Dear Members and Supporters,
I will try and make this fairly brief as the main news for August is contained in the following reports. Needless to say we have continued to be busy in supporting the long term sustainability of our club and encouraging supporter engagement and community outreach.
To this end, the newsletter has been delayed to the end of the month in order to report back to you on both our recent informal meeting with George Edwards, and another with our new council leadership, together with the responses we have received.
We have been pleased to personally congratulate Dominic Mee on his appointment as Media and Supporter Liaison Co-ordinator and look forward to fully supporting him in, what we consider to be, a very important role. We have already spoken to him and look forward to developing this positive step forward by our club in improving liaison between its owner/directors and supporters.
As well as meeting our council and George Edwards, and regularly attending local business networking meetings, we have also continued to liaise with our national organisation, the Football Supporters Association, and fellow supporter organisations.
We were extremely saddened by the recent situations at Bury and Bolton Wanderers, and the eventual loss of Bury. The latter gained promotion to League One, only to find that their owner would/could not continue to finance them or cover the debts. There are many other fellow clubs with potential future financial difficulties to face, we do hope and trust that we will never be one of them. However, if the need ever arose, being a strong supporter body will be crucial. By joining TUST, fans can help us all to be in a better position to respond to such a crisis and avoid the Bury scenario.
May I finally remind you of the inaugural Ian Twitchin memorial award presentation to Liam Davis, which is being held at Boots and Laces, Plainmoor from 12-2pm. on Sunday 8th September. Light refreshments and a welcome glass will be provided, come and join us for this celebratory social and to commemorate both Ian and Liam's outstanding achievements.
You are all welcome!
Best wishes to all connected to our lovely football club,
Meeting with George Edwards
As you will probably be aware, your TUST board have been trying to hold a meeting with representatives of the Club since our regular liaison meetings ended twelve months ago. Numerous requests for a meeting have gone unanswered and other correspondence sent to the club has similarly met with no response.
However, our Secretary has now had an informal meeting with George Edwards (Chief Executive) which, whilst disappointing, has at least provided clarification of the Club’s view of TUST. George made it very clear that, in his perception, representatives of the Club have no desire to engage with the trust in its present form. He feels that TUST is negative and too critical of the Club and its staff and has, at times, been impolite and disrespectful to him and his fellow directors. We obviously feel disappointed about this but do not feel that his view is justified. In our experience, we have enjoyed an excellent relationship with, and co-operation from, almost all of the members of staff we’ve dealt with.
We have emphasised our belief that TUST, which was formed in 2006, is a positive organisation, keen to work with the Club to promote support among existing fans and the wider community and we believe this is reflected in a number of initiatives we have promoted to date. Any criticism from TUST is always intended to be constructive and based on the experiences of our members. This positivity has also been reflected within the many communications we have sent to the Club’s owner and directors. Our other objective is, of course, ensuring the long-term sustainability of the Club, whether at Plainmoor or elsewhere.
We specifically asked George about the future of the popular Matchday Ambassadors scheme which was delivered almost exclusively by TUST volunteers. He confirmed that the Club would no longer support the scheme because of TUST’s involvement. He was also critical of TUST for proposing other initiatives without consulting the Club. Due to this he was reticent to consider any future proposals and offers of assistance.
The future of the Fan Zones and Outreach events is uncertain. These were funded last season from the Premier League Fans Fund which was a joint initiative by the Club, TUST and the Community Sports Trust. Many hours of time were given up by the TUST board and other volunteers to provide these events and the feedback from attendees has been very good. We strongly believe such events contributed to the feel good factor around Plainmoor towards the end of last season. We continue to enjoy an excellent working relationship with TUCST and propose to offer it financial and practical assistance this season as they will now be leading on these schemes.
We have made the point that, as the only body currently representing supporters and the interests of the wider community, we can exert a fair degree of influence to any plans for the future direction of the Club. We have a strong dialogue with local politicians of all parties and understand that they will insist on proper and meaningful supporter and community engagement as being crucial to any proposals for relocation of the football stadium. TUST is not opposed to such a move in principle and could play a key role in supporting the Club’s plans if presented in a transparent manner as part of a robust business plan indicating its long term sustainability.
We are obviously disappointed that the Club have decided not to engage with TUST as we see this as a missed opportunity and genuinely believe that we could have a positive role to play in promoting the Club in both the short and long term, especially at a time when there is so much good news around, both on and off the pitch.
We made the point that earlier communication of the Club’s concerns would have been helpful to both parties and also asked what we could do to improve its view of TUST. However, we have not been offered any guidance or indication that the board of directors are open to resolve our apparent differences. We believe this is misguided as other clubs appreciate the benefits of working with supporters’ trusts for the common good.
Furthermore, this approach appears to be at odds with the commitment made by Clarke Osborne in his letter to our Chair dated 19th January 2018 when he wrote of our plans to encourage supporter engagement through TUST:
“I and the Club are committed and keen to continually improve this dialogue and develop improved communication and links with all supporters and the businesses and people of Torbay. You have my wholehearted support in this and Geoff (Harrop, previous senior executive) and his team will, I am sure continue to actively engage with you – and if they don’t, I expect you to tell me!”
In a more positive move, the club have recently appointed Dominic Mee as Media and Supporter Liaison Co-Ordinator. Dominic’s role is to increase engagement with supporters and the community at large and is very much welcomed by your TUST Board. Indeed, this is a role we have been encouraging for some time. Despite the comments from George Edwards at our meeting regarding his lack of desire for any employees to engage with TUST, we have had some very positive interaction so far with Dominic.
