Dear Members and supporters,
The details of the main TUST news for October will be contained in the following articles. I would firstly like to put on record the pleasure I have had in seeing our team, led by our excellent manager and support staff acquit themselves so well in the National League in the past few months. It has been a joy to witness, with hopefully more exciting times ahead. Moreover, our club staff who are working hard to develop our infrastructure in support of a successful team and club deserve our appreciation.
The recent AGM was extremely productive, with many views and suggestions exchanged from the floor. I would like to thank those who attended and contributed, as well as the TUST board for their ongoing teamwork and professionalism. Furthermore, the strategy team, who have been thoughtfully developing our strategic plans over the last year. We continue to follow our main remit, re-affirmed at the AGM, which is explicitly described in our mission statement, to support any initiative which ensures our club's sustainability and its place within the local community.
Part of this can be achieved by ensuring that Torquay United's value to the local community is emphasised. Not only to our supporters, but to the wider community, its leaders and the business fraternity together with our nationwide and international friends. I believe that establishing a constructive and open relationship directly with the owners and directors of the football club, even if there are differing views on occasions, is invaluable in achieving this. As a long term, democratic and established supporters organisation, I welcome the motion passed at the AGM calling on the Club’s directors to engage with your board. We will keep you posted on the response to this request.
There will be more breaking news re our TUFC related community outreach initiatives soon , as well as a new TUST brochure, sponsored by 17 local businesses, for you to peruse. We will keep on supporting our club, and will be there for our TUFC.
Thank you all for your continuing support. Please feel free to get in touch at any time via our email address, or speak to us on matchdays if you prefer.
Best wishes to everyone who supports and works for our brilliant football club!
Minutes of AGM
Held on Thursday 24th October 2019 at 6.30pm at Torquay Athletic Rugby Football Club, The Recreation Ground, Torquay
Present: 25 members and Andrew Fiderkiewicz (Independent Examiner).
Apologies: received from 14 members as announced by the Secretary.
Michel Thomas, the Chairman, welcomed the members, introduced the board and thanked the Rugby Club for hosting the meeting.
Minutes of the 2018 AGM The minutes, having been circulated with the agenda, were taken as read and proposed for approval by Rob Dickinson , seconded by Jon Gibbes and unanimously approved including seven proxy votes cast by the Chairman.
Receipt of the accounts and balance sheet for the year ending 30th June 2019 Ali Bryant, the Treasurer, presented the profit and loss accounts showing a turnover of £15,933 and an operating surplus of £5,938. The balance sheet showed total funds of £44,428.
The accounts were proposed for approval by Sam Balsdon, seconded by Alan Robinson and unanimously approved including seven proxy votes cast by the Chairman.
Appointment of Independent Examiner for 2019/20 Rick Williams thanked Andrew Fiderkiewicz for providing independent examination of the 2018/19 accounts and advised that he had kindly agreed to continue in this role for the current year. His appointment was proposed by Jon Gibbes, seconded by Bryan McKenna and unanimously approved including seven proxy votes cast by the Chairman.
Election of board members Rick Williams, the Secretary, reported that there were ten places available on the board with five current members continuing to serve. The five vacancies had been notified to members and nominations invited. Only three nominations had been received and they were therefore duly elected for a term of two years without the need for a ballot as follows;
Ali Bryant and Michel Thomas current board members re-elected Rob Dickinson co-opted member now elected
Matt Carpenter, an exiled board member had not stood for re-election.
Report of the board The Chairman gave details of the activities of the board during the year, noting that the membership had been kept regularly informed of these via monthly newsletters.
He reported on the success of recruiting seventeen corporate members, attending numerous business networking events, maintaining a close dialogue with the MP and councillors of all parties and with the Football Supporters Association (FSA) and supporters groups from other clubs.
Robin Causley reported on the Premier League Fans Fund initiative which, in partnership with the Torquay United Community Sports Trust, had delivered a series of successful Fan Zones and Out Reach events and support for junior fans in various forms. All such activities were aimed at raising the Club’s profile in the community.
Nick Brodrick, board member with responsibility for Supporter Liaison and the Matchday Ambassador Co-Ordinator, spoke passionately about the scheme and TUST’s disappointment when advised by the Club, without explanation, that the scheme would not be run in the 2019/20 season.
There were a number of questions and suggestions from the floor including queries about the proposed Official Supporters Club, a suggestion that ambassadors could operate outside the ground and the relationship with the Club’s staff.
There was a 20 minutes break at this point for refreshments.
Rob Burkitt, board member with responsibility for social media and communications informed the meeting of the successful campaign to use various forms of media to keep members informed.
Strategic Plan Rick Williams introduced the draft Strategic Plan which was recommended by the board to the membership for approval. He explained that a Strategy Team had been established in the Summer of 2018 to look at all aspects of TUST’s activities.
A mission statement had been agreed followed by five core objectives, all previously reported to members. The draft Plan had been circulated with the papers for this meeting and included goals to support the objectives and proposed actions to achieve these. Three key issues were presented for discussion.
