Supporters Direct Press Release: 5th Dec 2014

Supporters Direct Scotland suggest trial period for reintroduction of alcohol to Scottish football

Supporters Direct Scotland is asking decision makers and all relevant parties to consider a trial period for the reintroduction of alcohol in Scottish football stadiums.

Following the inaugural SFA Convention at Hampden Park earlier this week, SFA Chief Executive Stewart Regan confirmed that initial discussions have already taken place with Police Scotland regarding lifting the ban on alcohol that has been in place since 1980.

Earlier this year, Supporters Direct Scotland, in association with the SFA, conducted extensive research into supporters’ perceptions of the alcohol ban. 62% of participants in the survey were in favour of lifting the ban, with 72% backing the introduction of a small-scale trial of selling alcohol in Scottish football stadiums.

Andrew Jenkin, Head of Supporters Scotland said: “Although there was a majority in favour of lifting the ban, there are other aspects which should be considered before any decision should be taken regarding the ban on alcohol in Scottish football.

For example, consideration should be taken regarding the varying demographics of match-attending football fans. Our research revealed that the majority of female supporters were opposed to any relaxation of current legislation, as were respondents over the age of sixty.”

Scottish football has made impressive strides in improving its image over the last thirty-five years, with several clubs taking greater responsibility for the health and well-being of their supporters. We encourage those involved in these discussions to consider all relevant factors in any decision made regarding a change to the current restriction on alcohol in Scottish football.

For more information please contact:

Supporters Direct Scotland

Michael Wood: 01786 845 606

About Supporters Direct Scotland

·       Supporters Direct helps fans to set up democratic cooperatives (known as supporters’ trusts) to gain influence in the running and ownership of their clubs.

·       SD represents over 200 supporters’ trusts and similar organisations England, Scotland and across Europe, with over 600,000 members.

·       To find out more about the research conducted by Supporters Direct Scotland, please visit ScottishFans.org/research

Response to Michael Johnston’s Recent Statement

In response to comments made by KFC Chairman Michael Johnston in todays Daily Record Gary Torbett had this to say on behalf of The Killie (Community) Working Party:

“Further to the announcement by The Killie (Community) Working Party [on the 11th of February 2014] of its intention to offer to purchase the shareholding of Michael Johnston, Chairman of Kilmarnock Football Club, in the event that the club were to become debt free, we are extremely disappointed that Mr Johnston has so swiftly and publicly dismissed our intentions.

“It is disappointing that this proposal has been dismissed so early into the process without any constructive dialogue with Mr Johnston. Mr Johnston has offered our group the opportunity to buy a seat on the board should it purchase circa 10% of the unallocated shares in the football club. It would not be appropriate for this particular group to purchase a tranche of shares at this time to obtain a seat on the board of Kilmarnock FC, given our stated purpose.

“The group would welcome, indeed we would urge for, the opportunity to meet with the football club to establish a mutually agreeable route to genuine community ownership, which has the club’s long term future in mind.

“Our doors remain firmly open to Mr Johnston.”

Supporters Direct Scotland has also reiterated its willingness to work with both parties.

COG Working Party Press Release – 11th February 2014

KILMARNOCK FC SUPPORTERS GROUP MAKE OFFER TO PURCHASE THEIR CLUB

The Killie (Community) Working Party, established with support from  Supporters Direct Scotland, has announced its intention to make an offer  to purchase Kilmarnock FC’s Chairman’s entire shareholding.

garybioGary  Torbett, on behalf of The Killie (Community) Working Party, said: “We  would like to acknowledge the work being undertaken by the Chairman of  Kilmarnock Football Club to make the club debt free and would positively  encourage him to make every effort to come to an agreement with the  club bankers and other significant lenders to reduce the debt to zero.   The Killie (Community) Working Party would like to make an offer to  purchase the Chairman’s entire shareholding if this can be achieved.”

“This  offer would be contingent on a fair valuation of the company and the  completion of a satisfactory due diligence process.  This purchase would  be undertaken by a new Community Interest Company (CIC) with a  democratically elected board.”

Scottish-FansPaul Goodwin, Head of Supporters  Direct Scotland said, “I met with Michael Johnston, on behalf of The  Killie (Community) Working Party, on Friday [7th February] and conveyed  the outline of the supporters’ offer.  I reiterated SDS’ willingness to  assist in progressing this offer to a satisfactory conclusion for both  parties.”

Gary Torbett added: “We see this move as a genuine step forward as we prepare to get our club back.

Unfortunately  there remains concern amongst supporters with the long term position of  the club and we firmly believe that fan and community ownership is  where that lies rather than relying on a single majority shareholder who  won’t be around for ever.  The only constants at any club are the fans  and the community it is based in.”

