The main news this week is that Wrexham Football Club was sold for £1.
We can still do it!
Wrexham Supporters Trust was bitterly disappointed to receive the news on Monday this week that it had been unsuccessful in its bid to acquire Wrexham FC, the Racecourse and Colliers Park. However, the Trust quickly re-grouped and went ahead with the planned public meeting at Glyndwr University on Tuesday and were overwhelmed to receive the unanimous support o f the public for our plans.
We were also delighted to receive cross-party support for our bid from Ian Lucas MP and Susan Elan Jones (Labour), Elfyn Llwyd (Plaid Cymru) and Kay Swinburne MEP (Conservative). We also had messages of support from Lesley Griffiths AM and Ken Skates AM (Labour), Llyr Huws Gruffydd AM (Plaid Cymru) and Mark Isherwood AM (Conservative) who were sadly unable to attend because the Assembly was sitting in Cardiff that day.
We would like to place on record our thanks to the public and to our elected politicians for their support to develop a community football club. We will now reflect on this support and meet as a Board on Monday to discuss our next steps.
Public Meeting at the William Aston Hall at Glyndwr University
We were delighted with the unanimous support and backing we received from the c. 400+ fans who attended the public meeting on Tuesday to hear about our plans to acquire Wrexham FC.
Yma o Hyd: We started the meeting with a rendition of Yma o Hyd (Still here), the Welsh folk song written by Dafydd Iwan and a favourite amongst Welsh fans, particularly away from home. Recently it has been played at the Racecourse and gathered support on Red Passion. We believe it sums up the resilience and survival of Wrexham FC, as despite everything and everyone its still here. And despite losing its bid, Wrexham Supporters Trust is still here.
Introductions: The compere for the evening was WST Board Member, Spencer Harris who told the audience that despite losing the bid, we could still do it and given the chance we can do it. Spencer introduced the guest speakers - who all told the audience that the WST could do it - Supporters Direct CEO, Dave Boyle, Partner at Cobbetts LLP, Kevin Jaquiss, FC United of Manchester Director Jules Spencer and Chester FC Community Officer, Mark Howell.
Barry Horne: Former Wrexham and Wales legend Barry Horne, spoke about how Wrexham FC had launched his career after he signed from Rhyl FC in 1983. Barry spoke passionately about what Wrexham FC meant to him and how much he valued his memories of the great European nights against Porto, Roma and Real Zaragova in the 1980s when Wrexham regularly competed in the European Cup Winners Cup. It was great start to the evening and evoked some happy memories from those of us lucky to have enjoyed those magical evenings in Wrexham FCs history.
Chairmans Address: WST Chairman, Richard Owen opened his presentation by highlighting that despite failure on and off the pitch, Wrexham Football Club and Wrexham Supporters Trust were still here and will still be here when the current custodians of the club had moved on. Owners of football clubs across the UK come and go, but supporters remain long aft er they have moved on.
He then went on to highlight some of the key achievements of the Trust since its formation in 2002, including donations of £123,000 to Wrexham FC from a total of over £500,000 raised during this period. Over the past 5 years he demonstrated that Wrexham FC had received £43,000, challenging the myth that the Trust had not donated any money to the club.
Richard then went onto demonstrate that the Trust had already run key elements of Wrexham FC in the past and listed some key examples, which included: event management (the Sweet Concert at the William Aston Hall in 2006), the Wrexham FC Yearbook (founded in 2007) and the Big Red Survey (the first ever market research into Wrexham FC which was produced by the Trust in 2010).
Finally, Richard explained that strong businesses required four key functions to be fulfilled: Information Technology (IT), Human Resources (HR), Legal and Finance and that the WST Board had deep skills and experience in each area. He also emphasised that the Board had a range of people with supporting skills and experience in key areas such as procurement, which would be key in negotiating contracts.
In summary, Richard emphasised that Wrexham Supporters Trust had an unrivalled fundraising ability, had already run key elements of the club, had demonstrated an ability to work in partnership with others and had the right balance of skills and experience on the Board. The key message was very clear; given the opportunity, we can do it!
