You know what it's like at a good football game. You are captivated by the skill of the players, intrigued by the strategy of the game, delighted to be a part of a slick and energetic operation.

At half time you are 2-0 up and optimistic; a beer would be the thing. With 20,000 dear friends you queue up at the bar and watch a girl with no English take orders from a customer with no memory, inspect a tap she has never opened, check the price with a supervisor who has never supervised, ask for the wrong amount, press the wrong key and engage all other available staff in advice and therapy.

You recognise the same looming catastrophe that you have seen every time you fancied a beer. As you push out of the queue from the front and get barged by those joining the queue from the back, you marvel that the same people who put wonderful players on the pitch are the same people who trained the staff for the essential infrastructure.

It's exactly like that with the Volkswagen AGM. The principals of the company stand up and give (this year at any rate) a very polished performance on the way ahead for VW and the means by which the company will outwit all opposition and bang in goals.

Then VW chairman Ferdinand Piech calls for the bit players to get involved and it is organisational madness. Piech gives a long briefing on copyright and the rights of speakers to have the internet broadcast shut off while they are at the stand.  He gives a stern briefing on time-keeping: no questioner can take more than 10 minutes. TEN MINUTES! To ask a question? The father of the bride gets no more than 10 minutes to make the speech of a lifetime.

There will be a flickering red light for a minute for winding up, he says, and a red light by which time the question must have been asked.

Here comes the silver-haired man in a grey suit who thinks that it is his essential task to talk about the history of the group, the interaction of directors, workers, shareholders and politicians. After 10 minutes the lights come up. With the conviction of a man who has done this every year and has never yet heeded a red light he says provocatively: "Having made the political points I now turn to turn to the business." And on he goes.

There is a frisson of excitement, it must be admitted, when yellow tie man raises the matter of executive board members visiting bordellos on company expenses. At last someone got the tap open and things are starting to fizz. But you know it's going nowhere. The whole VW sex and bribery thing has been done and dusted in the courts.

There is another brief moment of excitement when someone wants to know how much money Porsche Consulting is charging VW now that Porsche controls VW. Good question mate.
 
Four hours in to the meeting, the answers start. Piech rolls 40 minutes worth of "questions" together and says: "We cannot accept questions of that nature on this occasion."

Does fighting break out? Are not the questioners furious that they have been ruled offside? Not a bleat. They have had their moment in the limelight. And that's all they came for.

The most precious cameo is Piech on conflicts of interest. Nothing to worry about he says. Mr Wiedeking, the CEO of Porche and the de facto CEO of VW now that Porsche has control, "can discern the interests of VW and Porsche separately."

That is a ruling that Piech can make with impunity because he is chairman of the VW supervisory board and conflicts of interest questions have to be managed - he explains carefully - by the supervisory board. That he personally controls Porsche as well as VW is no deterrent.

By now the concerned listeners are beginning to lose the will to live. The regulars know what the form is and stay on to admire the slick management of chaos.

Come on fellers. It has gone past farce. Shareholder democracy is essential but this day-long demonstration of tolerance serves nobody well.

Communication techniques have changed. Open meetings are needed for close votes. A parade of so-called questions that are really turgid speeches are not an essential part of open government.

For a company which is going to become the world's most successful car company within ten years by overtaking Toyota - you tell us today - time does not exist for the board to sit around boring the well-meaning  into submission.

For everyone's sake, make some reforms to an antiquated process that does nothing to enhance your image as a progressive force.

And we can all get to the pub a bit sooner.

Rob Golding

See also: GERMANY: VW Q1 meets expectations