Writer: Matt Partridge
Date:Friday March 12 2010
Please find below answers to the questions you sent me. I'm currently looking after communications and the co-editor on the Pompey Trust website. The Trust currently has around 1,600 members but I understand a few have reservations about it so I hope these help.
Q - What exactly is it doing right now as we speak (other than increasing numbers) in order to get a voice at the club?
Increasing numbers is a good way of getting a voice in the club, particularly when a new owner comes in, generally the larger the group the more power it has.
Obviously it's difficult to get a voice at the club when we are being run by an administrator who is there for the creditors. We were obviously represented at the meeting between UHY Hacker Young representatives and certain fan groups (I think the minutes are on your site). We've also made direct contact with administrator Andrew Andronikou.
We've got a good working relationship with Lucius Peart (head of operations at PFC) and Johnny More (fans liaison manager at PFC). Can't thank those employed at PFC enough for the support they've shown the Trust. Hopefully the next owner will be as much of a pleasure to deal with as they are. The staff and those who have lost their jobs really do deserve better than this!
Q - What do I get for my fiver?
You will get a website login which will allow you access to the PST members' forum and more importantly access to the members' vote (any major trust decision will put to a members vote).
When the membership system is fully operational you will also get a membership certificate/card. We are looking into the different ways this could work without causing too much financial damage. Maybe a decision that should wait until a board has been elected but nothing wrong with us getting some quotes together.
Q - What do you do with the money?
It's more of a case of what do you as a member want to do with the money. At the moment we are open to suggestions but any major investment is likely to wait until a board is elected. Many Trusts spend their money on community projects, supported charities and increasing their stake in the Football Club.
At the moment the membership numbers are far more important than the money sitting in the bank. Having said that we've been delighted with some of the donations we've received, especially the American Pompey Fans! Think between three of them they donated something like £200. We also had an Arsenal fan donate £100, a £20 donation from a Manchester United fan but as of yet no Scummer fans...
Q - Will we able to view the accounts?
Yes transparency is hugely important and the Trusts figures will become public knowledge once a year at our AGM, by law. We will make sure we don't only release these figures but also send them to our members.
Q - How will voting be conducted?
I presume this question refers to the Board elections? Tony Foot, Myself, Jim Riorden and Richard Sexton have been asked by Jo Collins (acting chair) to come up with a plan of action. We will be working alongside Supporters Direct who have invaluable experience in such elections, having helped some 160 Supporter Trusts. Its quiet a complicated process but this is a brief summary:
1) We upload all the members who have joined from paper format and through the website onto one database.
2) An Election Management Group (EMG) is appointed to make sure the elections run smoothly and deal with any complaints.
3) We then inform all members that they are able to apply to become a board member. The EMG will then approve those candidates that meet the rules and regulations.
4) Voting will commence via e-vote and postal vote depending on the communication preference selected when joining the Trust.
5) EMG will count the votes and announce the elected board.
We hope to announce details within the next few weeks or for more information on Trust elections visit www.supporters-direct.org.
You may have been referring to voting on key decisions? This all depends on the amount of time available to make the decision. 9 times out of 10 this will be done via online vote, when the database is complete 90% of our members (who have provided us with an email addresses) will have access to the site. If you're already a member you'll know that there's a vote upon login (similar to the one on Vital) - this will be used for all key decisions put to the members.
Any major decisions, such as purchasing shares in the club, would use both proxy and paper vote (as long as there was enough time to do so).
Q - When will voting be conducted?
We can't call an election until we have the database sorted and ready to go, which should take about three weeks from now. The standard procedure for the election is 56 days notice of an election, then 42 days for members to vote. I think if it's organised properly it could be done quicker than that but there's much work to be done before we can announce the election date.
I would expect an elected board to be in place mid to late May at the earliest. We will announce the dates as soon as we are in a position to do so. We obviously want the election process to happen as quickly as possible but it shouldn't be forgotten that this Trust is one of the quickest to ever have been set up and this will be the first election process we've had. On top of that we are having to deal with the day to day rollercoaster that is Portsmouth Football Club!
Q - Will all board roles be 'elected'?
Normally the elections will be for a general seat on the Board; under normal procedure the Board decide their roles within 14 days e.g. chair, community, communication, secretary. However this is something that is being discussed, but Supporters Direct are against the idea of board roles being elected. Personally I think at very least the Chairperson should be but this is one of the many issue that; myself, Tony, Jim, Richard and Supporters Direct will be discussing.
Q - How many board roles are there and why?
6-12 board members was agreed after taking advise from Supporters Direct who have advised over 160 supporters trusts in the UK. We believe this number covers all the major roles i.e. chairperson, vice chair, communications, legal, media, community etc. Under the elected board members will be sub groups working on the different areas listed above; so there's plenty of opportunity for members to get involved in the running of the Trust.