“We will shortly launch our formal efforts to raise the money to take  the club into community ownership and we hope that the business  community – both private and public – as well as community groups and  supporters will get behind us.”

Kilmarnock fans have a history of successful fundraising and  community involvement. Over £100,000 has been directly raised for the  Club’s youth development programme and a number of initiatives driven by  The Killie Trust have seen financial awards to a many community based  projects in recent years.

The Killie (Community) Working Party is made up, in no particular order, of:

  • The Killie Trust
  • The Kilmarnock FC Supporters Association
  • Minority shareholders in Kilmarnock FC
  • The Business Club
  • Young Kilmarnock

Issued on behalf of The Killie (Community) Working Party by Supporters Direct Scotland.

For further information please contact Paul Goodwin on 07702 252519 or Gary Torbett  on 07905 478179

Why is community ownership better

The Killie Trust initiated the Community Ownership Group (COG) in May 2012. The purpose of this initiative is to make Kilmarnock Football Club community owned as soon as possible. 

The Vision for Kilmarnock Football Club

The Killie Trust’s vision for Kilmarnock Football Club is for it to be a well-run club which puts the fans and community at the heart of everything it does.  Fans will own at least 50%+1 of the club with the remaining shareholders understanding and supporting the principles of community ownership.

How do supporters have more control when it is a community owned club?

The members also elect the board of the Killie Trust. If the members disagree with how the Trust is being run then members get an opportunity every year to elect new people onto the board. These elections are carried out on the democratic principles of one person one vote regardless of how much time or money they put into the Trust. This ensures that no individual can hold undue influence over the Trust.

The members of the Trust also decide who should represent them on the club board. This will be decided using the same principles as the Trust Board elections. Those standing for election to the club board would need to meet certain criteria before being eligible to stand. Therefore one of the main strengths of community ownership is that everyone eligible gets one vote.

Community ownership is not about the day to day running of the Club, it is about democratically deciding who should make the strategic decisions about how our club is run. This process ensures that those who take on this role are held accountable for their actions and provide acceptable explanations for those decisions. This is good governance.

Community ownership is not about picking the team on a Saturday, it is not about deciding which player to buy or what is on the menu at hospitality. These are all decisions for employed staff to take. Community ownership is about deciding who should represent your views about how Kilmarnock Football Club engages with its supporters  and the wider community. It is also about deciding the future direction of the Club and ensuring that decisions taken are right for the club as a whole and not individuals within it.

Only genuine community ownership will give the supporters the opportunity to put an asset lock on Rugby Park. This means that our ground cannot be sold without the knowledge or permission of the fans. It also ensures that a reasonable market value is obtained if the fans agree that moving to new ground is in the best interests of the club and it’s supporters.

So how does the current form of ownership at Killie compare to community ownership.

Here are the key differences.

 Category Community Ownership of Kilmarnock FC Current ownership of Kilmarnock FC
Legal Status Co-operative Community Benefit Society

Limited by Shares

Legal Objectives To provide community benefit written into constitution – The trust is committed to supporting local sport in the area.The trust is a not for profit organisation, all profits are reinvested into the club and the community.

Legally constituted to provide value for shareholders.

(Given the current size of the debt this an unlikely occurrence so the model is inappropriate)

Financial Sustainability Financial prudence is written into their constitution, with transparency and  accountability assured by democratic model. There is no such provision in this model of ownership.
Financial Risk Management Unlikely to build up debts from private lenders as these cannot be converted into shares. Sustainable growth The Club has built up debt, including soft loans and floating charges over assets. This is common in this type of ownership model as it can be difficult to access other types of finance.Risky strategy
Voluntary Support Club would be owned by the fans and community therefore evidence from similar clubs is they have a large pool of willing volunteers. Privately owned businesses may reduce the pool of volunteers as the ethos and benefits of volunteering may not be understood.
Network of support Member of Supporters Direct alongside 34 other supporters’ trusts who provide from mutual support/benefits.The Co-operative sector offer extended advice and support.Competition on the pitch – co-operation off the pitch. All other clubs are viewed as competitors.
Grants Non profit distributing Co-operative. Eligible for larger range of grants   including from the co-operative sector. As a privately owned Company KFC will find it very hard to meet eligibility criteria.
Board structure Democratic model with large pool of candidates, all positions will be either elected   from trust membership (open to all) or co-opted for particular skills. For a long time there was only one Board member. In August 2013 Billy Bowie joined the Board.There is the risk of private motivation outweighing community needs and a short-term   perspective.

