Society Statement on Community Ownership

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Post by comrade powell on Thu Jan 15, 2015 8:53 am

The forum statement below is being made in conjunction with the one which can be found on the Chronicle website at http://www.bathchronicle.co.uk/Game-fans-hope-takeover/story-25859940-detail/story.html and which appears in today's newspaper....



The Supporters Society is very pleased to announce that the board has accepted our request to present a detailed proposal for a community-owned football club. Our proposal will be presented to the Board by the agreed deadline of February 9.

As we all know, Bath City FC is a club with strong community links. We also know that the club’s historic debts mean that the clock is ticking – 2015 will be a critical juncture for the club’s future. We believe that community ownership is the best way to widen our supporter base and realise Bath City’s full potential as an inclusive and financially sustainable club.

The Society has formed a Community Ownership Action Group to explore the feasibility of different community ownership models, develop a sustainable business plan and test Bath’s appetite for a community-owned football club. This group includes external advisors with experience of the successful Bell Inn buyout.

A consultation meeting will be held at 7.30pm on Monday 26 January at Twerton Park, and we invite anyone who is interested, and able to support or help the process in any way. You can also PM me or email us at bathcitycommunity@gmail.com or visit bathcitycommunity.org.

We know that forum members will have many questions about what community ownership might mean for Bath City. We will say upfront that we don’t have all the answers at this point – we are consulting with Supporters Direct, lawyers, accountants and other advisors about the best path for our club, and all of that will go into our proposal on Feb 9.

By Feb 9, we will have a clearer picture of how much we would have to invest to secure the future of the club. Obviously we will also have to figure out how to run the club at a profit.

The development of the proposal is being co-ordinated by Oliver Holtaway, a long-term supporter who is now posting on the forum as OliverH. Between us we will do our best to answer any of your questions and concerns. Most of all, though, we appeal to any City fans who are interested in supporting community ownership to express their support and come forward with their ideas.

Martin Powell - Chair, Supporters Society / Member of Community Ownership Action Group

(I’ll include this footnote on any subsequent posts I make on this topic, so that everyone is clear that I am speaking on behalf of the Society committee and the action group)


Last edited by comrade powell on Fri Jan 16, 2015 9:48 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Post by Timbo_b-o-a on Thu Jan 15, 2015 5:46 pm


This is massive and brilliant news! Well done to everyone concerned in the Society, and to the board for allowing a new case to be made for community ownership.
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Post by bonzodog on Thu Jan 15, 2015 6:00 pm

How much is this going to cost the average fan? Because £££s is bound to be in the mix somewhere????

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Post by OliverH on Thu Jan 15, 2015 6:16 pm

Thanks for the support!

£££s will most definitely be in the mix. We are taking advice from accountants and other advisors and will have a much clearer picture of how much needs to be raised by Feb 9.

We're aware that long-term fans have been asked again and again to dig deep and 'save the club'.

We believe that community ownership can draw more people into the club and make them feel that they have a stake in the club's future. That would provide a much firmer basis on which to build a sustainable business plan.

Oliver Holtaway - Secretary, Supporters Society / Member of Community Ownership Action Group

PS Martin and I are both heading into a Society committee meeting, we'll be back later tonight to answer questions, cheers!
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Post by yuffie on Thu Jan 15, 2015 6:20 pm

It's nice to read a statement about community ownership that doesn't try to compare the club to the likes of AFC Wimbledon and FC United of Manchester.

Looking forward to hearing what is said on the 26th.

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Post by BenE on Thu Jan 15, 2015 7:48 pm

Richard111 wrote:How much is this going to cost the average fan? Because £££s is bound to be in the mix somewhere????

Surely it doesn't cost anyone who doesn't want to contribute a penny?

If you want to just turn up and pay your £12 at the turnstile for a game you can still do that.

But if you want to be more involved the opportunity will be there.

As I read it this is only the first stages. The board has asked the Society to come up with a proposal for consideration.

You are right in that the Society has to investigate ways of raising the necessary capital before then to be able to make the proposal. But it will not merely be a matter of tapping up loyal fans. My understanding is that it is about making Bath City Football Club integrated into the community of Bath and not just a facility tucked away in Twerton.

It is quite an ambitious plan and will need people with energy and enthusiasm. Like Yuffie and am interested to see what develops.
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Post by Eddie Hitler on Thu Jan 15, 2015 9:29 pm

Will this be a group separate from the Supporters Society, Supporters Club etc.? Or the same people under a different name?
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Post by 2weirdtown on Thu Jan 15, 2015 9:46 pm

Eddie Hitler wrote:Will this be a group separate from the Supporters Society, Supporters Club etc.? Or the same people under a different name?

