The Wisdom of Crowds Part Two

DSC_0195Supporters Direct Scotland (SDS) held a one day summit for Scottish Trusts on fan ownership on the 29th of July 2013 at Stirling Albion football stadium.

This event was attended by Elaine Millar, Barry Richmond and Andy Millar from the Killie Trust board. This was an opportunity for supporters to discuss common issues and to share experiences on a number of subjects.

The Stirling Albion story

First we had a presentation on Stirling Albion’s move into community ownership. This change of ownership took place in order to prevent the heavily in debt club going into administration. The debt stood at £1.3 million with no real plan to reduce this figure.  A situation very similar to the one at Killie but on a slightly smaller scale. The long term strategy for Stirling Albion was to deal with the debt and have a sustainable football club.

The Dundee story

The story of Dundee’s various administration events and dubious owners is well documented. The crucial part of the story is how much more difficult the purchase of the club was while in administration. The time scales for taking action can be very short indeed.

The Clyde story

Finally we told about the day to day operations of Clyde FC which is a Community Interest Company (CIC). This included the work and democratic process that has been undertaken around the proposed move to East Kilbride. Clyde have been working with in a sustainable budget since they became a CIC as the rules that cover CICs do allow them to work any other way.

DSC_0192We then took part in workshops about two different subject themes.

  • In which areas could community clubs work together to reduce overheads and increase income.
  • What governmental and governing bodies legislative changes could be made to benefit clubs moving toward or in community ownership.

Finally we had an opportunity to update the other attendees about what was happening at our respective clubs and trusts.

It was very interesting to hear what has been happening at other Trusts in Scotland, and in particular to hear from Clubs that are now in community ownership.

We came away with a lot of very good ideas that we will be adapting for our use and a lot of good contacts. There is no reason that football clubs cannot help and support each other off the pitch and still compete on it. If all scottish football fans work together we can start to improve that situation our game is in for everyone and community owned clubs are leading the way.

For more details visit the Scottish fans page about the summit.

The Wisdom of Crowds Part One

st georges park cropped

Supporters Direct and the Football Supporters Federation held their first Supporters’ Summit at the English FA’s new Centre of Excellence, St George’s Park near Burton upon Trent on the 22nd of June.

Two volunteers from the Killie Trust made time to attend the summit on behalf of the board. Events like this are very interesting and well worthwhile attending. The speakers were very informative and the workshops were very relevant. The best thing about the trip to Burton upon Trent was the opportunity to meet supporters from other football clubs and Trusts from across the UK and Europe. The most striking thing about speaking to other supporters is how much we have in common. Our situation is not unique. This is very unfortunate for the health of football but is fortunate for us as supporters, as it provides us with a wealth of experience and knowledge to draw on in our efforts to bring our club into community ownership in a sustainable way that is valued by everyone in our community.

The format of the day was fairly straight forward. During the opening session we heard from the Andy Burnham MP and David Bernstein the Chairman of the English FA. Andy Burnham was instrumental in getting Supporters Direct established back in 2000. David Bernstein was the chairman of Manchester City FC but he still sees himself as a fan first.

The rest of the day was split into workshops so our intrepid volunteers spilt up in order to cover as much ground as possible, gather as much information and hear the views of as many people as they could. The workshops they went to were as follows (for more details please check out the Supporters direct page about the summit.):

Sustainability or Bust. This workshop covered how community owned football clubs must to have a sustainable business model and how this can be achieved by having a long term financial plan.

Reclaim our game. This gave practical guidance on how fans can get involved in their clubs and make a real difference in how it is run and ensure that good governance takes place.

Improving football governance. There are great examples from all across Europe where fans are making a real difference to how football is being run. In Sweden fans ensured the 50+1 rule was kept for all sports clubs in the country despite the wishes of a few powerful individuals.

Fan engagement: Why it works for clubs and fans. This was a fascinating presentation from Tim Connolly the Vice president of sales for the Green Bay Packers. Green bay is the only community owned club in the NFL. Tim gave some great examples of how the community ownership model really works for them. Green Bay have a waiting list for tickets but only charge the league average for their tickets. For every dollar spent at the Green Bay’s stadium $5 are spent in the teams local community.

Transparency and Vigilance. Micah Hall from Portsmouth gave an account of his search for the truth about the ownership of his club Portsmouth FC on his Hall Right Now Blog and how transparency is vital to the health of every organisation. The owners of Pompey tried to sue Micah over the content of his blog. As he said “you know you are asking the right questions when that happens”.

They also bumped in to some of the people running the Shelbourne FC Trust (The 1895 Trust) and had a chat about the good old days of Killie in Europe.