Q - Who has ultimate power?
The members have ultimate power. It's hard to say how it's exactly going to work but I'd imagine that minor decisions and operational decisions will be made by the board and any major decisions will be put to a members vote.
The great thing about the Trust is no matter how much money someone puts into it they have just as much power as someone paying their £5 joining fee. So when it comes to major decisions everyone has equal power. This was why the Al Fahim shares wouldn't have worked because he wanted us to change our rules so that the more money you invested the more power you had.
Q - Can a board member be taken-off the board?
Yes, if they break the rules of the PST; go to www.pompeytrust.com, then under "about us" click "trust rules" and scroll down to rules 56-66.
Q - What is 'sole' purpose of the Trust?
"Our aim is to bring about responsible, democratic representation at Portsmouth Football Club and so help promote the highest standards of transparent governance, accountability and embed Portsmouth FC deeper into its community through greater communication and co-operation with its fans."
Basically we want to protect our Football Club and give the fans a greater say in how it's run and how it impacts the community. We are looking at the medium to long term of the Club, owners will come and go but the fans will be here for life.
Q - If more than one 'sole' purpose..Why?
Because we should want a say in everything the Football Club has an impact on, this is our club (the fans in general)! For example it impacts the community; people financially, the fans, charities, local businesses, its staff and many others. All of whom have been let down by the Football Clubs utter miss management and the Trust wants to be in a position to limit the risk of this happening again.
How is the Trust going to do that? Well by having a large number of fans under the Pompey Trust name will increase the considered influence any owner would assume the Trust has over the fans. And the Trust will be onside and support the new owner(s) on the basis that there's greater transparency and communication. Ideally this would mean a seat on the Board of Directors but we're realistic that this may not be possible and we may have to act as a pressure group (but through communication with them and not protests... that's for SOS Pompey, Pompey Independent and those groups).
There's obviously a Plan B sub group working alongside the PST working committee as well. That group includes four or five people that also sit on the working committee at the Portsmouth Trust. Some incredible work has been done on Plan B and an update can be found on our website www.pompeytrust.com.
Q - Which one is the most important atm?
NUMBERS! At the moment it simply has to be getting the Trust set up and organised. The working committee has done a fantastic job behind the scenes getting this going. Once the elections have been finalised we can have get a structure in place which will enable us to cover a wide range of issues. It will be an extremely exciting time to be a Trust member.
Q - Will the trust disband if a new owner doesn't recognise it?
Not at all, we are very confident that any new owner will work with the Trust. Within a year I see no reason why we can't have 8,000 to 12,000 members... I think any owner would be foolish to ignore a group of fans that size! Even if they didn't the Trust is being set up with the long term in mind.
Q - Will the Trust continue to work with other groups i.e. the PVA & SOS ..even if objectives conflict?
Members of the PVA and SOS group can (and most have) join the Trust and have the same voting rights as any other member of the Trust.
If objectives further down the line conflict then it's a case of communicating with them, but the Trust is a very different organisation compared to the PVA and SOS groups, who are also very different from each other. All three groups have the best interest of the club at heart and the Trust will work with anyone or any group with this same stance.
Q - I read some of (before I got too bored) the Trusts covenant/rules and noted that people can claim for expenses etc:
"4.In order to achieve its objects the Society may either itself or through a subsidiary company or society acting under its control:
a.buy, sell and lease property;
c.grant security over its property and assets;
d.establish promote and maintain for the purposes of the Society any lawful fund raising scheme;
e.buy and hold shares in the Club;
f.hold and exercise proxies for shares in any company owning or controlling the Club either itself or through a subsidiary;
g.promote means to give supporters greater opportunity to invest in the Club;
h.award pensions, allowances, gratuities and bonuses to past and present employees (including their dependants and people connected with them) of:
(ii)any predecessor of the Society; and
(iii)any subsidiary company or society of the Society;"
WHY DOES THIS SCARE ME?????
The legal side of things is certainly not my speciality; in fact it's the equivalent of Nigel Quashie's long range shooting. What I do know is that this rule is purely giving the Trust the right to buy shares in the Football Club (which would be voted on by the members).
We will only ever invest money to help achieve our objectives. As a member you have limited liability and would only be held accountable for £1 of the £5 you paid when joining and you aren't liable for anything more than that i.e. if the Trust borrowed money. Having said that the chances of the Trust borrowing money are highly unlikely and an elected board would need members approval.
Q - Why should we trust the trust to do the right thing for the club and the supporters as a whole rather than the few on the board?
I presume you are referring to the board of the Trust rather than the board at the football club?
