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FANS' FORUM - Questions via Zoom


 


FANS' FORUM


Questions via Zoom



TUST was delighted to see so many supporters attending the recent Fans’ Forum via Zoom.  It is great to give those who are unable to attend in person due to location or other reasons the opportunity to participate.  Indeed, we had more wishing to attend than anticipated and we soon hit our Zoom limit of 100.  Apologies to those who were unable to join but we will be increasing the capacity for future events.


 


With so many on Zoom it was very difficult to monitor all the questions and comments being made via the chat box as well as keeping track of what was being said in the room.  We apologise for not being able to address all of these issues on the evening but set out below some of the recurring themes with our responses.  At future meetings we will invite questions to be submitted in advance.


 


We recognise that there was some frustration among the Zoom attendees that much of the discussion at the Forum focused on the background to the club’s problems rather than what TUST and supporters generally can do.  Hopefully the latter stages of the meeting, subsequent publicity and responses below will address these concerns.


 


Club finances


There were a number of questions about the club’s finances and these are the most difficult to answer as none of us really know the detail or owner’s intentions.  Without any communication from the owner or directors, supporters can only guess and that is where rumours, speculation and conspiracy theories originate.



Examples of the questions asked (in italics);



The club are 5m in debt with the majority owned to CO et al. Does the Trust know how much longer CO plans to keep the club afloat financially and is there any strategy in place if CO actually decides to stop funding and tries to recoup the debt owed to him?



Nobody knows how long CO will continue to fund the club.  We are assured that the club is still seeking an alternative site for a stadium but no details are provided.  TUST’s position is that in the meantime it is crucial that the Council retain the freehold of Plainmoor and we have had assurances from the current Council leaders that this is non-negotiable.  TUST has been working up strategies for dealing with any scenario (see below).



How can running the club be viable. Companies House shows the club owes Clarke Osborne circa £6 million. Can anyone with an accountancy background offer some suggestion about what his plans are as he can't build on Plainmoor and the new stadium is basically dead in the water. What can possibly be the outcome for him as I'm sure he doesn't want to be losing money hand over fist?



TUST has access to professionals with a range of experience in finance, property development and business as well as experts at the Football Supporters Association.  No one can be certain of CO’s real intentions or what an exit strategy might look like.  One frequently heard rumour is that his ownership is a means of offsetting his tax liabilities but we are advised that this is not possible.



For me I'd like to know where we are financially? If Osborne sells do we need to raise 5m? How does it work?



Ultimately, the Club is only worth what anyone would pay for it.  It is unlikely that he would find a buyer willing to pay sufficient to recover his investment.  TUST would certainly not be in a position to pay a significant sum to purchase the Club.



If Osborne does decide he wants the £6m back, is there anyway he could attempt this and jeopardise the clubs existence in the process?



If CO withdraws his financial support and seeks to recover his ‘losses’, the most he could achieve without finding a buyer, is the value of the assets of the club (the buildings which have limited value as the freehold is held by the Council, the players, equipment, bar stock etc – clearly not a great amount.



Is there any possibility that Osborne would agree to sell for a pound and cut his losses and if so are TUST already prepared to facilitate a move to community ownership or is more time needed?



This has happened at other clubs.  Whilst we think it is unlikely that CO will consider this, TUST has plans to raise funds at short-notice via a Community Share Issue.  This route has been used successfully by other clubs and the FSA can provide expert advice and guidance on how its done.  TUST has held discussions with those who can facilitate it.


 


TUST strategy and finances


TUST’s objectives are the long term sustainability and good governance for our football club so that we and our successors can enjoy supporting it for generations to come. It is that simple.  Our strategy for achieving this in current circumstances can be summarised as ‘Planning for the worst, hoping for the best’



What are TUST funds? What are they used for?



What is TUST plan for taking over from the owner? as you said at beginning of meeting you had one



If the club does go to the wall how much is it going to cost the TUST to take over the lease of Plainmoor?



There are answers to these and many other questions on the TUST website under the Frequently Asked Questions section here: FAQ's | TUST


 


Part time football


Why do the supporters have such a problem with going part-time? I'd rather us go part-time and appoint a progressive, young coach and spend within our means than spaff money up the wall on a manager unable to coach.  Simply going part-time is not the end of our ambition to get promoted; all of those clubs have far greater ambition than a supposed full-time outfit with our level of money!



An interesting point.  If the club had to be saved or re-launched as a phoenix club it would almost certainly be on a part-time basis.


 


What can supporters do?


Why do the TUST feel the need to appease and please the current ownership (GE / CO)? The only gist I have got this evening is that the TUST don't want to do anything to upset anybody, rather than trying to actually save the football club in fear of "being told off"?



TUST need to be more aggressive and energetic to increase members and interest.  I know it's been tough for them but they're not making enough waves with supporters. Get members up then have clear options for action and have a vote to decide.



There was a view shared by several Zoom participants that TUST has been reluctant to challenge the club’s owner and directors.  We understand that view as it is shared by members of the TUST board.  However, the decision was taken last year to try diplomacy as a means of establishing a relationship with those in charge.  The Chairman attended a number of meetings with directors and regular meetings between TUST and club representatives were reintroduced in the Spring but promptly withdrawn by the club without explanation.  Since then TUST has been more forthright in expressing its concerns which has ultimately led to it holding this Fans’ Forum because the club refused to do so.



We can't continue going along spending £18 per game just waiting for something to happen and putting up with it. As supporters we need to make something happen, even if that results in us needing to form a phoenix club.



The problem of making a point with a march or something like that is that the majority of the fanbase is apathetic at best, or lacking knowledge of the internal workings of the club (some seem to be wholly ignorant of how the club has somehow tumbled to NLS) . It has the potential to be a damp squib. If any stunt is attempted it needs to be something that can be done by a small group, that will alert the wider fanbase



After much discussion at the Forum, the agreed action was a Stay Put protest at the end of a game (see below).


 


Local media


No disrespect but the local media are not ruffling feathers at the club for the fear of being ostracised by the club.  Get on the national radio talk sport, where we have fans who can broadcast to a very wide audience



We talk about taking this to the press, however so far this hasn't been done, but this club really stinks of guff at the minute and we are expected to just sniff it all up. Why can't we take this to the wider press sooner? Nothing is changing.



TUST shares the frustration of many supporters at the apparent unwillingness of the press to ask probing questions of the club whether it’s the owner or manager.



However, we have been heartened by the press coverage received following the Forum and the club’s controversial statement that followed.


 


The Protest


The decision of the Fans Forum was to hold a legal, peaceful protest objecting to the complete lack of meaningful communication from the club owner about his plans for the future.



The Forum was open to all supporters and many attendees were not TUST members.  This was a fans’ decision which TUST has agreed to fully support.  It has made it absolutely clear that any protest must not breach the ground regulations or other laws or cause concern or distress to any other supporter.



The protest will take the form of all fans being encouraged to stay in their position for 15 minutes at the end of the game on 2nd December against Tonbridge Angels.  A chant of ‘Talk to us’ should be aimed at the directors’ box to get the message across. 



In this way the protest and its purpose will be picked up by the media.



 







 


SUPPORT TUST - SUPPORT YOUR COMMUNITY


 





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