Harding would let fans vote

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The Independent Online
Chelsea fans will be given a vote in the future of the club if Matthew Harding wins his power battle with the present chairman, Ken Bates.

The multi-millionaire director, banned from the Chelsea directors' box by Bates, made the extraordinary pledge of an annual referendum as he prepares to go among the supporters for tonight's home game against Bolton.

"If I become chairman I intend to break some moulds - and one plan I have is to give club members the right to re-elect me as chairman," Harding said.

"I don't care who has shares or not - I believe if someone cares enough about the club to pay his pounds 25 or whatever a year for membership, he or she should have a say in how it's run.

"Chelsea have more than 25,000 members and they are the emotional shareholders of the club. I would go to them every summer and I'll promise you this now - if there was a majority voting against me I would stand down instantly."

Harding, who has already put pounds 26m into the club and publicly backed the manager, Glenn Hoddle, challenges Bates to put his own popularity and plans for the future to the vote.

"I don't give a damn about being chairman, all I know is that at the moment we have the wrong chairman."

The bitter public feud began when Harding offered to step down from the board of Chelsea Village, the football club's parent company. Bates responded by removing the City boss's directorial privileges, accusing him of irresponsible behaviour and of drinking too much.

Harding's answer was to challenging Bates to reveal the mystery majority shareholders in Chelsea Village and how much he has personally put into the club during his 13 years in control.