The current board is simply a working committee who have got this off the ground. We have created the Trust in record time and we have one of the fastest growing memberships of the 1600 odd in existence. We are hoping to have an elected board as soon as possible with the support of Supporters Direct.
SD recommends that a board is elected within 6-9 months of the Trusts launch. One month into the existence of PST and we are already looking at the election process.
The current working committee have spent hours upon hours (free) behind the scenes to get the Trust where it is today. All have the best interests of the fans at heart for the simple reason that like you, as a fan, they've all been let down. It was voted unanimously at the last open meeting that the working committee would continue in their roles until an election had taken place.
If this was about the WC as individuals they'd have waited the full 9 months before calling an election. Hopefully the vast majority of the working committee are elected and they can continue the excellent work they've started; but that's down to the members.
Q - Will every major decision be voted on by all members of the trust? And if not why?
Yes every major decision that could be disputed by members will go to a majority vote. Obviously there might be a situation where a decision is needed quickly without time for a vote, then it would be in the hands of an elected Board. But as a working committee we wouldn't make any major decision without consulting the members.
Q - Can you confirm that The Trust IS NOT planning to go with/back the creation of a newly formed Portsmouth FC and this is ONLY a 'Plan B' should 'Plan A', the original, end?
I can 100% confirm that. I certainly wouldn't be involved in the Trust if that wasn't the case.
Q - From The News...
In a statement, Portsmouth Supporters' Trust secretary Tony Foot said: 'There mustn't be any short-term fixes that endanger the long-term future of our club. That's why PST wrote to football's international governing body FIFA opposing the sale of players outside the established winter and summer transfer periods. To do so would undermine the credibility of the Premier League.
'Neither should the so-called 'parachute payments' made by the Premier League to clubs relegated to the Football League Championship be advanced. This money will be needed if we are relegated.'
What Business, Financial or Football Mgmt qualifications are held by those in power at the Trust to make such a decision and why are they working against the views of the Administrator who is obviously qualified and has far more experience and know-how?
The current working committee have a variety of qualifications; Tony himself a solicitor who has produced all the Trust rules and provided legal advice to the Trust WC on the Al Fahim share offer. The quotes above, although in my opinion correct, were his views and not put out as a press release on our website.
The Trust stance on this was that we fully support "Admin Andy" and appreciate that he's got a job to do (get as much money for the creditors as possible) in the short term, but we are watching developments closely with regards to the medium to long term future of the club.
These parachute payments are in the region of 22 million pounds. On top of that you've got player transfers, maybe 12 million? TV revenue next season (if we go down) maybe 4 million? That's 38 million without including; season tickets, general tickets sales, sponsorship and merchandise. These future incomes still make PFC an attractive investment, but (and what I think Tony was getting at) you forward these payments to pay creditors you take away the security a new owner will want.
Q - When the trust will be disbanded? Trusts won't work. No one ever agrees and small little groups within the trust will develop backstabbing each other. The goal will be the same but how everyone will want to go down a different avenue to get there.
Good question and one I had concerns about before getting involved with Supporters Direct. They have worked with loads of Football Trusts and this doesn't tend to happen in the larger Trusts because the minority can't change the Trusts direction- only the majority.
The Board is elected by the members and every member has the right to vote for whom they want to represent them. And any major decisions will go to a majority member's vote, which will prevent small groups developing even within the elected board.
Q - When are the elections? It seems more time and money is being spent on T-shirts and pins and other events than electing democratic leaders.
The election dates will hopefully be announced within the next three weeks, after we've uploaded all the member information to our database. It's recommended that elections take place 6 months after the Trust has launched. I think SD rules state that we need to call an election within 9 months. If all goes to plan we will have called an election within 2 months, so we are well ahead schedule.
With regards to costing: As far as I know we've yet to order any pins; we've had quite a lot of people asking for them though. As for T-Shirts we ordered a small number which have all gone (we are re-ordering). I think it's important that the Trust provides the level of merchandise that meets the demand.
The events including London and Chichester haven't cost the Trust a penny. All expenses were paid by the individuals who attended and the venues were either free or paid for by the various Supporters' Clubs. That includes the Rifle Club which we have had 2 open meetings at and our launch night.
We have been very tight on the expenses! SD provided us with a £1,000 start up grant which we've only spent £200 of, not to mention the hundreds of voluntary hours that have been put in by working committee group. Time has been spent on increasing numbers and money has barely been touched.
The Trust should be considered a group by the fans for the fans, with the aim of protecting, co-operating and communicating with the club. It should never be considered a group run by individuals or compared to any other Pompey fan group. Those looking after the Trust on the members' behalf will be elected by the members they represent.
Hope this helps clear up some confusion; if there is any further questions please feel free to email me on firstname.lastname@example.org I do my best to respond to them all within 24 hours.
Date:Friday March 12 2010
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