Green light for Community Ownership!

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Post by Oldsouthdowner on Fri Mar 20, 2015 6:46 pm

Not been on the forum for sometime, but thought it worth adding my thoughts! I have been a City supporter for over 50 years, with my son following in my footsteps for over 20 years. I was thinking about buying him a share but I'm not convinced that the future of Bath City is staying at Twerton Park, so I'll keep the £500 investment or whatever it is! I don't want to see Bath City fail, but the £1.4M is the minimum required a further huge sum (I've no idea how much) will be needed to drag Twerton Park into the 21st century; an old delapidated ground.
Let's get real people this financial problem has been a long time coming, the value of the ground is probably not what it once was and if the Vommunity ownership fails (don't see 1400 people writing a cheque for £500) the future is grim! I'd like to hear something that I could believe and feel optimistic about, but I don't think I will, so my visits to watch bath City will end in the no too distant future as it collapses into liquidation; I don't want see some venture capitalist make huge sums out of the Vlubs demise, but without an honest brokered investment thats I think will happen!!

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Post by Oldsouthdowner on Fri Mar 20, 2015 6:50 pm

Whoops should said 2800 investors or whatever the word is!

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Post by Marc Monitor on Fri Mar 20, 2015 10:03 pm

I am not sure that I see your logic, OSD. Firstly, if supporters with money to invest don't do this, it is a self-fulfilling prophecy that it will fail. Surely, as a long-term supporter, you would want to invest in the club not the ground. The club will never fail. Even if they went into liquidation, they could return as AFC Bath in the same way as many clubs have resurrected themselves. If the supporters are there, clubs can't be killed. AFC Wimbledon started again with open trials on Wimbledon common.

The Supporters' Society (and the Community Group) have made it clear that their intention is to stay at Twerton Park and, as such, anyone investing money into shares will be, forgive the pun, investing in the idea. Of course, if members of the Community Ownership Group decide that they want or need to move from TP, that will be their democratic process in action. That is the whole point. It has gone from a handful of people making decisions with no referral to the supporters to, forgive the constant repetition, all supporters having the ability to make decisions.

Also if, as you say, some venture capitalist wanted to make a killing out of TP, they would have stepped in by now. A couple of million is nothing to get your hands on the sort of land TP is standing on. If people have £500 to spare to invest and don't then you are handing it over to the developers.
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Post by Colin Voutt on Fri Mar 20, 2015 11:09 pm

Oldsouthdowner wrote:Not been on the forum for sometime, but thought it worth adding my thoughts!  I have been a City supporter for over 50 years, with my son following in my footsteps for over 20 years. I was thinking about buying him a share but I'm not convinced that the future of Bath City is staying at Twerton Park, so I'll keep the £500 investment or whatever it is! I don't want to see Bath City fail, but the £1.4M is the minimum required a further huge sum (I've no idea how much) will be needed to drag Twerton Park into the 21st century; an old delapidated ground.
Let's get real people this financial problem has been a long time coming, the value of the ground is probably not what it once was and if the Vommunity ownership fails (don't see 1400 people writing a cheque for £500) the future is grim! I'd like to hear something that I could believe and feel optimistic about, but I don't think I will, so my visits to watch bath City will end in the no too distant future as it collapses into liquidation; I don't want see some venture capitalist make huge sums out of the Vlubs demise, but without an honest brokered investment thats I think will happen!!

If our effort to raise a "successful" amount of money, whatever that is, fails, the investment is returned - money advanced goes into a special account and does NOT disappear into the black hole of the club's debt. This has always been my understanding of this community club strategy.

That was made clear in the very first presentation. I have not seen anything that suggests this has changed.