Dave Boyle: Chief Executive of Supporters Direct, Dave Boyle then gave a powerful talk about how other supporters trusts had already done it and had taken over their clubs, citing AFC Wimbledon, Exeter City and AFC Telford as good examples of how successful supporter-run clubs had been. He talked irreverently about the opinion of some in the game who believed that supporters cannot run clubs because they dont have deep pockets, explaining how wealthy club owners had run up large debts at clubs expense.
Kevin Jaquiss: Kevin made a fascinating and in-depth presentation of the case for conducting community share schemes to acquire football clubs and their assets. Those members in attendance will recall how animated and passionate Kevin was in describing the benefits of community share schemes and in particular how cost effective they are in comparison with typical share schemes in private companies. We would like to place on record our thanks for Kevins insight and input into our event and for providing us with this pro bono advice.
Jules Spencer: Founder member of FC United of Manchester and Director, Jules Spencer then told Wrexham fans not to give up on their dream of owning Wrexham FC and that one day this would happen. He also cast doubt on the myth that football clubs cannot be owned by their communities, highlighting that FCUM had been promoted in three out of the last four seasons and na rrowly missed out on a fourth promotion to Colwyn Bay in a play-off for the Conference North. Read more about Jules speech on FCUMs website and in the Daily Post.
Mark Howell: Community Officer and founding member of Chester FC then gave an inspirational speech about community ownership. He received a warm welcome from Wrexham fans and spoke passionately about the positive impact of returning Chester FC to the community. In particular Mark highlighted the community work Chester FC does with disadvantaged young people by working in partnership with in with the local health service and council, something weve been keen to explore here in Wrexham for some time.
Half time / Hanner Amser: Spencer Harris returned to the stage to thank the speakers and to emphasise that Wrexham Supporters Trust could still do it and that the speakers had proven that other clubs had done it
The WST Bid: Spencer Harris kicked off the second half with a demonstration of how WSTs bid met the requirements of Wrexham Village. Spence describe how we had structured a deal which enabled a timely sale of Wrexham FC, the continued funding of Wrexham FC, met the valuation of the Racecourse and Colliers Park and ensured that Wrexham FC and the Centre of Excellence would continue as viable businesses.
Spencer then presented a six-stage roadmap, which illustrated how the Trust proposed to acquire Wrexham FC, the Racecourse and Colliers Park:
- Acquisition of the club, its assets and liabilities for £1
- Injection of funds totalling almost £400,000 to cover immediate costs
- Community share scheme to raise up to £1m to run the club next season
- Finalise the business plan by completing Stage 2 of the due diligence exercise
- Approach businesses for investment
- Asset lock the Racecourse and Colliers Park
Richard Owen then talked supporters through the WST bid in detail, focusing on stages 3,4 and 6 to demonstrate how the Trust proposed to raise sufficient funding to run the club, return it to financial sustainability and protect the Racecourse and Colliers Park. Whilst expressing disappointment about not winning the bid to acquire Wrexham FC, Richard emphasised that we can do it and one day the club will become community-owned.
Richard referred to the fantastic support that the Daily Post and Leader had given to the Trusts Million Reasons campaign to raise c. £1m which had been launched at the Tamworth game on Easter Monday and that the Trust had received pledges of £230,000 to date. He stated that the intention of the public meeting had been to start converting those pledges in to hard cash to facilitate the acquisition and expressed disappointment that the rug had been pulled from under us.
He then went onto describe how the Trust had commissioned BDO LLP (the fourth largest accountancy firm in the UK) to conduct due diligence on Wrexham FC. The first stage of the exercise had been completed, which enabled the Trust to launch its Million Reasons campaign with some confidence in the funding requirements for next season.
Richard stated that Stage 2 of the exercise, which had not been commissioned due to the sale of the club, planned to look at each line in the accounts to finalise robust forecasts for next season. We had planned to ask BDO to speak to individuals within the club to explore each line in detail in order to identify areas of concern that we would need to address should we have taken it over.
BDO planned to provide us with a business plan following completion of stage 2, which would have enabled us to approach businesses to discuss potential investment. Whilst it is frustrating that we were unable to complete this exercise, we felt it was important to demonstrate that had a plan in place to finalise the business plan, as this is a key element of any credible acq uisition.
