1st Open Meeting Notes

Chair

Councillor Hazel Lynskey – Scarborough Borough Council

Speakers

Jacqui Forster – Development Officer, Supporters Direct

Paul Hajduk – Chairman, Rushden and Diamonds Supporters’ Trust

Simon Cope, Ben Courtney, Andy Crossland – Seadog Trust

Chair: Councillor Lynskey introduced herself as a member of both Scarborough Borough Council, and as a supporter of Scarborough FC. She made it clear that she would be chairing the meeting in an entirely neutral capacity. She understood that many fans were disgruntled at the clubs financial problems, and its relegation, but emphasised that the open meeting was an opportunity to look forward, rather than looking back

Jacqui Forster : Jacqui works for Supporters Direct with football clubs at all levels, and also with rugby clubs of both codes. Supporters Direct was set up in the year 2000 in response to the report of Labour’s 1997 Football Task Force. The first Supporters' Trust was set up at Northampton Town in 1992 in response to a financial crisis; the Trust attempted to forge a new link between the club and the community. Brian Lomax, the main driving force behind Northampton's Trust, is now the chair of Supporters' Direct. Trusts are democratic, not-for-profit bodies which are run on an equal opportunities basis as a mutual organisation, and are audited and regulated by the Financial Services Authority. Supporters Direct is an umbrella organisation which looks after Supporter Trusts. They arrange conferences from time to time, like the one several Boro fans attended at the Walkers Stadium in Leicester recently to share experiences and good practice. There is an annual conference in London, which they are looking to relocate somewhere more accessible to the whole nation, where they meet with the leagues, the FA and PFA representatives. Important for all trusts to have the help of all sorts of peoples with lots of diverse skills regardless of their occupation.

Chair : Cllr Lynskey pointed out that the mayor was in attendance, as were two councillors, with apologies from a further eight councillors who are supportive of the Trust but were unable to attend.

Paul Hajduk: Announced his intention to talk broadly about the set up and evolution of a Trust. Talked about the background to Rushden and Diamonds Supporters' Trust. Rushden & Diamonds Football Club was owned by the multi-millionaire Griggs family. In October 2003 the club went up for sale due to it harming the other aspects of the Griggs business. They were unable to find a buyer who would guarantee the future of the football club. At Christmas 2004 the Supporters Club decided to form a Supporters’ Trust in order to raise some money and unite the fans against a backdrop of infighting between the Supporters’ Club and the Independent Supporters' Association. Max Griggs promptly offered the club and all its assets to the Trust, along with £750,000 cash in the bank. However the club at that time was making losses of around £3-4 million per annum. In February 2005 they had their Open Meeting with 350 attendees. Lots of people came forward to help. They organised their working group into three parties

  • Due diligence group – made sure that it was viable for the Trust to run the club

  • Trust formation group – who did the work in setting up the Trust infrastructure.

  • Trust running group – to keep the Trust running, encourage membership, fundraising etc.

Once they owned the club the running of the club was done in two boards

  • The “Trust Board” – establishing strategies for how to run the club, controlling the assets of the club in the best interest of it, keeping the Trust membership happy and involved

  • The “Club Board” doing the operational, day to day running of the club. The Trust and the Club need to be separate entities for the club to play in the Football League because a league club has to be able to become insolvent

Reality of running a club is very hard. There are often tough decisions to make and it is hard to discourage a fans vs the board mentality, even when the board is made up of fans! Important to make sure that you get a lot of good people in.

In summary, the main achievements of the Rushden & Diamonds Trust were to keep the club afloat and move it towards financial stability. Though Paul emphasised the difficulties of a Trust running the club he was keen to state that the Trust activists do it because they love the club and they love the work and ultimately its very rewarding.

Simon Cope : Thanked the fans present for attending, saying that it showed how much they cared about their football club. Stated that a Trust would be a way of the fans being represented in a democratic manner, and would help dispel the current 'us and them' attitude. Emphasised that although the Trust would be working closely with the football club, it would in fact be a completely independent organisation.

Revealed that the initial notion of forming a Trust for Boro came about as a way of ensuring that the club didn't fall into unscrupulous hands once Malcolm Reynolds and Ian Scobbie stepped down. Outlined the main aims of the Seadog Trust, which will be to gain full ownership of Scarborough Football Club, and to have elected Trust members on the board of the Football Club.

