CHAIRMAN Mike Burke launched an impassioned defence of Bromsgrove Sporting’s board ahead of a crunch meeting on manager Paul Smith’s future tonight.

On Friday, Smith announced he would resign from the Midland Football League title chasers at the end of the season, citing “backbiting and lies”, differences with the board and his protracted contract negotiations.

Irate fans took to social media with Burke in particular the victim of abusive posts and a petition for him to be removed picking up 234 votes by 6pm today, although the legitimacy of some of the signatures has been questioned.

Burke confirmed the club had not received any formal intent to resign from Smith but that the issue would be discussed.

Asked if Smith’s immediate future would be on the agenda, Burke replied: “That is something for discussion, yes. He knows that.”

On Smith’s release, Burke said: “It is disappointing he feels he has to do things this way.

“In the same way the board has not been informed of Paul’s plans to resign, it has also not been given any indication as to what he means by backbiting and lying. If Paul had raised these things, perhaps we could do something about it.

“If he has no evidence, to put it out there is provocative and not very good of him to make the club a laughing stock.”

Burke said he had been aware of the petition but was more concerned by the impact the online vitriol could have on his fellow directors.

“It is a shame that the hardworking people of this club, people who have been here far longer than Paul or I have and who have worked through some very hard times, are getting their efforts thrown back in their faces,” he said.

“From the position we were in two years ago, we have reached a point where we can afford to give the manager the means to win matches.

“It has been squeaky at times. The board members have been keen to keep a check on costs but we have got ourselves in a position where we can give the manager a good budget to win the league and progress as far as we would like to.

“The directors and volunteers are fans as well. They love Bromsgrove as much as anyone else and work hard to keep the club going.

“They have done nothing wrong and have done everything in their power to get us to the position we are in now.”

In Friday’s statement, Smith said “the club is desperate for new investment, new ideas and a clear professional vision of how to go forward”.

That followed his comments at January’s fans’ forum where he stated the team was “not good enough for the next level”.

When asked about Bromsgrove finances, Burke said: “With the directors we have and the money coming in now, we have enough to keep us going two levels above where we are. I know that because I know what the income is at clubs at that level.

“We would have a top-half budget in the Evostik Premier at least, dependent on what value the manager can get out of that. I know a lot of clubs at that level don’t have the budget we do.”

Burke was also quick to scotch any talk of a lack of ambition and insisted no offers to boost the finances had been received.

“The club is in a very healthy position,” he said.

“It annoys me when people talk about investment because we have not had anyone in the past two years come forward to offer any money.

“Any so-called investor, and there is one in particular that keeps getting mentioned, has never offered money, he offered his expertise. When he came to a board meeting he did not say he would bring in money.

“I said I would step to one side if he would be better for the club the first time this person was mooted. The board decided he would not be better. I was incredibly flattered and humbled by that and that faith keeps you on your toes.

“The clubs that struggle bring in investors who want a hobby, put in a load of money to get you to a league that the fan base does not support and then leaves. That’s what kills clubs.

“I said to a fan on Saturday, if he won the lottery I have no doubt he would look after this club until the day he dies but someone from outside does not come with that guarantee.

“I am an investor and could put in as much money as needed but the argument is it must be self-sufficient. If it is not, the club goes backwards.

“Whenever I go away, and I am confident we can get up two levels, I will leave the club able to sustain itself at that level. No way would me walking away leave the club with debt.

“The idea is to look after this club now so in 15, even 40 years it is still here.

"This is a good club with a solid fan base and even if someone got run over by a bus tomorrow, it would keep going. That’s the plan, to keep it that way.

“I have seen first-hand what happens when you don’t do it like that.”

Burke politely declined to comment on the identity of the person who offered his expertise. 

Smith was unavailable for comment when contacted by the Worcester News