GROWING discontent among a vocal section of Barnsley FC’s fanbase is coming to a head - with plans to stage a series of protests that could start at tomorrow’s game against Bournemouth.
The group’s anger is directed towards Barnsley’s majority owners, who they believe ‘do not have the best interests of the club at heart’ and are letting the club ‘rot from within’.
The club’s dire results and performances that leave them bottom of the Championship, below Derby County - who have had a 21-point deduction - have contributed to the defeated atmosphere at Oakwell.
But it’s also the perceived lack of communication from above that’s seen around 1,500 fans - more than a tenth of the average home attendance - come together under the banner ‘Conway Out’.
Paul Conway acquired the 135-year-old club in December 2017 alongside co-chairman Chien Lee, and implemented a data-driven recruitment and selling approach likened to the ‘moneyball’ made famous in baseball by Billy Beane - also an investor.
The club’s seen mixed successes since, and concerns, said 30-year-old Luke Goddard - one of a ‘core’ of half a dozen fans in the group - are that current on and off-field issues reflect a lack of care.
“We are a fan group, with no real affiliations to other groups, but we were all fed up with seeing our club rotting from within and nothing being done,” he told the Chronicle.
“We believe Paul Conway and Chien Lee do not have the best interests of the club at heart.
“They have no connection with the town and seem to be here to only make money.”
The group are planning to ‘mobilise’ fans at an event at the Garrison pub at 7pm on Tuesday where 10,000 ‘Conway Out’ posters will be handed out, while £2 entry fees will go to Barnsley Hospice.
“We have a series of protests planned in the coming weeks, the first major one being based around the QPR game on February 12,” added Luke, from the town centre.
“However, I wouldn’t be surprised if protests started this weekend at the Bournemouth game.”
The current owners abadoned a bid to take over Oakwell from part-owners Barnsley Council and the Cryne family, instead looking to renegotiate their tenancy amid a desire to see it modernised.
Talks of ground-shares with other league clubs also caused ructions, as did the closure of the historic West Stand due to apparent safety concerns.
Barnsley’s high-profile players attracted interest for their displays under Valerien Ismael, but chief executive Khaled El-Ahmad said last season’s direct style didn’t increase the saleability of players.
No major transfers have taken place with the January window due to close next week.
El-Ahmad has highlighted updates to food stalls, a mental health club, and more thorough staff recruitment processes as positives off-the-pitch this season.
“Rome was burning and all the talk was about flatbreads,” said Luke. “Barnsley fans are no strangers to adversity but this time there is an air of something different. Many fans now feel that success on the field has become a secondary goal behind developing talent to sell on at a profit.”
A club spokesperson said: “Barnsley FC chief executive officer, Khaled El-Ahmad, answered three hours’ worth of supporters questions with the Barnsley FC Supporters’ Trust on January 18, covering all manner of topics.
“The video is free to watch for all.
“Also, the club have received an invitation to an informal gathering on Tuesday and plan to engage and attend in person.”