Ben Courtney : Spokeat length about the role a Supporters’ Trust for Scarborough could play in encouraging local businesses to become more involved in the club. Past owners/chairmen of the club have damaged the club's relationships with the business community of Scarborough. By improving the reputation of the club in the local community and providing increased transparency and accountability, a Trust would be able to attract more commercial revenue. Local business would want to be seen to be supportive of a successful, community driven Trust initiative.

Andy Crossland : Spoke in depth about the possible links that could be made between the football club and the community, drawing from his background in the not-for-profit sector. Used the closure of the bar during the Leeds United XI friendly of 15th July 2006 as an example of the commercial missed opportunities of the club. Explored the possibility of a Trust run club becoming more involved with local educational establishments, particularly the University of Hull, Scarborough campus and Yorkshire Coast College, both of which have a strong pedigree in the sports and leisure sector. Such a relationship would be mutually beneficial to both parties.

Questions:

Q. How will it relate to the Supporters Club?

SC: Spoken extensively to Stuart Canvin and affirmed to him that there are no plans to merge Supporters’ Trust and Supporters Club. Both have their own spheres of influence and will continue to operate independently in them. Important to maintain an “independent” fans voice when and if the Trust does own the club.

Q. Who are the shareholders of the club?

SC: Believe that Malcolm Reynolds owns 26% of shares, Philip Webster owns 26% and there are many other smaller shareholders. One of the first duties of the Trust is the process of due diligence and that will involved finding all the shareholders.

JF: Supporters Direct can help contacting Companies House and getting in touch with all the shareholders of the club. Many shareholders will only have small holdings and can be persuaded to hand their shares over to a Trust or proxy them.

Q. How will the Trust make money?

SC: A number of different sources. Membership fees would be one source, with annual fees proposed of around £10-£12. However, members would also be encouraged to donate more as they see fit, probably via direct debit or standing order. As mentioned by Ben, business sponsorship will be another source. As an example, we have already received our first sponsorship of £300 from Ardent Finance to pay for the hire of the Ballroom for this meeting. Fundraising is also a very important aspect. Exeter's Supporters' Trust has raised over £600,000 since its inception.

Q. How do we know that the money is going to the right place?

SC: Trust financial records will be open for viewing by all Trust members. Legal requirement for the Trust to submit independently audited accounts annually. As an Industrial and Provident Society all spending is subject to the approval of the Trust members. Approval or disapproval of the spending policy of the Trust can be registered at the AGM in which any member of the Trust is eligible to vote.

Robert Pepper, Huddersfield Supporters’ Trust: Highlighted that support is available to Trusts in our area. All the Yorkshire Supporters’ Trusts are available to share their experience and their ideas, and provide some support in the establishment of a Trust.

Ian Scobbie, Chairman, Scarborough FC: Re-affirmed that Malcolm Reynolds and he would be fully supportive of the Trust and would be keen to involve them in the running of the club as soon as is possible.

Q. How can a Trust guarantee a situation like York City Supporters’ Trust and the McGills wouldn’t emerge?

SC: We can’t guarantee that any Trust would stay in charge for ever but it would still be beneficial to get the Trust involved in the club for a number of reasons.

  • Would mean that the Trust is ready to take over if and when MR and IS decide to step down and reduces the possibility of an unscrupulous investor taking over.

  • A number of measures can be taken to protect the clubs assets. The assets (i.e. the ground) can be signed over to the Trust so it is harder for businesses to get hold of it. The Scarborough Football Club Ltd could in theory convert into a Community Interest Company, which would provide an increased measure of assurance about the future of the ground. Alternatively, the Trust could enter into a partnership with the council to secure the McCain Stadium and any new stadium as assets to be preserved for community use.

Vote taken on whether to establish a Supporters’ Trust for Scarborough FC, motion passed with 66 in favour, 3 abstained.

Vote taken on whether to retain the name “Seadog Trust”, motion passed unanimously.

Simon Cope : Outlined the next steps for the fledgling Trust. Firstly, a working party would need to be formed to legally register the Trust. Emphasised that the three fans on the top table were not a closed group, and that any offers of help would be greatly appreciated. Spoke about the importance of getting as many different volunteers as possible, with a divergent set of skills. Encouraged everyone at the meeting to fill out and return the volunteer sheet that they had been issued with.

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