Reg Burr became chairman of Millwall in July, 1986. He had been involved in football for 25 years, including a short period as a Millwall director and 11 years as a director of Luton Town. Burr was asked to become chairman when Millwall were £5 million in debt and on the point of going into liquidation.
“I was brought up to believe in old-fashioned values, to respect your parents, to work hard and tell the truth, to look after people and to respect authority. Millwall reflect those values. Millwall reminded me about all the good things about London and all the good things about people. It is an honest place.”
“I had been in football for many years. But with Millwall, I felt here was an opportunity to put into practice all the things I have thought and dreamed about. If it was successful, then I would see the results. I wouldn’t be wouldn’t be interested in being a director of the Spurs, or Liverpool or whoever. I couldn’t have any real influence over the affairs of a club like that. They are incredibly successful and have a pattern and momentum of their own which no one individual could influence or change. But at Millwall I found the challenge incredibly stimulating and I knew that if it worked, I would see the results.”
“I came here as an outsider, but I was welcome at The Den in a way I had never experienced in football before. Before I first became a director I suppose I had only been here about four times. But what I sensed in the people and the atmosphere had made a very deep impression on me. There was a warmth and a directness that reminded me of London before the war.”
“The same qualities used to be in football. They’ve gone now, gone from most of our cities and gone from most of our football clubs. But they are still in South-East London, and still in Millwall.”
“When the club’s crisis came, there was no other solution in sight except me. I do not regard what I did as heroic. I did it because I wanted to do it. But I would not have done it for any other club.”
“Millwall was about a week away from extinction. We took the club off the hearse. The lid had been nailed down and it was on its way to the burial ground. That is unforgivable. Utterly unforgivable.”
“Directors come and go, for a variety of reasons. But the football club should not be affected by that. It belongs to the people. A director is only a trustee, a caretaker. You have got to try and do your best for that club while you are there, and sometimes your best may not be good enough. That happens. But even if you fail, you have to fail in such a way that you don’t irretrievably damage the club. For Millwall to be in that state was a betrayal of the people who had given so much to the club. The supporters had not had directors as good as themselves.”
“We didn’t even have 11 players at one point. It was very hard to get help, very hard indeed. It would have suited some people in the game if we had disappeared. The supporters didn’t believe what we said, and quite rightly so. It had all been said before, they had had so many false promises, they didn’t relish another bunch coming along.”
“Everything that happened in the first season gave them no encouragement whatsoever, because we deliberately sat back, took stock and made all the ground-work but didn’t actually do anything to put playing defects right.”
“We got a great stack of critical mail, which I replied to. Then in the close season we went forward and started buying the players we needed. John Docherty was one of the few people who recognised there was such a thing as a Millwall player. He looked at the personality of potential players as much as their playing skills. Lots of managers in football do that, and many more say they do, but John really did. He had studied the area and the club, and spent hours talking to people. John knew what he was doing.”
“I called the season-ticket holders together in the executive lounge and told them what they could expect from me, and what I expected from them. Just because they couldn’t put up £200,000 did not mean they should sit on their arse. They could buy bingo tickets, help with a bit of equipment for the gym, there was always something. Everyone had to do what they could.”
“The community scheme was already underway and there was never any question of doing anything except expanding it, or rather, of letting Gary expand it. I wanted to get back to the time when the man on the terraces and the man on the pitch saw each other as mates. I felt that if we could get people to re-identify with the club, we might be able to do something about the violence.”
“But even if Millwall had not had the violence problem hanging over it, we would have gone ahead with the work in the community because it is the right thing to do. It should not be seen as extraordinary, whether done by us or anybody else. What is extraordinary, is that these things have not been attempted before.”
“If I have a regret, it is that our facilities are not good enough to open up properly yet. If we had better facilities, we would open the place up 24 hours a day. The conditions for watching football are no different from when people lived back to back, before the war.”
“Why is this accepted? A player does something in a half-second that you drool over for days: one little bit that makes every thing else worthwhile.”
“If we keep our cool, we believe that in three to four years’ time we will have a team whose talents will be the envy of the rest of England and we will have amenities as good as anybody’s. We will make Millwall what it should be. That is what our people deserve. Until we get that, our supporters have got every right to not be totally happy with us”.
“I believe that if you treat people like human beings you have a fair chance that they will respond in a responsible manner. If you treat people like animals you have no hope of them behaving in any other way. You are lucky if you reap what you sow, but if you don’t sow anything you are not going to reap anything. These are my fundamental beliefs in life. I think they apply in football, and particularly to Millwall.”
“In the past, I think Millwall’s virtues have been distorted and corrupted by failure. But that doesn’t excuse the violence. I think it explains why some of it happened, but it does not excuse it. I truly believe though, that if we can restore pride then we can hope to restore responsibility. My fear is that out there is some bunch of idiots with something to prove who will take us on.”
“I know our people, they won’t be walked over. They will find it very, very, difficult to walk away from provocation. I don’t believe our people are going to go rampaging all over the place, they have got what they want now. But they must not allow idiots to spoil it for them.”
“Ultimately, I hope the great majority will discipline any small minority who misbehave and threaten to spoil it for other people.”
“I believe in the innate goodness of people. I believe that if you treat people well, you create the best possible chance that they will respond well. If you believe people are basically good, given the chance, then you have to lead by example, and to trust them. You have to, and it is right to do so. If it goes wrong, then the blame is shared by all of us. We cannot distance ourselves from our people: we are our people. I live in the world as it is, not the world as I would like it to be. If our people let us down, they let themselves down. It would be all our faults if this went wrong. And if that happens, we will face it honestly.”
“I will not condemn our people, I am not frightened of them, and I am not ashamed of them. No one will ever make me say our supporters are scum. Never. Neither will I utter pious words about what I do and do not want to happen. I hate violence, hate it and detest it, in any form. But you have no right to say anything about violence unless you have tried to do something about it, and having begun to do the things we are doing, I think our actions should speak for themselves. I want our performances on the pitch to speak for themselves, and I want our atmosphere and our attitudes to speak for themselves. By those things, let us be judged.”
Reg Burr, Chairman.
This Story was taken from the Millwall-history site which if you’ve never looked at it then its a must see site.
The site is written by a Millwall fan for all Millwall fans.