who joined City from Wimbledon in a pounds 2.5m transfer three years ago, accepted the personal terms offered by Chelsea after the two clubs had agreed the fee. City were originally asking pounds 1.5m but City's chairman, Francis Lee, agreed to reduce the fee because his club is trying to raise money quickly to finance an attempt to sign Nigel Clough from Liverpool for pounds 1.5m.
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