The Trust Movement in Ireland has had a great boost in recent months with the launch of the ‘Heart of the Game’ handbook. A new ‘how to’ guide for League of Ireland supporters. This handbook has received government backing and was launched at Dáil Éireann by Minister of State for Sport, Michael Ring TD. – See more at: http://heartofthegame.ie/

By all accounts it was well worth the long journey to St Georges Park. Which for the record is so new it is not on Sat Nav yet. For the purposes of full disclosure our volunteers paid for the entire trip themselves.

Killie Trust Board Member Interviewed at Supporters Summit 2013

Killie Trust board member Andy Millar was interviewed by the Co-Op news channel at the Supporters Summit 2013 which was held at St Georges Park on the 22nd June.  He appears about 1 minute 20 seconds. There are a lot very interesting comments made about community ownership in the video.

A report on the whole summit can be found here on Supporters Direct website.

Killie Trust statement – 13th June 2013

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The Kilmarnock Supporters’ Society Ltd (the ‘Killie Trust’) has previously expressed our dissatisfaction with the current structure and operation of Kilmarnock Football Club. We are therefore dismayed that the situation has deteriorated further. We feel that the confidence in, and reputation of Kilmarnock FC is not being served by the actions of its Chairman and believe that there is little commitment to act in the interest of all shareholders and stakeholders of the Club, contrary to his well documented stance on “fiduciary duty”.

The treatment of a dedicated, hard-working and popular team manager, Kenny Shiels, a man who engineered our first ever Scottish League Cup success only last year, has further tarnished the reputation of Kilmarnock FC. We can only offer our apologies to Kenny for a decision which has gone against the wishes of the majority of Killie fans, and wish him well for the future. His contribution and his engagement with the community will not be forgotten and he will be a welcome visitor to Kilmarnock whenever he chooses to return.

The supporters of Kilmarnock Football Club are tired of being ignored and misrepresented and many have reached the point where they feel the only way they can be heard is to remove their financial contribution. Whilst the Trust Board believe everyone must make their own decision in regards the much talked about season ticket boycott, we can understand why many have decided to take this drastic action, and the responsibility for this threat to the very existence of Kilmarnock FC lies squarely with the one-man Board of Directors.

We find some of the Chairman’s recent comments astonishing, from his justification for Kenny Shiels dismissal to his sudden willingness to change the structure of the club and engage the community. The initial idea of a partnership between local authority, local business and fan/community groups working together was one brought forward by the Trust in a recent meeting with the Chairman, but he rejected the concept as unworkable for our club. We would seriously like to know who he has been making these plans with given that during a recent series of Community Ownership Group (COG) initiative meetings that invitees from all the aforementioned parties highlighted individual instances which alienated them from the Club and their general dissatisfaction at the way in which Kilmarnock Football Club is being run.

The Trust has been actively working with the Supporters Association (KFCSA) and other fans’ groups to ensure that supporters’ interests are represented and that we are no longer ignored in the same manner we had to endure when the chairman manipulated figures to suit his own ends for an SPL vote last year. His comments then, as now, proved to be highly embarrassing and not a true reflection of how Kilmarnock fans felt about the issue or wanted it dealt with. We urge all Kilmarnock fans to attend the KFCSA AGM on Saturday 15th June to decide on further action, your voice is important, without the fans the club would not exist and the future is in our own hands.

The Growth of Democracy in Scottish Football

Scottish-FansHi everyone, the following blog was first published here on the 28th February on the www.Scottishfans.org website by Paul Goodwin from Supporters Direct Scotland. We have reblogged it here in case you missed it.

Strange things are happening in Scottish football and the fans are very much part of what can be described as a changing landscape.

In the summer the clubs and the football authorities were told not to treat supporters with contempt and suddenly integrity and consultation became key words in the world of football politics.

With the weight of public opinion behind them and their season ticket money in their pockets supporters managed to drive home the message that they needed to be listened to. It really was the start of something different never before seen in the Boardrooms of Scottish Clubs.

Fans Parliament & Roadshow Launch HM & PGWith five senior clubs in Scotland now “fan owned” and operating on the co-operative basis (one member/one vote), those who matter most – fans, supporters, loyal customers – will have a growing say in what will happen in Scottish Football in the future.

This change has been recognised at Hampden Park where both the SFA and the league bodies have really started to engage with fans in a far more meaningful way. In my work with Supporters Direct Scotland it has been encouraging that we really have started to make an impact with our Fans Parliament initiative that provides fans with a voice. If we’d had that voice a few years back then maybe the debate over the new League Reconstruction package might have been more fans’ focused. As it stands we hope that the growing importance of supporters is extended beyond the current debate. Most observers recognise that the fans may not get everything they want this time around – bigger leagues or the desire not to have to play each other 4 times a season – but there is much in there for the fans to take heart from such as having one league body, fairer financial distributions, more play-offs, a stronger pyramid structure and hopefully better governance too.

With the potential shift of power towards these super loyal customers it means that the existing dynamic of dependency on a wealthy owner /benefactor (if you have one of them) could be coming to an end.