Richard then talked about how the Trust planned to balance the books and return the club to financial sustainability. He provided a number of examples, including improving hospitality, increasing crowds, selling more merchandising and getting more for less. We would like to thank Brian Burgess, Director of Brentford FC for advising us in January this year on how we could increase revenue from the Racecourse Stadium.
Finally, Richard explained the Trusts plan to asset lock the Racecourse and Colliers Park to protect the assets for community use. He also described how the Trust had had preliminary discussions with Glyndwr University about the potential development of a mixed educational and sporting facility following a site visit to see the Carnegie Stand at Leeds Metropol itan University and Leeds Rugby Football Club.
Q&A: Spencer Harris then asked for questions from the floor in an open Q&A session with the speakers. A range of topics were discussed, including the fit and proper person test, whether CADW would consider heritage status for the Racecourse Ground, the Wrexham Village development and the unilateral undertaking between Wrexham Village and Wrexham Council and the offer of shares in Wrexham FC made by the new owner.
During the Q&A session, a fan stated that he believed that the Trust should continue with its plans for a community share scheme to acquire Wrexham FC and its assets. The Chair asked for a show of hands from supporters œ on the basis that it was an informal test of opinion - and was delighted to receive unanimous support for this proposal. The Board will now consi der this at its next Board meeting.
The meeting concluded with Spencer Harris asking supporters to stand or raise their hand if they supported the Trusts current direction of travel. Again, the Trust received overwhelming support for its proposals, which we will reflect upon at our Board Meeting on Monday. We would like to thank everyone for attending the public meeting and for their ongoing support, i t is much valued and appreciated.
Offer of shares in Wrexham FC
On Tuesday, the new owners of Wrexham FC made public (via the press) an offer of a 25.1% shareholding in return for a seat on the board.
The offer: We have yet to receive written details of what is on offer and have written to Jon Harris to request this in writing to avoid any misunderstandings. We have also asked for further details of the acquisition of the club and are awaiting a response. Mr Harris has acknowledged this request by return of email and also verbally promised to provide this by close of play on Friday. We have not yet received a response, but list the questions asked for reference below:
In order to consider the offer to invest we would initially require the following information.
- The proposed company into which we would be investing.
- The proposed funding structure including details of :-
a) Share capital to be issued/class of shares/subscription price paid/other shareholders.
b) Loans to be made to the company.
c) An opening balance sheet ,showing the capital/assets/liabilities.
d) The number and class of shares offered to us : whether that is a range subject to negotiation or fixed.
- The management structure of the company in terms of day to day management and board composition.
- Details of any minority protection rights offered.
- Details of the terms of the acquisition of the business carried on/formerly carried on by Wrexham (2006) Ltd.
- Details of any business plan/forecasts prepared.
- Details of the terms of the option to acquire the Racecourse Ground and Colliers Park.
- Details of any proposed back-to-back sale of Colliers Park.
- Details of guarantees given as to continuity of football at the Racecourse.
The Board will meet on Monday to consider its next steps and will update members (and the wider fanbase) as soon as we receive a response to these questions. We do, however, note lawyer Kevin Jaquiss (Cobbetts LLP) comments in the Daily Post on Wednesday who warned that: ¢‚¬Å“The directors of the Trust have to be satisfied that any of its money it spends will be for the benefit of the community.¢‚¬
The Centre for Excellence
On Wednesday we received a surprise request for financial support for the Centre for Excellence this week and also attended a fundraising event to demonstrate our ongoing commitment to the centre.
Request for financial support: We were surprised to receive an email on Wednesday this week from Geoff Moss requesting financial support for the Centre for Excellence. We have asked for further details, including whether the Centre for Excellence will remain within the ownership of the club and whether he had anything specific in mind. We have not yet received a response but will consider this as a Board on Monday as we would typically do for any request.
Fundraising: In the meantime, we are pleased to inform our members that we supported the Centre for Excellence fundraising event at the Racecourse today. The full day event, which started at 9am cost £2 to attend and featured matches between the under tens, under thirteens and under fifteen age groups. Members of the Trust Board were in attendance during the day to sup port the players of the future, a key strand in our recent bid.
