Lee Power had booked a table for three at the Swindon Jury’s Inn Hotel, just a couple of left and right hand turns away from Swindon Town’s County Ground stadium.
Power had previously been a professional footballer, namely with Norwich City, Bradford City and Peterborough United but two broken legs had cut his career short aged 28. He has since made his fortune through being a football agent, his sports publishing company known as CRE8 and he became a racehorse owner in 2006.
He joined the board in 2013, immediately investing £1.2million to lift a transfer embargo, but 8 years later he is on the brink of leaving the club the same way that he found it and there were whispers of staff not being paid for June 2021.
Fans’ opinions of Power have changed over time. Up until 2016, Swindon fans were thankful for him saving the club from bouts of administration. However, a lack of transparency and accusations of siphoning off money from the club has caused the relationship between fans and board to turn sour. Some have even begun to accuse Power of leveraging the prospect of a fan favourite like Neil Godwin returning as a cheap way to regain favourable opinion of himself.
However, Neil Godwin was about to meet up with Lee Power in a meeting that would be decisive in the direction of the club.
“Good afternoon, Lee. It’s good to see you.” said Godwin, as he arrived in his green polo shirt, as if returning from playing a round of golf.
Power stood up to shake hands with Godwin to welcome him to what was considered ‘an informal chat’ that both parties knew was the actual interview for the job underneath.
“Great to see you again, Neil,” said Lee.
“Again?” asked Neil, confused as to where the two had met previously.
Lee had gone on to explain that he had met Neil briefly at a charity auction that took place at Webbswood Stadium - Swindon Supermarine’s stadium - whilst Neil was still the manager of the club during his year there.
Whilst pleasantries continued between the two, unbeknownst to Neil there was going to be a third attendee at the meeting as he had wondered who the empty third seat was for.
“Neil, this is Clem Morfuni, Managing Director of Axis Plumbing Group based in Sydney, Australia and prospective new buyer of Swindon Town Football Club. I felt that his input was necessary considering the direction of the club within the next few years.” Lee Power said as he and Neil welcomed the Australian multi-millionaire.
Neil Godwin had been meticulous enough in his research leading up to the meeting to know that Clem’s presence could be anticipated. He was however slightly frustrated that Lee had failed to mention his arrival until he walked through the door during the meeting.
As the conversation went on discussing next steps for the club’s recent troublesome ownership practices, Neil found himself in a position to demand things.
“Clem, if you are to come in - which it looks like you are - I want full control over all first-team affairs and management of coaching staff at youth level. I will not stand for a lack of transparency from the boardroom to the manager, staff, players and also the fans. All transfer fees, unless I say so, should be published as I feel like after Lee’s time in charge, it is a way to rebuild a relationship with the fans which is key to the team’s success.” Neil said, in a brutal assessment of Lee Power’s reign as Swindon chairman.
Clem smiled, he had a slight look of Paolo Di Canio which made his first appearance look slightly unnerving.
“Neil, I’ll be honest with you: the thought of hiring you hadn’t even entered my head when looking at changes I could make. You have Lee to thank for bringing your name to my attention if I’m to be honest with you.
“However, after speaking to you, I like what you are saying and whilst there are managers with better experience than a year stint at the local non-league club, I think a joint arrival, a sea of change, let’s say of you and I would be a good thing for the fans.
“I believe in what you are saying with transparency, I am going to release my plan with the Trust and listen to recommendations, make amendments if necessary. If Lee is OK with preparing the terms of your arrival, have you in place when the shares are transferred to Axis Group then I would love to sit down with you alone and go through things one final time. How is that for you?” Clem said.
Neil was still suspicious of Clem, but recognised that he was Swindon’s best hope when it came to surviving and not plummeting itself in more financial jeopardy. The pair had arranged to meet without Lee’s presence over the weekend, with a contract to be delivered to Neil on Friday.
They certainly are, it's been a tough few years. I hope that Kewell's career in football is long-dead now