This creates a unique opportunity in Scotland – with little chance of a profit and a market where very few want to buy a football club, it means that fans’ being more involved in owning and running of clubs is here to stay. More than that, it is the future. Who else has a fan’s lifelong commitment to their club and an interest in ensuring it is safeguarded for the long term? Fans are the lifeblood of football – not just socially and culturally but economically and there are now real chances to turn that commitment into meaningful involvement in the way clubs are governed.

Clubs such as Motherwell and St.Mirren are already seeing this as a positive step as a long term community strategy and fans of clubs such as Hearts, Dunfermline and Kilmarnock are all desperate to have a say in how these clubs can be run as sustainable community assets. The goalposts are moving fast.

Of course with potential power there comes responsibility and how many times have we heard in the past that the Board of a club should be held to account when they have not taken fans’ views into consideration. At the five community owned clubs in Scotland there is already democracy in action.  There’s no need to be standing outside shouting to sack the Board or to be throwing stones. Instead you just need to turn up at the AGM with your fellow members and vote off for change.

There is no doubt that there is a cultural change under way and that change isn’t going to happen overnight. Everyone involved in fan and community ownership is learning about how this new model will work best and how their own club adapts to the change.  Like everything else, change takes time to settle and, with every day that passes, new challenges will face everyone involved in a club, including those difficult moments that, ideally, no-one ever wants to see happen. 

Today, the Fans Representatives on the Board at Dundee FC, a club that is owned 52% by the community, are coming to terms with a managerial appointment that hasn’t been received well by its supporters.

There isn’t a Board of Directors at any club in the country that will have received universal backing for a new managerial appointment but what is different at Dundee, and those other clubs that have embraced the fan ownership model, is that rather than being on the outside venting their spleen they have the ability to change, through voting, those representing them in the boardroom.  This simply wouldn’t be an option with traditional ownership models and it is this level of transparency and accountability which provides the basis for the long term success of the model. If you still need convincing, then you need only look to Germany and the Bundesliga where they have embraced supporter ownership for the last 40 years backed up by robust regulation.  Not only has that led to unrivalled levels of financial sustainability but it has also been achieved whilst protecting the interest of fans and attracting the biggest crowds in European football – and they’re not doing too badly on the pitch either!

In Germany this structure has been part of the fabric of the game for generations, but here a transition will not be immediate and will not be easy.  However, whilst the ownership structure that fans now have may not be the perfect model , at least fans can no longer be ignored and, whether you like it or not, that has got to be good news for the game and for the green shoots of football democracy.

Paul Goodwin is Head of Supporters Direct Scotland

and author of Saving Scottish Football ( Tangent Books)

COG moves up a gear with the launch of The Killie Trust Business Network Meetings

The Killie Trust held the first of many Business Network Meetings(BNM) on the 7th of February 2013 at the Coffee Press in Bank Street, Kilmarnock. These meetings are part of the the Trust’s Community Ownership Group initiative, their aim is to build closer relationships between local businesses and the Trust. These relationships will be vital for the long term sustainability of Kilmarnock Football Club and the local community.

The Coffee Press in Bank street, Kilmarnock

The Coffee Press in Bank street, Kilmarnock

We invited a wide variety of local businesses to this meeting and after everyone had settled down with some tea or coffee and a bite to eat the evening got started.  Nigel Fitzsimmons from the Trust Board outlined the format for the evening and gave a brief presentation followed by a question and answer session. Nigel’s talk covered the history of the Trust, it’s objectives and recent activities. These activities include the Community Ownership Group or COG as it is known.  There is an ever growing list of football clubs in community ownership across Europe, the UK and Scotland. Some of these include Dundee in the SPL, Swansea City in the EPL and most of the Bundesliga clubs; Germany provides some of the best examples of sound financial management, fan involvement and community ownership.

Nigel then moved on to explain the Trust’s Community Partnership initiative.

This initiative aims to promote local businesses which have similar aims and objectives to the trust and which have worked in partnership with us on a project or event.

Finally we had a question and answer session with a wide ranging discussion about the Trust movement, COG and the partnership initiative.

This was a very positive meeting and it was great to speak to so many people who have similar objectives and have the good of Kilmarnock the football club, the town and the community at heart.  Everyone understands that COG  will not be a quick fix but we must start somewhere.  This meeting confirmed to the Trust that we have to build a greater understanding of our aims across all parts of the community. We agreed to give everyone regular updates on progress.

There will be many more of these meetings. We are also more than happy to speak to any local group as well.  If you are interested in attending a BNM meeting or you would like us to give a talk about the Killie Trust and COG,  please email the thechairman@killietrust.org.

Remember to look out for #COG and #killietrustbnm on twitter.

http://www.thecoffeepress.co.uk/Default.asp