Whilst delighted to attend any fundraising events for the Centre for Excellence, we are slightly confused by the request for financial support, given that the club statement on Monday said that the transaction provides the club with financial stability for the future. It follows that the successful bidder was able to demonstrate it is able to continue funding the club and the Centre for Excellence.
Protect the Racecourse
On Thursday, the grass-roots petition to protect the Racecourse reached its landmark 10,500 target with the signature of nine-year-old Harley Stevens.
Red Passion petition: The petition, which was created by Toby Clark, played a critical role in encouraging Wrexham Council make specific reference to the Racecourse Ground within the Local Development Plan. We would like to publicly place on record our gratitude to Toby and to Councillor Phil Wynn who wrote the wording for the LDP, which was given the thumbs up by ou r planning consultant.
Local Development Plan: Policy P16 within the deposit plan contains reference to the continued use of sub-regional sports stadia, including North Wales Tennis Centre, the Queensway Athletic Stadium, Bangor on Dee racecourse and the Racecourse Stadium. The specific wording can be found on page 52 of the plan which can be downloaded directly from Wrexham Council s website here.
According to the Councils website, the plan will be submitted to the Welsh Assembly Government in August 2011. Then in February 2012 an independent examination will be conducted by a Planning Inspector to ensure the deposit plan is sound and fair. The Inspectors report will be made available for the public to view in June 2012. The plan will finally be adopted in September 2012.
Annual General Meeting and Elections to the Society Board
The Society Board have set a provisional date of June 30th for this years Annual General Meeting. The exact venue, date and time of the meeting will be confirmed to you at least 14 days prior to the meeting taking place.
Elections to the Society Board: If you would like to become involved in the running of WST, with EIGHT vacancies available on the Board this year, now is the time to put yourself forward. In accordance with the WST Election Policy an Election Supervision Group (ESG) has been set up. The Chair for this group will be Campbell Smith of Chester City Fans United who will be supported by current Board members Mark Williams and Thomas Stanford.
Fundraising, Merchandise and Events
Although the season has ended the Board were out this weekend to raise money for the Trust and the Centre of Excellence.
Yma o Hyd Fundraising event: Four board members attended the Turf on Saturday to support this key fundraising event for the WST. The event, which was organised by Jamie Davies and Jack Scott, was a great way to round off the season with friends. We would like to thank Jamie and Jack for their continued support of the Trust. Thank you to everyone who took the time to support Jamie, Jack and Wrexham Supporters Trust.
Membership: Our membership passed the magical 1000 mark at the Turf on Saturday, a fitting place to achieve this significant milestone in WSTs history. The Turf was where the original club was founded in 1872 by a group of local cricketers who wanted something to do during the winter months. Congratulations to Matty Thomas from Rhosddu, who has followed Wrexha m home and away this season and became our 1000th member. Welcome to Matt and also to our 998th member who joined us from Norway, demonstrating that the reach of Wrexham FC is truly global.
North Wales Credit Union: We have had a series of meetings with senior officers and Board members of the former Wrexham Credit Union (which recently merged with the other five unions in north Wales to provide competitive savings and affordable loans to over 10,000 people in the region). In particular, we would like to thank Michael Cantwell for his continued support.
Our initial meetings with WCU revolved around the provision of loans to fans wishing to purchase season tickets and we were delighted that they were able to establish a scheme last season to enable fans to pay for tickets over the course of the season. Wrexham FC did promote the initiative last year after Lindsay Jones helped to it set up, but we are pleased that the club i s promoting it more heavily this coming season.
Most recently we have discussed the idea of supporters being able to save or loan money via the Credit Union to participate in our proposed share scheme. As we still believe we can do it, we will continue to explore this possibility further to a request by a member at the public meeting on Tuesday. We see the NWCU as a key partner of the Trust and Wrexham FC going forward s o eager to develop this relationship.
Week in Week Out: Pitches, Pride and Pom Poms
Following the news that the club had been sold on Monday, fans throughout the UK were glued to their TV sets on Wednesday to see BBC Wales take on the sale of Wrexham FC.