As per Martin's original post "The Society has formed a Community Ownership Action Group to explore the feasibility of different community ownership models".
Seems pretty obvious to me then, that it'll be a Society based project mostly run by the members.  Perhaps you are wishing to be involved yourself?  I don't suppose the Action Group will turn down offers of help from non Society members (?).
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Post by Eddie Hitler on Thu Jan 15, 2015 9:55 pm

2weirdtown wrote:
Eddie Hitler wrote:Will this be a group separate from the Supporters Society, Supporters Club etc.? Or the same people under a different name?

As per Martin's original post "The Society has formed a Community Ownership Action Group to explore the feasibility of different community ownership models".
Seems pretty obvious to me then, that it'll be a Society based project mostly run by the members.  Perhaps you are wishing to be involved yourself?  I don't suppose the Action Group will turn down offers of help from non Society members (?).
I did get that I suppose - just wanted clarification. There are members in these groups who I would struggle to work with, hence the question.
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Post by OliverH on Thu Jan 15, 2015 11:14 pm

The Action Group warmly welcomes involvement from non-Society members - so far there are 4 non-Society people involved out of around 10-11, and we certainly want/need more. The Society Committee was probably best placed to make the first move but we will be the first to admit that we don't have all the answers, contacts and skills etc.

We are of course bringing in outside legal/financial/commercial experts but if there are City fans with those kind of professional backgrounds - as well as people to design websites, organise fundraising gigs, write brochures etc., please get in touch.

Oliver Holtaway - Secretary, Supporters Society / Member of Community Ownership Action Group
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Post by OliverH on Thu Jan 15, 2015 11:38 pm

Two questions I'd like to ask the forum -

1. The AFC Wimbledon/FC United of Manchester comparison - we've mentioned this here and there, including on the bathcitycommunity.org website, as a simple way of helping people outside of the club to 'get' what we are doing.

Obviously the particulars of our situation are quite different, and we're certainly not trying to equate the Bath City FC board with the Glazers or MK Dons. Does it come across that way? Should we remove/downplay those kind of references?

2. We have to decide whether to use the Society itself as the vehicle for a community ownership bid, or whether we should create a totally new entity, especially designed for the purpose of a community share offer.

If you're not a Society member, would you be put off investing in community ownership if it had to go through the Society? If you are a Society member, would you be concerned about the creation of a new entity?

Oliver Holtaway - Secretary, Supporters Society / Member of Community Ownership Action Group
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Post by BenE on Fri Jan 16, 2015 9:29 am

Oliver

A representative of FC of Manchester came to the original presentation and made a very unfortunate comment that I believe resulted in much of the reluctance from the board to the idea of community ownership. As an ex ManU supporter he would have been unfamiliar with the concept of board directors being active members of the supporters' society.

In my view Bath City is thus better placed to become community owned because the directors are ordinary fans.

However I would imagine the mention of FC of Manchester will still prompt unhappy emotions.
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Post by yuffie on Fri Jan 16, 2015 9:44 am

My personal view is trying to sell the idea by using clubs with fan bases ten times ours plus a much bigger public profile is misleading. However, I do accept that it may initially draw in people who are not so closely connected with the club.

There are examples more related to a club our size but these do not make such high profile cases.

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Post by OliverH on Fri Jan 16, 2015 12:43 pm

Yes, I remember that now - it was a bit of an "all owners are b******s" type speech, wasn't it? Point taken.

And yes, we are in a much better position because our directors are already fans and have made great personal sacrifices to keep the club going in really difficult circumstances. We hope that community ownership can make those circumstances less difficult.

I think it's useful early on for us to mention names like AFC Wimbledon to catch people's attention (and the press will do it anyway), but as we push the proposal forward and communicate more about what we are trying to achieve, the focus will be on BATH and our particular circumstances, not about making our club the "next" this or that.

Thanks for the feedback.

Oliver Holtaway - Secretary, Supporters Society / Member of Community Ownership Action Group
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Post by Marc Monitor on Fri Jan 16, 2015 6:20 pm

There are many templates for community ownership. You only have to look at the Chronic's comparisons from Barcelona to Exeter via the two mentioned and Portsmouth. However, each one is applicable only to the particular context it was formed for. Leaving aside any headline comparisons, Supporters Direct (http://www.supporters-direct.org/) is the organisation for scaleable community ownership advice.
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Post by Dusty Lynfield on Fri Jan 16, 2015 9:34 pm

I had a good look through the Supporters Direct website last night, and I would urge all forum members to have a look. It helped me understand how community ownership could happen, and I am even more convinced that it could work for BCFC. It also dispelled a few misconceptions I had re the implications of investing.
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Post by comrade powell on Fri Jan 16, 2015 9:42 pm

Yes, there are some excellent resources on that site. The Society is a paid up member of Supporters Direct and it has already given us some valuable support and advice.

Martin Powell - Chair, Supporters Society / Member of Community Ownership Action Group
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Post by OliverH on Fri Jan 16, 2015 9:57 pm

Thanks Dusty, I totally agree - it's a great resource. Out of interest, what were your misconceptions? It would be helpful for us to know, as others might share them!