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Post by SteveS on Sat Mar 21, 2015 10:25 am

Must admit oldsouthdowner has lost me here. He says he does not want to seen venture capitalists make a profit out of the club but by deciding not to support community ownership he is making this more likely.
Community ownership is the only option on the table. As I see it if it fails it is highly likely the club will go into administration. The club will then be effectively run by an administrator whose only aim will be to recover enough money to pay the debts. Thus the club and its assets (the ground) could be sold to a venture capitalist for a knock down price. This is what osd has said he does not want to see happen
Granted, Twerton Park is an old stadium that needs updating. But if community ownership is a success the decision on what happens in the future remains in the hands of people who have expressed enough interest in the club to support it through buying community shares.
Personally I would not rule out moving from Twerton Park at some time if it was right for the club, but to enable that to still be a possibility you have to support the community ownership option now as once the asset (Twerton Park) is gone the future is bleak.
I would ask osd to reconsider his decision!

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Post by Oldsouthdowner on Sat Mar 21, 2015 7:33 pm

I must admit I didn't make myself as clear as I would have liked! My following of the Community Ownership idea is to keep Bath City going (I know the club could be resurrected under whatever name is used) and at TP; it is my view view that TP is not the long term future, but will follow City as long as I breath and the Club is still a going concern!

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Post by Marc Monitor on Sat Mar 21, 2015 8:09 pm

As I understand it, the current priorities of the Community Ownership scheme are to keep Bath City solvent, successful and at Twerton Park. However, the point of this is that all such decisions will be taken democratically by the members who buy shares in the club so whatever direction the club is to take will be decided by the members who, in this case, would also be the fans. Surely, an ideal situation?
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Post by Too Late... on Mon Mar 23, 2015 1:44 pm

First time I've been on this forum so hadn't seen any of this until yesterday but will be commenting on a few points that have been made (albeit a bit later than I would have wanted).

Marc Monitor wrote:It seems madness not to make the Supporters' Society the vehicle for the ownership procedure and it certainly seems the best route to covert the club to a community benefit society and amalgamate the Society and the club.

That will rely on a lot of trust by some people as they will still see this as an attempt by the Supporters Society to take over the club despite protestations otherwise. The unfortunate spelling error "covert" amusingly wont help those people like myself in this bracket to change their minds.

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Post by BenE on Mon Mar 23, 2015 5:22 pm

I don't understand all the ins and outs of this which is why I keep asking daft questions.

But isn't the whole point that the Supporters Society is trying to BUY the club because there is no other option? Moreover the timescale is incredibly tight because as much time as possible has been devoted to finding an alternative that isn't there.

I stand to be corrected.
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Post by Marc Monitor on Mon Mar 23, 2015 6:05 pm

No, you're right, Ben. The aims of the society are "to achieve a club that is owned by supporters and run as an integral part of the local community. This means:
Representing its member supporters
Buying shares in the club as they become available
Supporting the club financially, helping to raise the club's profile and building links between Bath City FC and the wider community"

To me, that suggests that the raison d'etre of the Society is to buy enough shares in the club so that the club is owned by supporters. Not only that but I can't understand why there would be protestations to the contrary nor why there would be any suspicions. Also, as Ben mentions, there is no alternative now so we haven't got the luxury of being suspicious of the only (and, as it happens, best) route left.

Why have you and other people got an issue with the Supporters' Society taking over the club, TLT, and what alternative do you suggest?
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Post by yuffie on Mon Mar 23, 2015 6:24 pm

I think Oliver answered the first part of your question earlier in the thread

We appreciate that for some people the Supporters Society carries historical baggage and is associated with particular personalities and have thought about either creating a new society or rebranding to something like "Bath City Trust". But it seems simpler to use what's there. Do let us know what you think.

I am of the opinion that it would be better to have a newly created group but can understand why, for simplicity sake, the existing Society is being used. Though, given that for the move to be a success, I don't think the Society can afford to put off even a single a potential investor.

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Post by OliverH on Mon Mar 23, 2015 6:44 pm

Thanks Yuffie, you beat me to it!

Yes the Supporters Society has always been open about its aim of achieving supporter ownership. Since 2013, the preferred means of achieving this is the community ownership model promoted by Supporters Direct.