The Wisdom of Crowds Part Three

Buy a brick at Rugby Park

Having attended the Supporters Summit 2013 at the English Football Associations new centre of excellence at St Georges Park, which was hosted by Supporters Direct and the Football Supporters Federation. This event was attended by supporters from across all Europe. These supporters came from a wide range of clubs in a variety of situations. Some are simply trying to keep their club alive despite the best efforts of business minded people, others have lost that battle and have started their own phoenix club based on democratic community ownership principles. The Trusts from many of EPL clubs are working to keep their club grounded in their community with a local sense of identity and history.

The very next weekend we met up with an equally diverse group of Scottish football supporters at the Supporters Direct Scotland Club Ownership Summit at Stirling Albion. Here we met supporters who already own their football club or in a very good position to take control of the destiny of their club or believe that community ownership is the only sustainable future for their club.

So what have learned from meeting all these football supporters?

The position of our football club and the deteriorating relationship between He that “runs it” and its supporters is almost the default position for football clubs today. The single person ownership model is more prevalent than at any other time. A lot of football clubs are run with a cavalier disregard for the fundamentals of economics, business planning, marketing, social responsibility and sound financial planning. Sadly this includes our own club. Most of the clubs that make use of these basic business tools are clubs where fans have a strong voice or they are the outright owners.

Clubs that become community owned know that their most important asset is the supporters because without them there is nothing. A good relationship must be built and maintained with them to ensure sustainability off the pitch which ultimately helps to bring success on the pitch. At the Supporters Summit 2013 Tim Connelly the Vice President of Sales for the Green Bay Packers, the only community owned club in the NFL, said “if our customers are angry with us we have missed the point”. He also observed that Green Bay are in the subscription business “we want people to keep coming back and signing up for longer, to do that we have to give them something they want, they have to have a sense of community with the club”.

Back in Kilmarnock however, our Chairman seems unwilling to engage with the local community. Our attendances are dwindling, a 16% reduction in home attendances last season alone1. The average age of Killie supporters is rising so we are facing a demographic time bomb. We are a club that is in danger of literally dying out in the next 50 years unless we start trying to reverse this trend now. There is no vision or plan to reverse this trend coming from the boardroom. The local community is the biggest and most likely source of new supporters for us. As a football club our very existence depends on developing a long term and comprehensive strategy to bring in new supporters. This means Killie have to be at the very heart of the community.

The Trust has developed a number of projects that promote education, health and well-being in our community that also raise awareness of Kilmarnock Football Club. These projects have all been designed to be sustainable over a long period of time which is vital if the club is to start growing its support again. We realised from the start that we had to use the minimum amount of club resources as these are in very short supply. The K-Steps programme is just one of these projects. We have several others at an advanced stage of readiness, but they have been sitting on the shelf for over 18 months. The key element to going forward with these projects is the engagement of the club. The Trust has made several attempts to engage with Mr Johnston on the subjects of community development, the use of volunteers and community ownership. These were generally rebuffed and those that did move forward took so long to do so that the opportunity was lost or the conditions for club involvement were such that the board of the Killie Trust would have been at risk of breaking its own operating rules.

So where do we go from here? People say that community ownership cannot work at big clubs but the Champion’s League final this year laid that myth to rest once and for all. We, as a community, need to take the destiny of our football club into our own hands.  There are great examples of community ownership across the UK.

There is no quick, easy answer to the difficulties our club faces, but the current chairman has no plan to take our club forwards and is unwilling to accept any support other than cash. Our Football Club should be doing great things in our community right now. Things that would start to reverse the inevitable decline we are in right now. However, short-termism is the order of the day for the Chairman and one man board of Kilmarnock Football Club.

There is no white knight waiting in the wings and anyone that claims to be a white knight needs to answer some very serious questions about their plans.  People keep on asking “where is the alternative”. WE, the supporters of Kilmarnock Football Club, founded in 1869, are the alternative. Fans are always the bank of last resort. When everything has been run into the ground and every line of credit fails and the gates are about to be locked forever, the fans pull together. They find a way to put aside their differences and take that step into the unknown and take control of the football club they love.

It is happening right now at Dunfermline. Pars UNITED have been named the preferred bidder. The only other bidder decided to remain anonymous and this lack of transparency appears to have affected their chances.

It is happening right now at Hearts. The Foundation of Hearts has put in a very strong bid for the club and we will know soon if it has succeeded.

Are Hearts or Dunfermline fans any smarter than Killie fans? No. The only reason we will fail is because we fail ourselves.

What can we do?

Reference

1. Kilmarnock Standard 12.07.2013, page 103, John Livingston.

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 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)