Reflection and our focus – TrustSTFC

Reflection and our focus

Last night, the Board of TrustSTFC convened for the second time since the Annual General Meeting at the end of February.

We have purposefully taken a reasonable amount of time to bring all Board members up to the same level of understanding and discussed at length to unite our position across a number of areas. We believe that this was the best course to deliver a consolidated and meaningful outcome.

During this time, we have received multiple messages from members and supporters on all platforms and we appreciate your patience whilst we transitioned into the new Board. We are now in a position to outline our broad overview of the current status of the Club and where we will be focusing our energies over the coming months.

In reflection, since Clem has taken over in July 2021, we recognise the progress which has been made, such as:

  • Memorandum of Understanding with the Trust
  • Advisory Board
  • Fan Forums
  • Stadium acquisition completed and the creation of the Joint Venture
  • The women’s team integrated within the Club for the first time, which has received investment and sponsorship, helping it to grow
  • Significant shareholder funding into the Club (representing several million pounds of loans)
  • Business group created
  • Engaged with Fair Game, and paid for the independent report recently issued
  • Accessible to Trust leadership
  • Average crowds significantly higher than under the previous owner

However, we also recognise the shortcomings since July 2021, such as:

  • 4 permanent managers, presuming 5 shortly as the role is currently filled on an interim basis
  • Virtually every role in the Club, off the pitch, has changed personnel, in some cases multiple times
  • Approximately 47 player registrations (not including loans) over 3 seasons with a large turnover vs. 34 compared to the previous three years
  • The Chairman is out of the country for extended periods
  • There is a lack of Directors serving the football club at an executive leadership level, e.g. Financial Director, etc
  • The Club still has substantial and growing debt, even if it is owed to the parent company/ Chairman
  • No credible plan for sustainable facilities or funding arrangements for the stadium development
  • Numerous occasions where the Club leadership has not been honest or has been inconsistent in messaging to fans – for example, share sale and the subsequent commitment to buy the shares back and late payment of HMRC on more than one occasion
  • A lack of direct communication from the Club to the supporters from the CEO/ Chairman, especially in between Chairman visits
  • New shareholders were introduced to settle the debentures and fund legal fees.
  • The Club breached EFL regulations – late payment of ticket money, HMRC late payments, not declaring the share sale,  resulting in fines and transfer embargos

In summary, we have consolidated these issues, into categories, that include:

  • Inexperience in many roles at the Club and high turnover of staff – hard to get consistency, credibility, impact or good decision-making. Reflected both on and off the pitch.
  • The Club appears to have limited cash flow to operate within the rules, invest in key personnel (on and off the pitch), stadium development or pay liabilities as and when they become due
  • Poor strategic communications and lack of honesty, making it hard to take statements from the leadership team at face value
  • Lack of local knowledge, history, connections to or legacy of the Club

The Board of TrustSTFC will be focusing our energies to:

  • Encourage and support the Chairman to add role-specific experience into the running of the Club, both on and off the pitch
  • Encourage and support the Chairman to ensure funds are available to meet liabilities when they are due and to invest in key personnel
  • Encourage, support and work closely with the Club with their strategic communications to ensure a joined-up approach for the mutual benefit of the Club, supporters and wider community
  • Encourage and support the Chairman to broaden the Board, with the right skills, expertise and local knowledge to help run the Club, especially when the Chairman is abroad
  • Encourage and support the club to create and publish a roadmap of actions of how to become a “family-friendly and community-based” Club
  • Insist that all known associates of the club hold true to the concept and values of a “family-friendly and community-based” club
  • Encourage the Club’s shareholders to turn the existing shareholder debt into equity, releasing the club from the financial burden
  • Encourage and support the club to produce a plan for the re-development of the County Ground to target a sustainable year-round income with credible funding arrangements
  • Encourage and support the club to continue the development of the women’s team.
  • Encourage, support and liaise with the club and other supporter groups to ensure the best possible fan experience throughout the season and to encourage more fans to attend
  • Encourage and insist that the Club remains open and honest in all communications with its supporters at all times, failure to do so will result in open communication with the supporters and the media
  • Encourage and insist that the Club operates within all UK applicable rules and laws at all times, including for the EFL, HMRC and Companies House, failure to do so will result in open communication with the supporters and the media

In addition, as a Trust, we are committed to:

  • Regular communications and commitments above our statutory duties
  • Monthly member update, including any updates from the Joint Venture
  • Programme notes for games
  • Publish minutes for any Board meetings and AGM in a timely manner
  • Three surveys per season to get member feedback on key matters and to share this openly with Supporters and the Club to inform decisions
  • Monthly in-season Q&A sessions
  • Regular media engagement
  • Attendance of Advisory and Joint Venture Board meetings with minutes to be published
  • Advise members if the County Ground rent is paid more than 30 days late by the Club

Our key goals this year are to:

  • Do all we can to ensure that the Club acts upon the actions described above in a timely manner
  • Hold the club to account by clear communication to the supporters if any rules or laws are not abided to or County Ground rent is more than 30 days late
  • Increase the number of members to give us the greatest influence possible over any existing or future owners/investors now and in the future.
  • To ensure our new significantly increased communication pledge is upheld

We ask supporters to remember that the Trust needs a working relationship with the Club to ensure that your interests can have a direct influence. We also want to make clear that everyone we have encountered at the Club is working incredibly hard and wants the Club to succeed. Our comments are simply reflecting the honest reality of why we feel we are at the worst league position this season in the history of our Club. 

We hope by this clear statement, that we strike the balance between accountability and open, regular communication whilst maintaining a working relationship with the Club better than it has been in recent times.

We, as a Board, all remain volunteer supporters, trying our hardest for the benefit of you, our members. By continuing to work together as we did with the Joint Venture, we believe we can continue to remain a critical friend to the Club and attempt to influence better decisions and outcomes for the Club and supporters alike.

Finally, despite the obvious disappointment in our league position and recent performances, we call on all fans to get behind the players and give them our full support as they see out the season and protect our place in the football league.

Board of TrustSTFC