I guess it comes down to whether you think of the Society as an institution or as a gang of particular individuals. I can understand why some people might view it as the latter, but the fact of the matter is that the Society is a democratic membership group that elects its own officers. The same would be true of a community-owned club.
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Post by Marc Monitor on Mon Mar 23, 2015 6:54 pm

One of the issues appears to be that people think that the Supporters' Society belongs or is run by certain people, whether it be 'particular personalities' mentioned or Oliver, Martin or whoever. The Supporters' Society is run for and by supporters. All supporters are able to join, vote and have their say as in any co-operative members' society. The only barrier is the subscription which are as low as can possibly be, surely.

The only issue with having a separately named Community Ownership Group is that we already have the Supporters' Club, Supporters' Society and the Community Sports Foundation and people are getting confused already with those let alone yet another organisation/society. Also, I think that any people suspicious of the Supporters' Society and anyone to do with it are not going to be assuaged by having another name for the Community Ownership. The easiest thing is to address people's concerns about the Supporters' Society and/or any individuals involved.

Actually, the easiest thing is, like with any society that you have an interest in and can join as a member, is to change it from the inside.

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Post by 2weirdtown on Mon Mar 23, 2015 7:59 pm

Absolutely right Marc. I joined the Society over 2 years ago. I've been to a number of meetings and can say in all confidence that the membership are all commited supporters with the best interests of the club at heart.
I've never felt pressurised to get more involved, but equally, feel that any contribution I wanted to make over and above paying the 'subs' would be welcomed and appreciated.
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Post by BenE on Mon Mar 23, 2015 10:49 pm

This should be a good forum for people to express doubts and concerns so I for one welcome contributions from Old Southdowner and Too Late. We need to air these points. If that is what people think then the challenge is to address their concerns if it is possible.

However, I think I am right in saying that every single member of the current board is a member of the society. It is not us and them. It is a matter of finding a way through the financial mire we are wading through, for all of us.
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Post by Marc Monitor on Tue Mar 24, 2015 6:53 pm

That's a good point, Ben. In some ways, the club is already owned by supporters and by members of the Supporters' Society.
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Post by Too Late... on Wed Mar 25, 2015 12:53 am

Marc Monitor wrote:Why have you and other people got an issue with the Supporters' Society taking over the club, TLT, and what alternative do you suggest?

I mainly have an issue with the concept of the community model overall. Mainly because the concept that groups of supporters are in any way equipped to run football clubs as a business and taking business decisions that will make the club work in a better way than if they were run by a major shareholder owner. All of these so called one member, one vote type organisations are supposedly designed to get everyone involved in such a way that the club is then supposedly run by lots of supporters instead of a few members of a board. Unfortunately, I believe that it doesn't actually work like that...

I'll try to explain further by taking the more recent history of Bath City Football Club Ltd as an example of the way that it starts and then reverts to the normal form. This will probably be an essay but I will post it just the same.

Back in the long distant days when Bristol Rovers left (and the debts were only @£200,000) and Chairman Stock left very quickly after. God knows how many supporters took the opportunity to make the business decisions and a board was formed with umpteen directors (read supporters). The club was relaunched by these supporters by borrowing yet more money (heart ruled heads as the money was borrowed from the big bad wolf Foster) and the future was rosy again. Within the following year several of these directors who were real supporters (important point made again) decided that the onus and decision making was not for them and one-by-one they dropped out leaving a few (supporters) left to carry the can, sorry I meant make important decisions that will keep all of the other fellow supporters happy.

Those supporters left (now, for some reason they are called Directors by other supporters) carried on making yearly decisions that enabled the club to continually lose money and rack up more than double the debt they started with. This was despite the fact that those supporters left were almost all local businessmen. The one that did ordinary day-to-day jobs had gone (significant because big business decisions weren't their thing) leaving people.

So these supporters (or Directors, as even I'm confused now) carried on borrowing yet more to buy yet more time hoping that someone would come along with a magic wand. As I understand it they were kind of borrowing it from themselves, which of course must have been a lot easier than facing the local bank manager. But despite this they continued making their loss making budget decisions at the beginning of each season which which meant that they would have to borrow even more money from themselves (get the picture).