The first was a commitment to work constructively with the ownership to consider and promote any plans to relocate the Club providing that such plans are transparent, realistic and sustainable. There were a number of comments from the floor and generally a view that Plainmoor was an adequate stadium in the short term and proposals for any new ground would have to be robustly tested to ensure that they were for the long term benefit of the Club. The importance of the Council retaining the freehold of Plainmoor was stressed and this should be incorporated in to the Plan.
The second key element of the strategy was to be as prepared as possible to act if the existence of the Club is ever in jeopardy and to do everything possible to find a way of ensuring its continued survival. Rick explained that a contingency fund is held to facilitate this and the board are working to identify ways of raising funds at short notice should this be required. It is not considered feasible for TUST to buy or run the Club itself but with appropriate funding it could draw on professional advice and experience to ensure a future for the Club, even if it had to be resurrected as a ‘phoenix club’ as others successfully have been. There was much discussion from the floor and it was proposed that the wording ‘as a sustainable football club’ be added to the objective as set out in the opening sentence of this paragraph.
The third key issue was around funding. The board had given consideration to the level of membership fees and whether reduced fees would encourage increased membership. It had concluded that the current level of £2 per month or £24 per annum was appropriate. Apart from ensuring the long term future of the Club, another core objective was encouraging community engagement and with this in mind TUST has developed a strong partnership with the Torquay United Community Sports Trust and with the Women’s Football Club. It was proposed that 50% of income, net of expenses, should be devoted to supporting such community initiatives, subject to annual review.
After further discussion, including a suggestion that the board should seek a member with marketing/relationship skills, a motion to approve the Strategic Plan, subject to the amendments outlined above, was proposed by Alan Robinson, seconded by Peter Caton and unanimously approved including seven proxy votes cast by the Chairman.
Member’s motion A motion submitted in advance of the meeting and signed by two members was presented by Bryan McKenna as follows;
“This motion calls upon the membership to instruct the board to inform the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Torquay United AFC of their deep concern and strong objection to the actions of the Torquay United directors in refusing to work, engage or communicate with our Trust and for instructing club staff to do the same.
This decision is seen as a wholly retrograde step in improving relations between supporters, the wider community and the club and cuts off an essential mechanism whereby members of the largest democratic supporter organisation of the football club can express their views and opinions on club issues and initiatives and provide constructive suggestions and input to enable the continued improvement and development of Torquay United AFC.
It should also be noted that such actions are not in accordance with the stated aims of government, the National league and FSA directives and guidance on club and supporter engagement and liaison. In the opinion of TUST, such non engagement and liaison reflects badly on Torquay United AFC and does not fulfil the goal of listening and responding positively to the views of the club’s supporters.
TUST therefore calls on the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Torquay United AFC to urgently review this decision and to recommence engagement and dialogue with the TUST board immediately with the aim of re-establishing a positive and constructive relationship which enables the club and TUST to work together collaboratively with the mutual aim of benefitting all aspects of the future of Torquay United AFC.”
After some discussion in support of the motion, as proposed by Bryan McKenna, and seconded by Matt Gorman, it was unanimously approved including seven proxy votes cast by the Chairman. It was agreed that the directors should be given a fixed period of time to respond and if this was not forthcoming or favourable, TUST should publicise its concerns widely and seek the assistance of the Football Supporters’ Association in bringing the Club’s directors to account.
Closing remarks The Chairman closed the meeting by thanking the board for all their hard work during the year, the attendees for their support and valued contributions and the rugby club for its hospitality.
The meeting closed at 9.45pm.
SUMMARY OF OTHER NEWS FROM THE BOARDPartnership with Torquay United Community Sports Trust (TUCST) and Torquay United Women Football Club (TUWFC) The Chairman reported that both organisations had been very appreciative of the sponsorship provided by TUST as agreed at the previous meeting. A formal handover of the new kit would be made soon.
TU Supporters’ Club The organiser had advised that he was arranging a meeting with those who had expressed an interest in serving on the board of the new supporters’ club and they would then meet to appoint their officers. The board repeated its view that it hoped to work collaboratively with the new organisation.
Other supporters trusts Nick Brodrick had circulated the results of a survey he had undertaken of all National League clubs to ascertain whether they had suppoters’ trusts. 13 of the 24 clubs did and the majority of these had co-operative working relations with their clubs.
It was agreed that wherever feasible, TUST should make contact with the trusts of visiting clubs with an invitation to meet up before the game to share experiences. A successful meeting with the Wrexham trust had followed.
Banned supporters The recent publicity around the bans imposed on a number of fans had been raised by some concerned members. It was noted that the atmosphere in the ground had been quieter in the absence of some of these most vociferous and devoted supporters. The general view among the board and on social media appeared to be that the season-long bans were too harsh in the circumstances. It was agreed that in the first instance the situation would be raised with the FSA for guidance.
Radio Devon At the request of a few of our members we have written to Radio Devon asking them to consider reinstating the broadcast match commentaries that were dropped last season. For those who are unable to log on to the on-line commentaries, if they are travelling for example, the radio coverage is an important service and one we believe should be available to the South Devon public.