09 Sep Members Meeting Update
Members Meeting Update
The Falkirk Supporters’ Society (FSS) committee wishes to provide an update to all members on the discussions from the members meeting on the 1st September. This was a really positive meeting, where important debates took place, and the committee feels like it was clearly advised as to what the members in the room wanted to see moving forward.
The FSS committee intentions for the meeting were to: –
- Ensure that members understood our safeguarding goal had not been blocked and that 25%+1 shares would be achieved through share donation shortly.
- Clarify that 25%+1 should be viewed as ‘stage 1 complete’. We must continue to build from here.
- Provide an overview of our Partnership Agreement and confirm that the Agreement would be published on our website.
- Further explain that your subscriptions form part of the football budget this season, and that FSS has played a vital role in sustaining full-time football.
- Finally, to listen to your views on what more the FSS committee can do for members, and as to how subscription money could be used long-term now that all available shares are purchased.
The FSS committee was introduced to the room and a thanks was given to all previous committee members who had got us to this point.
The opportunity was taken to update members on our current status – 724 members contributing £104k a year! It was confirmed that the £350k Fan Bank loan (this was essential to complete the infrastructure improvements to the floodlights and pitch) is a 20-year 0% interest loan, which will be repaid in yearly instalments of £17.5k with the first due August 2024. This repayment represents just 17% of all current subscriptions per year, with this percentage continually reducing as and when the membership increases.
It was emphasised just how impressive a position we find ourselves in after under 2 years, every member should feel incredible proud that they have contributed to Falkirk Football Club becoming fan owned.
FSS Fans Director, Nigel Serafini, followed what was previously communicated in our statement prior to the members meeting, by providing a history of the issuing of shares and reiterated that FSS has sought to grow our holding to 25% +1 shares.
The presentation, which outlined the previous two FFC AGMs, showed that in 2021 FSS had 16% of total shares ‘ringfenced’, and an agreement for an additional 5% if a share purchase option (available to the Rawlings) was not enacted. This 5% equated to half the shares available to the Rawlings with the other half ‘ringfenced’ for the Patrons Group (PG). Subsequently, this option was not enacted and therefore 21% of total shares were ‘ringfenced’ for FSS.
It was further explained that the FSS shareholding had increased beyond the ‘ringfenced’ 21% to the current 24.6% (24.3% once all shares are issued) due to increases and delays in the Fans Bank loan which had subsequently chipped away at 3.5% of the PG ‘ringfenced’ shares. During discussions with Scottish Government officials it became apparent that FSS could apply for more than the previously agreed £300k, therefore the Club and FSS agreed to a £350k loan. Furthermore, FSS share purchases continued to be honoured while the Fan Bank loan was being secured.
FSS had requested an additional transfer for the remaining 1% of PG shares to take them above 25%+1 share target, but this was retained for the PG. Consequently FSS began taking active steps to encourage share donation and we believe that the ‘stage 1’ target of 25%+1 will be achieved shortly and this will be announced as soon as possible.
The above has gratefully led to both FSS and the Club arriving in a far stronger position than we otherwise would have been. FSS achieving the 25%+1 target and FFC securing funds late in the transfer window to allow an additional signing. However, we appreciate that while the FSS committee was itself trying to understand and navigate the shares issue with the Club, we could have had clearer communications to members. This is a valuable lesson learned and will improve moving forward.
An overview was provided of the FSS and FFC signed Partnership Agreement. This Agreement sets out that FSS and the Club will continue to cooperate and support each other in the future – a formalising of the strong, collaborative working relationship FSS has with FFC. This is a live agreement which will be reviewed by both organisations in a three-yearly cycle and is subject to an annual best-practice review.
A number of key aspects of the agreement were pulled out and expanded upon.
- FSS is guaranteed to be entitled to have 2 Fans Directors on the Board. Currently, only 1 of these positions is filled and the nomination period for the 2nd is open, but closes on 11th If you are committed to representing fan voices, then please nominated yourself. Please contact us if you require any further information.
- FSS shareholding will be ringfenced come any potential share issue. Although a share issue is not anticipated in the near future, the Partnership Agreement ensures that the FSS shareholding (at time of any share issue) will be ringfenced. The outcome here is that FSS, so long as it maintains or increases current shareholding, will always be entitled to a minimum 25%+1 shares, and the safeguarding associated with this percentage.