Somewhere in among this the same supporters (Directors) managed to put the responsibility of their bad budgeting decisions back to the other supporters and launched a bid to own the Club by buying back shares from someone they described as an enemy of the Club (Foster, an apparent venture capitalist). So the decision was made that they would get other supporters to buy back the Club from this man and that from then on supporters would own the club (isn't this sounding like something you are hearing now). There was an added promise that if successful then the Club would never be able to set a negative budget ever again...

But no! The supporters/directors have made a negative budget every year since. A positive budget takes into account the losses made the previous year and balances this out!

Then one day the supporters (directors) who had been lending money from themselves to themselves realised that they couldn't continue doing this and that they would have to pay back the money to themselves from themselves (hope you're still with me because I'm almost finished).

So they now want to bail out themselves with money raised from supporters who are being asked to buy the Club back from supporters who had already bought the Club under their guidance once before! If only these supporters had made the correct budgeting decisions for the previous 10 years where (I confess I haven't completely checked the accurate figure) something like losses of @£400,000 have been accrued

So, one of my points is that the Club IS ALREADY owned and run by supporters and that hasn't worked to date. Now why would I believe it will work again?

But my main point is that if this Community thing gets off of the Ground you will have a group of up to 2,400 supporters (at a guess at least 1000) from widely differing backgrounds, some interested some not, some businesses, trying to have their say, some demanding their (1 vote) in every decision, especially in decisions that they have no understanding of due to their particular personal circumstances,.

Of course that won't work so what will need to be done is vote to make committees to keep the numbers of meetings down. You will also need to have one EXPERT advising on things like budgets saying things like "trust me, I know what I'm doing...". Some might even say "Listen to me, I have a lot of (recent) experience in this..." and most of the others will need to take their word for it and vote along with them. The thing is, what you will end up with within a few months is just a few people making the final key decisions....

Which to me won't be much more than the equivalent of the current Board of Supporters (Sorry, I meant Directors)!

Which leads to the point about having a major shareholder who is able and capable of making the decisions that the recent Supporter Directors didn't make....



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Post by Twerton Parker on Wed Mar 25, 2015 7:33 am

An excellent post, Too Late, highlighting the pitfalls that lie ahead if the old mistakes are repeated. For this Community thing to work (once the funds are raised) we really do need to know that there is a solid business plan in place that will be stuck to so that the maths will stack up and further debt avoided.

Integral with that is the need to have a product on the pitch that will appeal to the public to produce the revenue needed. Whilst there will be days when things don't go right they must be kept to a minimum so that come the end of each season we will have than more Bristol Rovers type days than East Thurrock ones and that, I guess, is the real challenge that lies ahead.

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Post by SteveS on Wed Mar 25, 2015 10:39 am

There are a few points regarding Too Late's post which I would take issue with (do not want to go into those really) but I can understand what he is trying to say.
In the context of the clubs situation I would say:

At the end he makes the case for a major shareholder but whether you agree with this route or not, there have apparently been no candidates to take on this role.

This takes us back to the options on the table and at this time community ownership is the only one. Everyone must appreciate that the threat to the club is real and not a scare tactic being employed by the Society, Action Group or whoever.

Obviously it is the individuals decision whether to support community ownership or not but if they decide not to then they must realise the seriousness of the situation facing the club and the potential consequences if co fails.

If you are putting yourself forward as a supporter of the club and decide not to support community ownership (your choice) I think you must put forward a viable alternative. Easy to say majority shareholder but the real test is coming up someone to take this role.

Community ownership may not be everyones first choice and everyone has the right to ask questions, but if you are a real supporter and there are no other options then surely the survival of the club must be the prime issue.

Too Late for regrets once it's gone.

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Post by Too Late... on Wed Mar 25, 2015 11:52 am

SteveS wrote:At the end he makes the case for a major shareholder but whether you agree with this route or not, there have apparently been no candidates to take on this role.

Just about to go away for the weekend (might have internet) so I'll answer your question as simply as I think I can (I won't have the time to edit it).

