COG Update – 4th March 2014

COGlogoSince the Killie (Community) Working Party lodged its Letter of Intent with Michael Johnston, Chairman of Kilmarnock FC, we at The Killie Trust have been working hard behind the scenes to ensure that the proposition is given due consideration by the club and is understood by the wider community. It is encouraging that all parties we speak to directly both understand the concept and agree that the working party are right to actively seek meaningful community involvement in the club and that community ownership should be the desired position on Mr Johnston’s exit from the club.

Whilst communication with the club has been disappointing to date, we have engaged with the local MP, MSP and council leader, all of whom have agreed to encourage Kilmarnock FC to meet either the working party or Killie Trust, as representatives of that group. An excerpt of a recent e-mail to the politicians follows. This helps to explain the views of the working party which resulted in the Letter of Intent being issued and why the Killie Trust is committed to taking this forward.

Many thanks for your help over the last few weeks with the Killie (Community) Working Party and also taking the time to learn a bit more about the Killie Trust. I am aware that you were all going to suggest to Michael Johnston that he meet with the working party to enable us to explain our Letter of Intent more fully. Despite this, and his comments in last week’s Standard that Michael would welcome a meeting, there has been no communication from the club. Indeed, Billy Bowie had indicated he would be in touch w/c 17th to arrange a meeting with me, and despite chasing this up, I have had no further communication from him either. I also note that there has been no formal response to the Letter of Intent.

You will appreciate that  it is extremely difficult to try to build any meaningful working relationship with an organisation who cannot communicate effectively. You will  recall that we mentioned the Trust has had an unsigned NDA sitting with the club for the best part of a year after Michael requested this. Sadly, the club do not appear to want to engage with either the working party or the Trust. As you know, the Trust is the second largest shareholder in the club and is a properly constituted community driven organisation with circa 400 members.The working party the Trust is represented on is keen to move down the road of meaningful community involvement with the goal of ultimate community ownership.The club has mentioned publicly its desire for community involvement yet does not even want to discuss this vision with these bodies, both of whom could certainly offer constructive guidance and support.

My only conclusion is that the Community Involvement Board the club is planning is their preferred vehicle for community involvement. I imagine that this is in the hope of satisfying the club’s bankers in negotiations during a review of their debt. I assume this board will not be endorsed by the Scottish Government as it does not, as far as I  understand, meet the co-operative values of one person/one vote. I believe this is why  Paul Goodwin of Supporters Direct cannot back the idea as it stands. I am intrigued as to how any lender will afford debt forgiveness to a window dressing style of community involvement in a private limited company with one major (80%+) shareholder. However, I genuinely hope a suitable deal can be done to ensure the survival of the club.The bank’s stakeholders and many SMEs in Scotland may have their own opinion on that though.

As you know, the purpose of the Letter of Intent was to seek a route to ensure that, on Michael’s exit from the club, the fans and community are given the opportunity to own the majority stake in the club. It was neither a formal bid for the club nor a suggestion that the club be passed to the fans for no financial consideration. We would be dismayed if the club ended up in the hands on an individual or group who had no real understanding of the importance of the organisation to the community and who might, as we have seen elsewhere, use the club for their own purposes thus creating a greater divide than we see presently. I suppose the greater fear is that Kilmarnock FC then slips into an insolvency event as that type of owner has no passion or true vision for the club and community.”

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COG Working Party Update – 18th February 2014

COGlogoThe spokesman for the Community Ownership Group Working Party Gary Torbett and Killie Trust Chairman Barry Richmond met with MSP Willie Coffey and Council Leader Douglas Reid at the East Ayrshire Council’s London Road offices yesterday. The meeting was to discuss the ongoing situation at Kilmarnock Football Club and to relate first hand to the politicians what the COG Working Party are all about, where they are at the moment and what they hope to achieve going forward. Talks proved constructive and it is hoped that with their help, and that of Supporters’ Direct, that a dialogue can be opened with KFC Chairman Michael Johnston in regards the best way forward for the club.

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

AGM Q&A – Myth Busters

During our tenth AGM on Monday last (9th December) it was put to the Trust Board that there is a lot of misinformation doing the rounds and it would be a good idea to put to bed some of the myths that appear to be causing division within our support; something we could well do without at this time. We caught up with the Trust chairman after the meeting and asked him directly about some of the more contentious subjects that Killie fans have been discussing of late.

What exactly is happening with the Community Ownership Group? 

COGlogoThrough the various mediums we’ve been putting stuff out about COG all year and I’m pretty sure most Killie fans are aware of it at least. The situation regards ownership of the club appears to be a state of constant fluctuation at the moment so it is difficult to pinpoint exactly where we are with COG other than to say that regardless of who is in charge at Rugby Park, the Trust will continue to push for community ownership in the long term.

