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I'm Backing Brentford part three: Jack Dunnett

Posted: Fri 17 Feb 2017
Author: Mark Chapman

Part three of our series commemorating 50 years since the thwarted takeover by Queens Park Rangers

The man at the centre of the storm in 1967 was majority shareholder and Chairman Jack Dunnett. The lawyer and Nottingham MP had owned Brentford since 1961 but had agreed with Queens Park Rangers Chairman Jim Gregory that they would move into Griffin Park and Brentford would be no more.

Brentford fans Dave Lane, Greville Waterman, and Mark Croxford met a then 91-year-old Jack Dunnett four years ago for his first interview about the events of 1967. Feelings still run deep. Dunnett’s wife would not let Brentford fans into her house so the get together was at London Waterloo station. What happened afterwards was a fascinating discussion of how he viewed the takeover. We’re extremely grateful to Dave, Greville, and Mark for allowing us to reproduce an extract from that September 2013 meeting.

With a sharp memory for the events, Jack describes his involvement in the crisis that nearly engulfed Brentford.

“The reaction of the fans did surprise me somewhat because here I was, in good faith, trying to do something which would give the club a future,” said Jack. “I think I was right too – how many times since 1967 have Queens Park Rangers not been in the top divisions?”

He added: “Within ten years Jim was in the First Division and finished second, they were in Europe and did fantastically well. If the amalgamation had gone through, Brentford would have been swept up in that.”

Where a football fan’s view about their team separates from a businessman’s is quite clear in the following passage, where his lack of empathy for Brentford’s future was clear. 

“I didn’t really care about whether Queens Park Rangers would have taken up more of the new club than Brentford – we’d have still been playing at Griffin Park,” said Jack. “I wouldn’t have been chairman of the new club as that would have been Jim Gregory. I’d have been a director. 

“My objective was to secure a future for Brentford but without me having to run up and down between Nottingham and London.”

Despite the proposal receiving condemnation across football, Dunnett could see this as a way for a team to be in the top flight.

“I don’t think we could have sold the idea to the fans in a different sort of way,” said Jack. “I spoke to some supporters after tempers had cooled down and it was apparent that they just didn’t want to be associated with their nearest rivals. Eventually, I could understand that but the main thing for me was to be able to progress through the divisions, to get to the First Division.

“The fans seemed to want to rather stay where they were, at the bottom of the Fourth Division, than amalgamate with our rivals and get into the First Division, which I couldn’t understand at the time and still don’t understand. 

“When we started discussing it, it looked to be a good deal to me.

“I don’t think I would have benefitted financially. I didn’t care whether I got my investment back or not. I hadn’t paid money that I couldn’t afford and my business was doing well at the time.”

But he did get a lot of his investment back. His shares in the Club were bought by business Ron Blindell, on behalf of the syndicate. Blindell got a shock when he saw the level of securities and debt the Club was holding at the time. They met at the Houses of Parliament to talk about the opportunity of fighting the takeover and selling the Club.

History showed that Brentford fans stuck together and fought the takeover. Jack Dunnett’s involvement in Brentford ended when his shares were purchased in February 1967. This left him free to take over at Notts County, where under his control they went from the bottom tier to top flight, and he later became Football League Chairman in the 1980s.

In his latest book on Brentford, Greville Waterman summed up Jack’s feelings on the affair, writing it showed a “total lack of understanding about how supporters feel and their passion for their club and their determination for it to retain its individual identity.”

Don’t miss out on a piece of history: help celebrate the 50th anniversary of the fans saving Brentford by booking tickets now for The Bees’ home match against Rotherham United on 25 February. Prices are just £1 for Juniors, £5 for Young Persons, and £20 for adults all over Griffin Park.