The buyout from Foster closed the route for a major shareholder (or controlling shareholder) by fragmenting his 51% shares into several hundred different owners. Of course there has been no candidates for this as it would be impossible to buy a 51% share in the club due to this. Come to think of it I suspect that it would be pretty much impossible to even buy a 5% share in the club at present so no-one with any business sense would even consider it.

It would require the board to prepare and present to the public at large a business plan that would enable this. I haven't seen or heard any suggestion that there is such a business plan that has been considered by the board. It is the boards responsibility to consider and present these options, not mine.

It would appear that the only proposal that is available is the community share issue simply because the alternative major shareholder would simply have always been shouted down by members of the Society (part of my beef with them) if the subject had ever been discussed at an AGM. The biggest taboo subject at Bath City Football Club.... A complete non-starter!

For it to have happened it would have to have been discussed at the AGM's as it would take a major share re-issue in order for the club to provide an open door for this person to appear. This option would NOT cost current supporters who have already bought the cub once any more money. It would only have cost them an assumed devaluation of their current shareholding by 50%.

So there IS a business plan for the Community option.

And NO business plan for the major shareholder option.

The one and only option you keep talking about has been manouvered into place.

Case closed.

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Post by SteveBradley on Wed Mar 25, 2015 12:09 pm

Too Late... wrote:
SteveS wrote:At the end he makes the case for a major shareholder but whether you agree with this route or not, there have apparently been no candidates to take on this role.

Just about to go away for the weekend (might have internet) so I'll answer your question as simply as I think I can (I won't have the time to edit it).

The buyout from Foster closed the route for a major shareholder (or controlling shareholder) by fragmenting his 51% shares into several hundred different owners. Of course there has been no candidates for this as it would be impossible to buy a 51% share in the club due to this. Come to think of it I suspect that it would be pretty much impossible to even buy a 5% share in the club at present so no-one with any business sense would even consider it.

It would require the board to prepare and present to the public at large a business plan that would enable this. I haven't seen or heard any suggestion that there is such a business plan that has been considered by the board. It is the boards responsibility to consider and present these options, not mine.

It would appear that the only proposal that is available is the community share issue simply because the alternative major shareholder would simply have always been shouted down by members of the Society (part of my beef with them) if the subject had ever been discussed at an AGM. The biggest taboo subject at Bath City Football Club.... A complete non-starter!

For it to have happened it would have to have been discussed at the AGM's as it would take a major share re-issue in order for the club to provide an open door for this person to appear. This option would NOT cost current supporters who have already bought the cub once any more money. It would only have cost them an assumed devaluation of their current shareholding by 50%.

So there IS a business plan for the Community option.

And NO business plan for the major shareholder option.

The one and only option you keep talking about has been manouvered into place.

Case closed.

TL - your analysis isn't accurate I'm afraid.

The route for a single major shareholder is far from closed, and wouldn't require a share re-issue.

There are 4 individual members of the Board who between them personally own approx. 50% of the club. They made it clear in the media last year that the club was looking for a buyer.

If anyone had stepped forward, those 4 board members would have sold them their shareholding, and doubtless recommended to the rest of the shareholders to do the same. Even if the Supporters Society had wanted to 'shout down' all of that, it wouldn't have been able to.

The hard, cold fact is that no-one has come forward to buy the club, even though it's there ready and willing to be sold.

There is no conspiracy. Bath City FC has no Plan B if the Community Ownership bid doesn't succeed. Two major debts are due next month, from people who have made it clear that they want their money back. I don't think people genuinely appreciate how serious the club's position is, and how limited the options for survival are.