- The Agreement sets out that subscriptions will be allocated to the club for funding, net of loan repayments and expenses. It does not specify that funds must be provided unconditionally. This year funds have formed part of the football budget to ensure that the club can maintain a fulltime status. Moving forward, FSS wishes for members to have a greater say in what these funds are allocated towards.
The FSS committee agreed to publish the Partnership Agreement, and this will be updated to our website shortly.
Importance of FSS funding to FFC
FFC CEO, Jamie Swinney, presented the importance of FSS funding to the Club. This involved an overview of the estimated income and outgoings that the Club could expect to see when related to varying positions in the Scottish Football pyramid. The changeable income in these scenarios would derive from ‘prize money’, and it was shown that this disproportionately decreases as you look down the leagues. The Club predicts that for FFC to sustain fulltime football (if little to no investment covering a significant operating loss) then a 4th place finish (or above) in the Championship is required.
Currently, as we all well aware, we find ourselves in a position considerably below 4th in the Championship, and thus the prize money received is also considerably lower (in the region of -300k). There is no wealthy majority owner prepared to underwrite losses in FFC and as we are now a fan owned club it is in our interest to ensure we can compete. This is where FSS plays a vital role.
The room heard that currently the funding received from FSS has been included in the football budget, and therefore a mechanism to increase this budget is to increase FSS membership. Furthermore, it was confirmed that without FSS funding, not only would the calibre of players who have impressed at the start of the season not been signed, but that the Club would have to been required to follow a part time model.
FSS is starting to play the vital role which allows the Club to build towards a position of sustainability both on and off the park.
The FSS committee wished to end the meeting by gathering your views on what you think should be the future priorities of the FSS. The hope was to cover what members need from the FSS committee and how funds could be used long-term now that all available shares are purchased.
There was a consensus in the room that the FSS committee was required to better understanding our demographic and ensure that younger generations are more closely involved. It was suggested that in Ultras1876 (praised by all in the room) there was a perfect group to engage with, and that FSS should be a vehicle for their voices to be heard. Discussions, along the same theme of engaging younger supporters, focussed on the potential for a reduced membership contribution for a younger age group, U25s an example provided, and the possibility of opening up a non-voting junior membership for those U16.
It was suggested by members that the Fans Director role, with previous requirements of 20 hours a week and transferable experience, was one that appeared too demanding. By setting these requirements FSS was severely limiting who would step forward for the role and that the most important requirement for a Fans Director was that they are willing represent wider fans views in forming club decisions. Indeed, it was stated that the FSS committee need to ensure that they remain independent of the club and do more to represent and communicate with fans.
The general discussion concluded with a feeling that the now, more than ever, was the time to come together and push fan ownership forward.
The transfer of funds to FFC
It was suggested from the room that because all available shares are purchased, that future funds could be transferred to FFC via an 0% interest loan. This loan would be caveated with an assurance that it could only be recalled in the event of a share issue and that repayment would take the form of shares. The benefit was stated that FFC would still receive the funding and in the event of a share issue FSS would have a means to retain its shareholding faster. The FSS will raise this with the FFC board to discuss if this is permitted by the related financial regulations and if the proposal is workable. There will be further communication on this as discussions progress.
Members emphasised the importance of knowing where their money was going, they took value in knowing that their subscriptions were making a difference, and that Jamie Swinney’s presentation had underlined this.
There was a wide consensus that given the current financial position of the Club, it would be impractical for FSS to dictate that funds were spent on an area that had not been deemed an immediate strategic priority by the Club. It was understood, therefore, that it was right for funds to form part of the football budget for the coming season as to preserve fulltime football. However, moving forward there was a long-term desire for FSS to fund the rebuilding of the Falkirk Academy. It was emphasised that if FSS subscriptions were to increase to a point that funding exceeded the costs associated with the next stage of the Falkirk Academy rebuild, then FSS would not merely be funding the academy, but a main driver behind its reestablishment.
The FSS committee would like to again thank all members who attended this meeting, listened, supported us through our presentations, and provided feedback as to how we continue moving forward. For anyone who was unable to make the meeting, but wishes to provide us new ideas or even put weight behind an idea above, please do not hesitate to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or message privately on any of our social media accounts.
Your feedback will be acted upon. Our plan, as a committee, is to work with our Fans Directors to develop your ideas into robust proposals which act in the best interests of FSS and FFC. We will then ask you, the membership, to vote on these proposals.
The Falkirk Supporters’ Society committee