There has been a lot of publicity on the back of the open meeting held by the Supporters’ Association at the Grand Hall…the upshot of which was the formation of a working party of various groups who also want to deliver community ownership to the club. Obviously the Trust has been heavily involved with that and we have four board members nominated to represent our interests at the table. As seems to be the case these days we had to sign a non-disclosure agreement to be party to the talks and can’t discuss anything in real detail, but as ever we still aim to get as much information out there to our members as possible and see it as one of our duties to encourage the working party to engage with the fans and keep them up to speed with anything that is going on.

To be fair there is not much to report at the moment other than what has appeared in the media already. We asked the Kilmarnock Futures Consortium, who are part of the working party, to give us something for the purposes of the AGM which may make their position clearer and were sent the following statement: “Kilmarnock Futures Consortium is committed to immediate supporter representation on the new Board and believes that community shareholding would have significant benefits to the Club, the supporters and to the wider East Ayrshire community. The Consortium will work with Supporters Direct to build options and plans for greater community ownership over an agreed period”.

That’s where we are at the moment. It has been widely reported that while the club are negotiating with the KF Consortium that they are still working behind the scenes on a plan to get debt reduction from the bank in a similar manner to other Scottish clubs whom have recently almost went to the wall. The one major difference it would seem is that Mr Johnston is only willing to implement some form of “community involvement”, as he calls it, on his own terms and his refusal to engage with the two largest democratically elected supporter’s organisations will make it very difficult for him to make any headway with the bank. We push on with COG regardless and maintain that while debt reduction is a good thing, that the only beneficiary of a deal with the bank should be Kilmarnock Football Club, not any individual.

Is it true that the Killie Trust are in league with the Klin Group and want to sell Rugby Park for housing and move to the new HALO Arena?

In a word, no. The Klin Group had a viable plan to turn things around at the club and introduce community ownership to it over a sustained period of time as their legacy to the people of Kilmarnock. The Trust bought into that and supported it at the time because it was the best viable option on the table to ensure the club not only survived but flourished and it ticked a lot of boxes as far as we were concerned on the community front.

Our primary concern is the club’s future and we are willing to talk to anyone who is looking to restore Kilmarnock FC’s place at the heart of the community where it should be and make it a sustainable entity that we can all continue to be proud of. That is why we are currently in discussions with the Kilmarnock Futures Consortium, their plans also merit consideration and should the current regime come up with a plan that does not involve individuals financially benefiting at the expense of the club then we would certainly look into that too.

Moving the club to the HALO Arena from Rugby Park has never been a topic of discussion at Trust Board Meetings, the Klin Group have previously stated that was not their intention either. We view it for what it is, an impressive plan for a state-of the-art multi-use stadium which our whole community can benefit from. In our case we thought that it would be perfect for bringing team training back to our own area and put a stop to paying for facilities in Glasgow to keep the squad in shape.

Are the Trust behind the “Not a Penny More” movement?

Again, no. At no stage have we ever encouraged fans not to go to Rugby Park or to stop putting money into the club. I never have and never will do that personally and I would have to seriously consider my position with the Trust if at some point that was the road the members chose to take. The sad fact is that attendances in Scottish football have been declining for years now, and we are one of the most affected. The slightly elevated downturn in figures this season can most likely be attributed to the reaction of fans to events on and off the park towards the tail end of last season and into this.

I find it incredulous that anyone would try and lay the blame for falling attendances at our door. People have minds of their own and make decision for themselves based on their own circumstances and what they believe. We are not in the business of telling people what to do, our business is to ensure that the fans get proper representation when it comes to the running of the club and that whoever is in charge is held accountable for their actions. There are many reasons why fans have stopped going, too many to mention, sadly it does not look as if the decline in numbers will stop until there have been some sort of regime change at the club that will make fans feel as if they belong again and its still their club.

Is your plan to force the club into administration to get rid of Michael Johnston?

I’ve honestly never heard anything quite so ridiculous, but it is another popular myth doing the rounds, and one which the chairman himself has recently suggested. It is simply not true and has never crossed our minds, despite being advised by some parties that a “newco” club would be a much easier solution to our problems. We want to avoid the club going into administration at all costs. We have learned a lot from the mistakes of other clubs and other Trusts and we would never want to put our proud history at risk by flirting with financial skulduggery to achieve our aims.

If we were in favour of an administration event why would we be accumulating shares in the club which would ultimately prove worthless? We doubled our holding this season, albeit courtesy of a generous benefactor, and are constantly on the lookout for more; in fact if anyone out there feels that their shares would be of more use as part of a collective run in a democratic fashion then please feel free to get in touch. Setting up shell corporations and selling or transferring assets while hiding behind a myriad of non-disclosure agreements is not the way we want to operate; we have and always will be open and transparent and if we really thought that administration was an option then we would come right out and say it.

 

Have you got anything to ask the Trust Chairman or the Trust Board? We believe in transparency and honesty and are keen to dispel any dodgy rumours doing the rounds. Send your questions directly to thechairman@killietrust.org if you would like a personal reply or indeed just post them on our Twitter or Facebook pages and we will do our best to make sure that you get an answer.

