Football: Swales resigns as chairman of City: Death threats, criminal damage and family harassment cited as reasons for stepping down at Maine Road

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The Independent Online
PETER SWALES, who will today head the Football Association committee charged with beginning the process of selecting a new England manager, followed Graham Taylor's example yesterday by resigning as chairman of Manchester City, citing death threats and harassment against him and his family.

It was not, however, the severing of links for which many City supporters, who had vociferously demanded an end to his 20-year reign, had been hoping. Swales will remain on the board, while both he and his main ally, fellow director Stephen Boler, appear determined not to sell any or part of their joint controlling interest to the consortium led by Francis Lee.

'The last straw,' Swales claimed, came when two City fans turned up at his mother's bedside at a nursing home in Altrincham. 'Death threats against me are one thing, but when supporters will sink to the depths where they involve an

87-year-old woman, the time has come for me to take action,' he said. 'My family have been living in constant fear and their safety was my prime consideration.

'I also had to take into account the effect this unrest has been having on the team. It should be clear to everyone that they have become very apprehensive playing at Maine Road. I felt that staying on was creating an additional burden for the players and for the manager, Brian Horton, who has conducted himself admirably.'

After City's defeat by Sheffield Wednesday on Saturday, Swales had to have a police escort from his seat. His business premises have also been vandalised, with a vehicle being deliberately driven into one of his electrical goods shops.

In spite of the campaign against him, or possibly because of it, Swales refuses to deal with Lee, the self-styled 'people's choice'. Boler spoke yesterday of a 'derisory offer' of pounds 8.89 per share by the former City player and his associates, pointing out that shares were currently changing hands at pounds 30 each.

But Boler did not rule out the prospect of Swales, whose 30 per cent shareholding is worth around pounds 5m, quitting City altogether. 'There must now be a possibility that Peter will sell if he receives an acceptable offer, though he is not prepared to sell to Francis Lee or his consortium.'

He added that the new chairman was unlikely to come from the existing board, but would be 'totally independent . . . with experience of running a major company like Manchester City'.

Colin Barlow, another former City player in Lee's group, said last night: 'Nothing has changed. We fight on - in fact, we're going to step up the campaign. But we want to dissociate ourselves from the conduct of a small group of so- called City fans. That has been a hindrance and an embarrassment.'

As Swales steps aside, the position of John Maddock, City's general manager, is reportedly under threat. Some directors are said to be unhappy with Maddock's handling of the dismissal of Peter Reid in August and may try to oust 'public enemy No 2' this week.

Taylor has emerged as a contender for the Birmingham City managership following Terry Cooper's resignation. The First Division club's owner, David Sullivan, said: 'Graham has got a fabulous club record and is someone you could not rule out. My only worry is that people on the terraces may have been brainwashed against him.'

Cooper, who had been at St Andrew's since June 1991, said the crowd's hostility during Saturday's defeat by Tranmere, Birmingham's fifth in six matches, had made it 'difficult to carry on'. Trevor Morgan, his assistant, will take over on a caretaker basis. Tony Taylor, the Celtic and former Birmingham youth coach, and Port Vale's John Rudge join the former England manager among the front-runners.

The Swales years, page 38