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Post by 2weirdtown on Wed Mar 25, 2015 12:39 pm

And Archie's comments to the press re players drifting away made it publicly clear how serious the situation is.
Note: He may have been acting as an unofficial mouthpiece for the club in an effort to push things along. I think his comments were perhaps ill advised as they won't have helped morale for those trying to fix the problem.
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Post by SteveS on Wed Mar 25, 2015 7:47 pm

I do find Too Late's latest second post a bit worrying. He (or she) admits to having 'a beef' with the Supporters Society.
I am on the Supporters Society committee (not part of the Action Group) and in the context of his post feel that I am being cast as some sort of anarchist. I look around at the others on the committee, mostly people I have known for many years, and I am confident that they are 100% committed to the club and would never act in any other way than in the clubs best interests.
Certainly I am not 'stay at Twerton Park whatever' as I have also said in previous posts. If there was someone who wanted to come into the club, invest, and had the genuine interests of the club at heart I would back that person totally. If I felt there were others within the Society Committee blocking this then I would no longer wish to be part of that committee.
I am aware that over recent years it has suited a few people to cast the Society in a poor light and it has been convenient to point the finger for the clubs problems in that direction, and a few seem to have fallen for this tactic.
Yes, I do say that community ownership is the only option at this time. Too Late says it is not his job to come up with alternatives and this is the job of the Board. Surely he must see that community ownership is now the only option on the table precisely because the Board have failed to come up with any other alternatives. To me he seems to be defeating his own argument here.
I do find it sad that some seem to be putting what seems to be a sort of personal grievance before the future of the club.
Finally, I do consider myself a reasonable judge of character, but if anyone does have any evidence of actions contrary to the interests of the club by any of my colleagues I would like to hear from them so that I can amend my christmas card list.

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Post by BenE on Wed Mar 25, 2015 8:26 pm

I think TL speaks for a number of fans even though he is the only one who has put his head above the parapet.

From my observation there have been personality issues between various factions within the club. It is hard to avoid that.

For this reason I can see the reason why the Supporters' Society might set up a separate vehicle for community ownership. However given that it will still be manned by the same people there is no point. Furthermore a Trust or Society is exactly the right vehicle to pursue it.

The Society first mooted the idea of community ownership in 2013. This was rejected out of hand by a group of major shareholders which stopped it in its tracks, despite the Society membership voting in favour of investigating the idea further.

The reason it has resurfaced now is purely down to a change of attitude within the board and more importantly amongst those major shareholders. Without that change we would not be talking about communty ownership.

No reason has been publicly offered why there has been a change of heart and everyone assumes that it is related to the statement earlier in the season that we were at last chance saloon unless a buyer (single major shareholder) was found. The conclusion is that we are down to our last bourbon before the shootout at high noon.

I personally have reservations about how a community owned club works in practice but I know the idea is to bring in experts to address specific areas of club activities eg legal, finance, commercial from within that community base. Hopefully the prospectus will give us a better idea of how the club will be run longterm.
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Post by Marc Monitor on Wed Mar 25, 2015 10:35 pm

Firstly, TLT obviously has an issue with the whole idea of community ownership - which is fair enough - so I am not sure it is possible to change his mind about one for Bath City in particular.

However it is worth addressing a couple of issues. The first has been addressed already. The current directors spent a long time trying to attract a major shareholder and couldn't.

Secondly, many many football clubs at many different levels are appallingly run, often with massive debts by one or a couple of major share holders who are either inept, corrupt, asset strippers, power hungry or publicity/status seekers. Many of them have no real interest in the football clubs they own/are major shareholders in. Research has shown that 4 times as many business leaders show psychopathic tendencies than the general population so bringing someone who is a business person doesn't necessarily lead to better decisions and the experience of many football clubs backs that up. In other words, "having a major shareholder who is able and capable of making the decisions that the recent Supporter Directors didn't make...." could be even more disastrous.

As Ben E says, aside from the financial investment of the supporters, the Supporters' Society will bring on a whole load of experience, skills and knowledge of people from a whole load of different walks of life. Not only that but those people will be monitored, supported and moderated by other members.

As someone who has seen a football club that has been run by Sam Hammam, Peter Ridsdale and Vincent Tan, I am not convinced that having a major shareholder is a recipe for success. Not only that but it isn't even an option now.

Marc Monitor
Marc Monitor

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Join date : 2014-02-20
Age : 53
Location : Within the sight of Twerton Park floodlights (Well, at the end of my street)

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