Its Good To Talk

Last week during discussions with the KFCSA committee, we suggested that it would be a good idea to invite Paul Goodwin (Head of Supporters’ Direct Scotland) along to their open meeting on our behalf due to his experience in dealing with clubs with problems like ours and his expertise in governance and community ownership; along with our own board member Andy Millar who obviously has a better handle on things from our perspective. Mr Goodwin graciously agreed to give his time, despite the fact it wasn’t primarily a Trust meeting, as part of his remit with SDS is to help out wherever possible when clubs are deemed to be in trouble.

Mr Goodwin has subsequently received a request from Michael Johnston, Chairman of Kilmarnock FC, to meet with himself and new director William Bowie on the proviso that the talks would take place prior to the KFCSA open meeting on Thursday. The invitation was extended to a couple of representatives from both the Trust and the KFCSA, but unfortunately it has been arranged at too short notice for that to happen in the time frame requested. We have offered to meet with the club directors at the earliest possible convenience for all parties and hope that a reply to our legal representatives and the verification of our recent share acquisition is on the agenda.

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We’ll Support You Evermore

This post has been reblogged from Craig Andersons SPLstats blog. You may have caught him on twitter using the @splstats handle, if you havent but do have a twitter account i encourage you to start following him, you wont regret it. It goes without saying that this represents the views of the author and not of the Trust of which he has no connection except perhaps as a paid up member but we feel it is a well written piece on the nature of the current state of the club and the support.

SPLstats

Supporting a football club is an inherently irrational decision which is more about emotional attachment than solid logic.  Many of us follow our sides across the country week after week, regardless of how the team is performing on the pitch.  Against all logic, we make long journeys to watch run-of-the-mill league games, even if form suggests a victory is unlikely.  Supporters of most clubs will endure far more bad days than they will good ones, but it’s the great ones that make it worth it.

For most, that support is unconditional – they’ll support the team regardless of what happens on or off the pitch.  But many clubs take advantage of this blind loyalty, taking their supporters for granted when making decisions and hoping that people will keep coming back regardless of how they are treated.  Clubs do occasionally listen to their supporters – the Rangers newco vote in the…

View original post 1,968 more words

Killie Trust statement – 22/07/2013

COGlogo

In April 2013 Kilmarnock Supporters’ Society Ltd (The Killie Trust) made a formal approach in writing to Mr Johnston, Chairman of Kilmarnock Football Club, to express a desire to enter into dialogue with him regarding the way ahead to community ownership of the Club. This approach was made on The Killie Trust’s behalf by a well respected law firm. In his response Mr Johnston requested that The Killie Trust, through their legal representatives, submit a draft Confidentiality Agreement for his further consideration. A document which, in the opinion of The Killie Trust and their advisors, can be considered suitable and appropriate was duly forwarded to Mr Johnston on 27th May. This document has been neither accepted nor rejected by Mr Johnston. Our legal representatives have contacted Mr Johnston in recent weeks for an update on the matter and have not, as yet, received any response.

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.

Fans Groups Statement: 15/7/13

Trust10aThe Killie Trust, Young Killie, KFC Supporters’ Association and affiliated clubs would like to encourage all Kilmarnock FC Supporters to attend Wednesday’s friendly match against East Fife to show our support for the new management team of Alan Johnston and Sandy Clark. In what has been a pre-season of unrest for many of the Kilmarnock faithful, all the organisations want fans to turn out in numbers to support the team and to show that despite any planned protests against the current regime, the team will get our moral and vocal support from the outset.

At the match, we would encourage fans to wear scarfblue and yellow scarves and t-shirts, the colours that now symbolise the majority of supporters lack of confidence in current chairman Michael Johnston. For those not kitted out already, there will be scarves available at the match in return for a donation to the Trust’s Community Ownership Group (COG) initiative. T-Shirts can be purchased online at rainbowink.co.uk or at Rainbow Ink’s shop in Bank Street, Kilmarnock.

Killie Trust Board member Peter Telfer said, “Wednesday is a great opportunity for the supporters to show their backing for our new manager, he needs to know that our ‘We are Killie – Johnston Must Go’ banners are not aimed at him! Alan had a successful playing career with us and I think it is safe to say that we all hope that his managerial career follows suit. Kenny Sheils may not have been everyone’s cup of tea but in general he was well liked and respected and his dismissal and the way it was handled was shocking. The last thing we would like to see now is another promising manager lose his job on a technicality in the same manner, that is not how the Killie family treat our own.”

Peter added “The blue and yellow idea came from the fans forum on the internet and I think it is important to remember that the fans are the only constant at any football club as without us clubs simply would not exist, which is something that the current chairman has literally not taken on board. Sadly Michael Johnston has not been representing our views or running the club in the best interests of the fans or the local community and that has ultimately cost him our support. While we remain 100% behind the manager and his squad we cannot stand by and watch as the club we love is systematically eroded by the one man board, if he was a true Killie fan he would do the honourable thing and walk away.”

The match kicks off at 7:45pm at New Bayview in Methil with admission prices £6 for adults and £4 for concessions.