At times, irreverent and at times amusing, but always striding the present the facts as they understood them, the WIWO team did a great job of distilling what has been a compelling soap opera into 30 minutes of must-view TV. If youve not seen it yet, its still available to view on iPlayer until Wednesday.
Supporters Direct News
WST would like to thank Dave Boyle (Chief Executive) and James Mathie (Development Manager) for their support at our pubic meeting this week.
Presentation to WST Public Meeting: Dave Boyle made an informative and at times, amusing, speech to Wrexham fans on Monday this week at the William Aston Hall at Glyndwr University in Wrexham. One of the key messages within Daves speech was that there was more talent within the wider fanbase in football clubs than there can ever be in the Boardroom. This was a message that resonated with the Trust, which had earlier highlighted the skills and experience of the Board.
Facebook: Supporters Directs new Fans Page on Facebook has replaced Supporters Direct current Group Page. Just visit the new page here and click like to access more articles, videos, photos and debates than ever before. This page also aims to be more interactive, so its an opportunity to share thoughts and experiences with members o f other supporters trusts. In particular, there are regular updates about the Football Governance Inquiry and news from Supporters Trusts across England and Wales.
Fans Weekend: The SD Fans' Weekend which includes the SD Annual Conference and SD Cup will take place in Chester, on Friday 15th and Saturday 16th July 2011. The Conference will be held at The Queen Hotel on the Friday and the SD Cup will form part of a Fans' Day held on the Saturday at the Exacta Stadium, home of Chester FC. Tickets are £37 for members of Supporters Trusts and £42 for non-member. Members of the Wrexham Supporters Trust Board will be attending so why not come along for a chat and an update. Click here for further details.
Football Governance Inquiry: Supporters Direct has launched two reports to coincide with the conclusion of the government's inquiry into football governance which is due to report very soon - Developing Public Policy to Encourage Community Ownership in Football and Developing Football Regulation to Encourage Greater Supporter Involvement and Community Ownership. The two reports can be downloaded from Supporters Directs website.
Quotes from our MPs and MEPs
We shared the following quotes from our MPs and MEPs and include below to demonstrate the level of support for our bid to acquire Wrexham FC, the Racecourse and Colliers Park.
Susan Elan Jones, Labour MP for Clwyd South: ¢‚¬Å“I think it would be great for it to come under community ownership¢‚¬
Elfyn Llwyd, Plaid Cymru MP for Nant Conwy: ¢‚¬Å“I am fully in favour of the supporters bid¢‚¬
Ian Lucas, Labour MP for Wrexham: ¢‚¬Å“I am delighted to support the WSTs bid to acquire Wrexham FC and hope that the owners take this opportunity to leave a legacy of community ownership for the people of Wrexham.¢‚¬
Kay Swinburne, Conservative MEP for Wales: ¢‚¬Å“I support and back the Trusts plans to give majority ownership of the club and its assets back to the community. Wrexham football club has a long a rich history as one of the oldest surviving football clubs in the UK and as the oldest professional club in Wales it is vital to secure it for the local community.¢‚¬
Diolch yn fawr / Thanks very much
We would like to thank the following people (in no particular order) for their support: Michael Cantwell, Kevin Jaquiss, James Mathie, Dave Boyle, Tom Hall, Councillor Phil Wynn, Andy Gilpin, Tim Bowden, Phil Robinson, Eric Owen, Toby Clark, Jamie Davies, Huw Davies, Jules Spencer, Mark Howell, Brian Burgess, Barry Horne, Alan Thornley, Ian Lucas MP, Kay Swinburne MEP, Elfyn Llwyd MP, Susan Elan Jones MP.
And finally, a footnote¢‚¬¦It was perhaps not surprising to read in the press this week that neither Dr Marek nor Mrs Booth supported our bids. What was surprising - given that we had signed a mutual non-disclosure agreement with Wrexham Village - was that Dr Marek claimed to have seen our bid in Fridays Wrexham Leader. It is disappointing that Wrexham Village revealed details of all the bids to Dr Marek, but whilst he is entitled to his views, it is very disappointing that he does not appear to support a community owned football club or stadium.