The County Ground FAQs – TrustSTFC

The County Ground FAQs

The County Ground FAQs

Why is buying the County Ground such a good idea?

The stadium has not seen significant investment since 1994 when the old two-tier Shrivenham Road Stand was replaced by what is now known as the Don Rogers Stand. Ownership needs to change in order to attract external investment into the stadium. Supporter involvement in the stadium will also protect its use for the benefit of Swindon Town and avoid issues that have arisen for other football clubs who have lost ownership of their grounds (such as Coventry City, Darlington and local rivals Oxford United).

Why is 50% of the County Ground being sold to Trust STFC – why not the Official Supporters Club?

Swindon Town Community Mutual (Trust STFC) is a well-established, member-led supporters group, and a Registered Society under the Co-operative and Community Benefit Societies Act 2014. We are also governed by the FSA. Within the structure of the organisation is a binding statutory asset lock which ensures that any value created has to be held for the benefit of the wider supporter base and community. No value (such as dividends or sales proceeds) can be shared between its membership.

Trust STFC is the only supporters group with such protections and therefore Swindon Borough Council agreed to sell 50% to the Trust. We’ve also been working hard on this for the last eight years, since 2015, and we’ve funded site surveys, valuations, had professional consultancy and incurred significant legal costs. We’ve spent over £100k to ensure this goes ahead, and if not for the outstanding (free) support of our Trust lawyers James Maton and Greg Callard, those costs would have been much, much higher.

How will Trust STFC retain its independence from the Club whist simultaneously working with it in a Joint Venture?

The legal agreements set out a formal, structured approach to how the County Ground will be owned and developed jointly between the Club and supporters. Whilst negotiating the contracts, the Trust and its legal advisors have tried to consider all eventualities, including the possibility of less engaged Club owners in the future.

Trust STFC will continue to engage with, and where necessary challenge the Club on other matters without impacting the legal framework of the JV.

Will shareholders enjoy full transparency on everything the Joint Venture does?

As with any commercial operation, there will be times where releasing sensitive information into the public domain could be damaging to the Club, the Trust or to the County Ground. That said, the Club understand that Trust STFC is a member-led organisation who will be shareholders in the ground. The Directors of the JV appointed by the Trust have a legal responsibility to act in the best interests of the Trust’s shareholders (i.e. its members) and will provide as much transparency as possible, but we ask members to recognise that it will not be possible to guarantee that everything is shared. 

With all the focus on the County Ground, is Trust STFC becoming a one issue supporters society?

Not at all. Our wider commitment to the fan base and wider community will continue unchanged. A small team of the Trust Board work on the County Ground but it’s business as usual on all other fronts.

Why not leave the ownership with the Council and spend all of the money on developing the County Ground?

By purchasing the stadium, rent paid to the JV will be re-invested back into improvements and new developments. This wouldn’t be possible if SBC retained ownership. It would also be more difficult to raise funding for significant projects such as hotel and conference facilities if the freehold remained with a third-party.

By leaving the stadium in the control of SBC, there would also be a risk that at some point in the future it would be sold to someone not associated with the Club, or to someone who does not have the supporters and community’s best interests in mind.

What happens if the Trust fall out with the Club or they can’t agree on something?

A standard deadlock resolution clause has been agreed which requires the intervention of independent experts to resolve any issues which the JV cannot agree to. One issue which is not subject to the deadlock provision relates to any future sale of the ground. For a sale to happen, both sides have to agree in full – if they don’t, the sale cannot proceed. This ensures the County Ground cannot be sold without our society members consent.

Will anyone be paid for being Board Director’s of the Joint Venture?

No. Board Director’s representing TrustSTFC will volunteer their time and offer their services free of charge.

What stops the Club from selling its share of the County Ground?

For the Club to sell, assign, move or change it’s shareholding in the County Ground, the JV would have to unanimously agree.

Are we paying a fair price for the County Ground?

The County Ground was independently valued by expert representatives appointed by TrustSTFC (on behalf of the JV), SBC’s representatives valued it slightly higher but a compromise was eventually agreed. As we are securing the long-term ownership of the ground, we believe that the £2.3m purchase cost is a fair one.

Can children own shares in Trust STFC?

Yes. We are hoping that the next generation of Swindon Town supporters join the Trust and secure a share in the County Ground although members under the age of 16 are unable to vote in any Trust or County Ground related matters.

Do Swindon Borough Council have a buy-back clause?

Yes. Under the terms of the sale and purchase agreement, SBC can buy the County Ground back from the JV should the Stratton Bank or a project of a similar value not be commenced within three years. Also, should the JV decide to sell the County Ground at any point over the next 25 years, SBC have first refusal on its purchase