Dear Members and Supporters,
Firstly, it would be remiss of me not to congratulate Gary Johnson and his squad on their successful development into a team unit that, not only entertains us, but engages so well with our special and loyal supporters. On my 'great escape' from a difficult few weeks, including a stay in Torbay Hospital's High Care Unit after a challenging 3rd hip revision and complications, one of the first things that uplifted me was listening to our team's 10 man battle against Dartford on TUFC radio!
Secondly, I would like to welcome Rob Dickinson, who has been co-opted to our board. I believe he will prove to be a valuable asset to our team, and will add another dimension to our balance of professionals. We now have a board of 10 directors, who are working voluntarily and continuously, often in the background (not just on match days) on behalf of yourselves to endeavour to ensure our club remains and grows, preferably alongside any owners who may be in situ. I would appreciate you taking the time to read the following, a little lengthy, but I believe important!
Your March update includes:
TUST consultation report, liaison with TUFC, supporter and community engagement, and a summary of the TUST board meeting held on 18th March. Finally please take a look at Support TUST with the Torbay Lottery and our up to date financial report.
Michel Thomas (Chair).
Liaison with TUFC
Sadly, since the new TUFC admin. team took their posts earlier in the season, they have been reluctant, or even disappointingly unresponsive, to our requests to engage. These polite requests have been made verbally and in writing, to both the TUFC secretary and to our two directors.
From earlier in the season, we have given feedback on away day match problems to the club and on ticketing issues. We have received little or no response and a reluctance to meet formally, or informally, to discuss these and other topics which are important to our supporters, the beating heart of the club.
This was no more evident than recently with the poor organisation of the away ticketing sales for what were always going to be hugely popular matches. You will have noted that many season ticket holders and regular supporters who work during the day have had difficulty obtaining tickets for these key matches, not forgetting exiles who could not get to Plainmoor nor many who could not get through on the phone.
As a supporter very wisely said recently, a healthy engagement in a football club requires:
a) good supporter / manager and team engagement
b) good ownership / team management engagement
c) good ownership / supporter and community engagement.
In our view, the first two confidently receive ticks. However, the latter leaves a lot to be desired!
Supporter and Community Engagement
We continue, in partnership with TUCST, to hold successful Fan Zones on match days, outside weather permitting!
Our Matchday Ambassadors (which was meant to be in direct liaison with the club as the EFL model) continue to be diligently and voluntarily on duty, come rain or shine.
Our TUFC Outreach hubs, together with TUCST continue, the next two are arranged for the Acorn Youth Centre, Barton and then the Newton Abbot Market Square on Easter Saturday.
We continue to liaise with our community leaders (of any political persuasion) re the proposed new stadium development. There is nothing much to report since the Mayor rescinded his intention to sign a Memorandum Of Understanding with our owner. We would happily consider a sound, professionally produced business plan that persuaded our members, supporters and the local community, that it assured the long term sustainability of our club! We are well aware that amongst us there is currently a definite split between the 'remainers' at Plainmoor, and the 'leavers' for a new fit for purpose stadium!
Thank you for reading this and please support us in working for the benefit of our club. We can always disagree in order to ultimately reach the best decisions and you are more than welcome to write to us with your personal views, at any time (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Most importantly, we ask everyone to continue to get behind the manager and team, respect other clubs and their supporters and encourage the owners to engage and so work towards a truly United football club!
Summary of Board Meeting held on 18th March 2019
TUST mission statement and objectives
The board have approved the new statement setting out TUST’s purpose and strategic direction following a period of consultation with members and also some favourable feedback from other supporters trusts.
MISSION: to promote good governance and seek to ensure the long-term sustainability of our club for the benefit of current and future supporters and the wider community.
This will be achieved through the following five objectives:
REPRESENTING SUPPORTERS: Being the democratic and representative voice of supporters and strengthening the bonds between the Club and the communities which it serves.
PROMOTING SUPPORTER INFLUENCE: Achieving the greatest possible supporter and community influence in the running and ownership of the Club, whichever action seems viable and necessary by members.
COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT: Promoting responsible and constructive community engagement and encouraging the Club to do the same.
GOOD GOVERNANCE: Operating democratically, fairly, sustainably, transparently and with financial responsibility and encouraging the Club to do the same.
BEING INCLUSIVE: Being a positive, inclusive and representative organisation, open and accessible to all supporters of the Club regardless of their age, income, location, ethnicity, gender, disability, sexuality or religious or moral beliefs.
Notes from the Strategy Team meeting held on 6th March highlighted discussions around membership fees, research in to crowd-funding as a means of raising funds quickly if needed, the experience of Hereford United as a phoenix club and the support that the Unified Football Supporters Federation could provide.
It was agreed that the newly adopted objectives should form the framework for working up a strategic plan of action.
Membership /subscription options
The Strategy Team had concluded that reduced membership fees might attract new members but that a minimum subscription should be set with a clear option for members to pay more if they wished. A need for other benefits to attract new members was noted, as was the possibility of links to family or junior membership.
However, a final decision on fees still hinges on decisions about expenditure plans in due course.
Communication with the Club
The board were updated on recent efforts to communicate with senior club officials but all had been ignored. Individual discussions had been held by board members with various staff and directors at the Club but Clarke Osborne and George Edwards had declined all requests to engage.
The Chair had tabled a letter from Osborne dated January 2018 in which he stated;
“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 – General Manager at the time) and his team will, I am sure continue to actively engage with you – and if they don’t, I expect you to tell me!
Engagement is the key word for the team at Torquay United and they are working hard to improve our processes and communication."
However, it was agreed that any further attempt to force a dialogue with the Club at the present time could be portrayed as disruptive at a time when all effort needed to be focused on the promotion challenge. Renewed efforts would be made at the end of the season.
Possible joint initiatives
The board expressed concern for the position of the Torquay United Community Sports Trust which had recently made some staff redundant. TUCST receives no financial or practical support from the Club. It also faces the possibility of having its grant funding cut by 50% if the Club fails to gain promotion.
TUCST was working up a proposal to launch a new scheme for young football fans and it was agreed that TUST should actively support this proposal rather than being directly involved in running a junior section itself. It would consider financial support for such a scheme including the ‘loan’ of equipment bought by TUST under the Premier League Fans Fund (PLFF) such as the Speed goal and Playstations.
Further recognition for Ian Twitchin
Following discussion with the Twitchin family, they are supportive of TUST’s idea of an annual award in Ian’s memory to the player making the most appearances in the season. It was agreed that the idea would be put to the Club with details of how eligibility for the award will be determined to be decided in due course (eg: where more than one player has the same number of appearances).
Away games at Woking and Chippenham
Concern was expressed at the way tickets had been sold for the Woking game but it appeared little had been learned by the Club as the recent announcement about the sale of Chippenham tickets indicated. Given the unwillingness of the Club to engage, it was agreed that there was little point in raising objections at this late stage.
The lack of priority for season ticket holders was criticised. It was also noted that the Club had missed an opportunity by not offering ‘half-season tickets’, particularly with the increased interest following the on-field success.
Premier League Fans Fund
The latest Fanzone scheduled for the Dartford game had been cancelled due to the poor weather. An expanded event is planned for the Easter Monday game with additional entertainment and activities. Details were being worked up by the steering group but as many volunteers as possible would be required.
Support TUST Support Your Community
Balance 26th March 2019
Account 1: £6013.10 Account 2: £33636.45
Premier League Fans Fund: £6911.39