Dominic is a lifelong gulls fan, known to many and seems an excellent choice for the role. He has already indicated he is happy to meet with Nick Brodrick (our Supporter Liaison Officer) in the near future and we hope this relationship can continue in order to benefit the club as a whole.
We will naturally keep you informed of progress through our regular newsletters.
TUST Meeting with New Council Leadership and Groups
The TUST met our new council leaders and their groups at the town hall, just over two weeks ago. The productive meeting was in order to exchange thoughts and views on how best to support the long term sustainability of TUFC and the benefits our club provides for, particularly, Torbay. We endeavoured to represent the, sometimes varying,views that we have received from our members and other supporters during the past year.
It was evident that the council would wish the club to engage more openly in consultation with the local community and all interested groups, including supporters, when any clear business plans are ready to present, re any new proposed stadium development. It was also generally felt that Plainmoor was to be protected for the use of TUFC, until any such plans ever reached full fruition.
TUST AGM and Social
Will be held on Thursday, October 24th at Torquay Athletic Rugby Football Club in the evening, times and further details to follow soon.
Members, please feel free to contact us with any suggestions or proposals, at : firstname.lastname@example.org that you would like the board to include on the agenda.
IAN TWITCHIN TROPHY MEMORIAL PRESENTATION TO LIAM DAVIS
This Sunday, 8th August, from 12-2pm. At Boots and Laces
All are welcome, both TUFC staff, players, TUST members and supporters, to join Ian's family, friends and ex colleagues to celebrate both Ian's career and Liam's great service to our club last season with this inaugural seasonal award.
Refreshments will be provided by TUST, and a welcome glass of bubbly, courtesy of some generous personal donations by some of our TUST members who also contributed towards the shield and trophy.
SUMMARY OF BOARD MEETING HELD ON 5TH AUGUST
Liaison with TUFC
The Chair reported that George Edwards (CEO) had arranged a meeting at the Club on Friday 9th August. It was agreed that he and the Secretary should attend.
There was much discussion about the objectives for the meeting and how it should be approached. In summary it was concluded that we should:
Praise GE and the Club for the many positives over the past year including the 1899 branding and quality of video presentations.
Seek agreement for ongoing dialogue, preferably with GE himself.
Promote TUST as a positive organisation and seek to understand GE’s perception of it.
Explore practical ways in which TUST can support the Club including financial sponsorship of the Community Sports Trust (TUCST).
Highlight the benefits of voluntary initiatives TUST has delivered such as the Matchday Ambassadors and Fan Zones and seek clarification on the future of these.
Promote the benefits of supporter and wider community engagement and ways in which TUST can support this, particularly with young fans in mind.
Explore ways in which TUST can work with the Club on its longer term plans and the potential value of TUST’s input.
Press and media
Nick Brodrick reported that he had contacted Dave Thomas at the Herald Express regarding the Club’s decison to discontinue the Matchday Ambassadors scheme. DT had said he would look in to this but NB had heard nothing further.
A briefing session with the Lib Dem and Independent councillors had been arranged on 14th August at the Town Hall.
Rumours of further meetings between the Club and Torbay and Teignbridge planners were noted.
Exeter City Supporters’ Trust
The Chair and two colleagues had met three board members of ECST for an informal chat ahead of the friendly between the sides on 27th July. Whilst the circumstances of the two trusts and the issues they face differ considerably, it was useful to exchange thoughts and ideas. It was agreed that it would be beneficial to develop an ongoing relationship between the two bodies and also noted that there was a proposal to establish a Devon Supporters Trust Group.
Corporate membership and networking
There are now fourteen corporate members, an increase of six in recent weeks. A new promotional leaflet aimed at potential corporate members has been printed. The publication of an updated TUST brochure was discussed and it was agreed this could coincide with the AGM in October.
Contact had been made with a representative from Rowcroft Hospice at a recent networking breakfast. As a consequenece it was agreed to offer Rowcroft free corporate membership and the advertising opportunity that includes. It was also agreed that TUST could adopt Rowcroft as its ‘charity of the year’ and seek to raise funds on its behalf, perhaps by way of a bucket collection at the ground, subject to the Club’s consent.
Ian Twitchin Trophy
The new perpetual trophy and the player’s version were presented for the board to see. There had been discussion with the Twitchin family and a preferred date for the presentation had been suggested as Sunday 8th September. It was proposed to hold the event at Plainmoor and use the remaining donations to fund a buffet. The event would be open to all members, corporate and individual, and the management and players would be invited.
Support for Torquay United Community Sports Trust / TQ1 Club
Simon Baker updated the board on TUCST matters. It is proposed that representatives of TUCST will make a presentation at the next board meeting outlining what type of assistance it requires so that TUST can consider an appropriate level of sponsorship. It was agreed that this must include appropriate recognition of TUST’s contribution.
While TUST is keen to support TUCST in providing Fan Zones and Outreach events for the coming season, it will depend on the full co-operation of the Club. Members are happy to volunteer their time at such events.
The success of the TUCST led Senior Gulls was noted and it was suggested that TUST members might be able to offer assistance with future meetings if required.
Rick Williams reported that the team was due to meet on 7th August to consider a draft of the proposed strategy. This would then be tabled for consideration at the next board meeting before the key points are presented to the membership at the AGM.
The Chair enquired about the Asset of Community Value (ACV) registration. The date when it expires needs to be checked and consideration given to renewing it (subsequent to meeting date of expiry confirmed as 31 March 2020). He said his conversations with representatives of other trusts had indicated that they often considered ACVs to be very important. It was agreed that some clarification on the merits of ACVs on leaseholds and freeholds was needed. FSA to be consulted.