The Society is a member of Supporters Direct and we have been taking advice from them on our proposal. This week we have also met with local lawyers and accountants, as well as the Avon Co-operative Development Agency and the Community Interest Company (CIC) Association.

One thing that's worth stressing is that there is a difference between fan ownership and community ownership. Fan ownership can simply mean fans taking control of 50%+1 of shares in a limited company or PLC. We are already basically a fan-owned club, in that our major shareholders are City through and through (thank god). Community ownership takes this one step further.

Community ownership involves a whole different type of organisation and structure - a move away from a limited company towards either a co-op, community benefit society or community interest company. These structures are designed to broaden the base of participation and investment in the club.

IN THEORY, these types of structure also offer access to new pools of external funding, as well as tax relief of up to 30% for investors via the Enterprise Investment Scheme. We are looking very closely at those sorts of aspects - anyone with direct experience, please get in touch!

Oliver Holtaway, Society Secretary and member of Community Ownership Action Group
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Post by Dusty Lynfield on Fri Jan 16, 2015 10:32 pm

One concern I had was if I invest in Community ownership, would I be liable for the clubs debts down the line....to the uneducated (such as myself!) this is the major concern and issue to be addressed. On the SD website under the "guidance" section there is a community shares guidance document which explains "The assets are held collectively by the members of the CBS (Community Benefit Society), and by incorporating to become a legal entity any liability to individuals is fixed to £1 for each member or the value of their investment if they have bought community shares. If a Club isn’t incorporated these liabilities will rest with individuals." I appreciate that the community shares model is only one option that could be pursued by the Action group, but to get individuals' buy-in, I think this is an important point to highlight risk regarding future liabilities.
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Post by OliverH on Fri Jan 16, 2015 10:48 pm

That is really helpful feedback, thank you - I must admit we had not anticipated that as an issue that might put people off. Thanks for clarifying it, yes while like any investment you might lose what you put in, you won't be chased for debts beyond that.
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Post by BenE on Tue Jan 20, 2015 8:45 am

What I am not clear about is what money needs to be raised.

Presumably any loans need to paid off or at least covered and at least 50% of the clubs shares need to be purchased.

It would be wise to have some working capital on top of that - say £100 grand.
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Post by BenE on Tue Jan 20, 2015 8:47 am

Also what benefits could be provided to the community so that it would want to invest.
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Post by Eddie Hitler on Tue Jan 20, 2015 9:59 am

As an existing shareholder (through the Society), what will be the value of my 'investment' should the Community thing go through?
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Post by OliverH on Tue Jan 20, 2015 11:42 am

We are in the process of working out how much money has to be raised, and taking external advice on this. Some working capital would have to be raised, yes.

But of course whatever that target figure ends up being, we have to provide a real community benefit to encourage investment. We are very open to ideas on this.

There are lots of things we can do in terms of partnerships with local businesses (e.g. the Lewes FC Support & Save scheme http://www.lewesfc.com/support-and-save/) - and perhaps we can create student ambassador posts that give students useful work experience in return for promoting the club at their place of study.

Ideally, of course, it would be local people, businesses and organisations coming up with ideas from within the club as members rather than the club thinking up ideas and trying to sell them to the public, if you see what I mean.

I'll come back to the Society question a bit later if that's OK.

Oliver Holtaway, Society Secretary and member of Community Ownership Action Group
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Post by Roman Mike on Wed Jan 21, 2015 9:40 am

OliverH wrote:Two questions I'd like to ask the forum -

1. The AFC Wimbledon/FC United of Manchester comparison - we've mentioned this here and there, including on the bathcitycommunity.org website, as a simple way of helping people outside of the club to 'get' what we are doing.

Obviously the particulars of our situation are quite different, and we're certainly not trying to equate the Bath City FC board with the Glazers or MK Dons. Does it come across that way? Should we remove/downplay those kind of references?

2. We have to decide whether to use the Society itself as the vehicle for a community ownership bid, or whether we should create a totally new entity, especially designed for the purpose of a community share offer.

If you're not a Society member, would you be put off investing in community ownership if it had to go through the Society? If you are a Society member, would you be concerned about the creation of a new entity?

Oliver Holtaway - Secretary, Supporters Society / Member of Community Ownership Action Group


For deities sake, no more entities please. As a relative newcomer to Bath City (5th season of supporting) I still find it almost impenetrable and difficult to understand all these different factions and entities. I have to tell you it does come across like the "Judean People's Front" v "People's Front of Judea" (what have the #romans ever done for us) at first. Its may be obvious to some of you die-hards who have grown up with this but for the casual / new / occasional who has a vague interest in the running of the club it can appear impenetrable and off-putting. So please, no more bureaucracy / factions.
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