The Falkirk Supporters’ Society (FSS) is a Community Benefit Society which is Limited by Guarantee, including an asset lock which ensures that all funding and assets stay within the FSS structure and cannot be used for any purposes other than those stated in the Memorandum and Articles of Association of FSS, registered and lodged at the Financial Conduct Authority.
FSS is asking Falkirk fans to contribute a tenner a month, or more if you want to. The money will buy shares that will be held collectively by FSS, meaning Falkirk fans have more say in how the club is run. The club board has said it wants Falkirk supporters represented on the board as part of the “three-legged stool” model. This is one of the most important legs.
The current committee is here. The next general meeting will elect a full committee from the membership, once we have launched. This will take place as soon as we can after the launch but no later than March 2022.
The board asked FSA to nominate two directors following the four resignations in November. The ethos is to establish the “three legged stool” model of governance at the club, where no single group – major shareholders/external investors, medium-sized shareholders (eg patrons) or small shareholders/ordinary fans – had overall control.
As the FSS was in the process of launching, we could not credibly run elections in the few short weeks before the AGM. The current FSS committee has not been elected by a membership, so committee members have decided for ethical reasons not to put themselves forward as candidates. The tight timescale means that we would not be able to build a membership and run an election process in the few short weeks before the AGM.
We didn’t want to miss the opportunity to accelerate fans’ representation on the board, so decided to appoint interim directors who have the skills and experience to help improve the club and establish the supporter-director model while FSS gains a membership and has time to organise democratic elections for both the committee and supporter directors. The positions will last from the AGM until around June 2022, when we would conduct an election from the new FSS membership.
Any Falkirk fan can get involved in FSS, become a member and stand for election to the committee and debate policy. We know Falkirk fans have strong views about their club so wouldn’t stick our heads above the parapet without being aware of the risks. But there are loads of Falkirk fans willing and able to contribute their time, experience and skills to improving the club. FSS provides a platform to do that properly and transparently. We are all committed to working for the Club’s future not for our own personal gain.
Falkirk has one of the biggest supports in the country. We are passionate about their club and have suffered terribly in recent years. We have a chance to help Falkirk become more successful on the pitch and influence change behind the scenes. For instance, if we want to invest in the youth set-up, we can press for it and help fund it. If we want cheaper season tickets, better pies, a fourth stand, a grass pitch – similar. It’s also about protecting our club from predators, while leaving room for well-meaning investors. We need to be in the room where decisions are made.
They have in the past, so that is a genuine concern. But there have been some changes that mean we must make the best of this window of opportunity. First, the current board has made clear they want fans involved. We should take them at their word before the wind changes direction. Second, the old “MSG” has been abolished. That doesn’t remove the ability of the largest shareholders to collaborate and push through their will, but it is a step in the right direction. And third, the Rawlins have made clear they do not want overall control of the club and want to work with fans.
If FSS can show credibility by attracting a large membership, increasing its shareholding, investing significant sums in the club, and appointing a strong, independent director, then we’ll be difficult to ignore. That’s down to us to show their determination to make this succeed. While shareholding ultimately governs decision-making, a strong and engaged support makes it difficult for larger shareholders to ignore the majority.
Carrie and Phil Rawlins support what we’re doing and have repeatedly encouraged Falkirk fans to get involved. Remaining ex-MSG have been encouraging, though want to see if we can succeed before offering more material support. We have asked long-standing major shareholders to show their support by donating some shares, once FSS has shown it can succeed, as a goodwill gesture and in recognition of Falkirk fans’ efforts to sustain the club over the years.
Not at the outset, no. However longer term, that will be for members to decide. Overall ownership isn’t on the table at the moment. The current board supports a balanced ownership model. This undoubtedly means that different shareholders and groups of shareholders need to negotiate and compromise. But what has been clear is that ordinary fans and small shareholders have been excluded from these conversations, which this effort aims to change. The other issue to bear in mind is how to fund the club in times of crisis, and whether that would be easier or more difficult if we were completely fan-owned.
Falkirk fans have always stepped-up and backed their club. FSS won’t try to tell any other body what to do. Indeed, we hope we can act as a platform for other efforts. We will be reaching out to fans’ groups to get their views on how we can collaborate and succeed. We also recognise that many fans are not affiliated to fans’ groups so will find ways of engaging as many Falkirk fans as possible.
The club would have died if it weren’t for the original Back the Bairns. The “Fair Play for Falkirk” campaign pressured the Council into removing their block on the stadium. Fans funded the South Stand murals and are working on “The Crunchie Initiative”. BAIRNforLife has provided vital funds to strengthen the squad during the January transfer window. Equity Bairns allows hundreds of fans to sponsor kits in affordable chunks and has also raised thousands for local charities. The Falkirk Heritage Trust and Former Players Association enriches the club’s culture. Supporters clubs get fans to games and build lifelong friendships. Facebook groups have replaced mailing lists and message boards in providing a platform for debate, banter, information and sharing memories. Fanzines provided an independent voice and entertainment, and the Walking Down Hope Street podcast lets fans hear from club legends. All of these and more were down to Falkirk fans giving their own time, talent and money.
Membership of FSS is achieved by subscription of a minimum of £10 per calendar month by direct debit payable for a minimum of 24 payments spanning across two years. The first payment will be due upon the application for membership. Membership of the organisation will cease if no payment is made 15 days after failure to collect a direct debit. Members can donate more if they wish.
The FSS Committee is mandated to review membership arrangements no later than 12 months after launch. The review may consider (inter alia): whether members can continue membership with a smaller subscription after they have completed 24 payments; whether a lump-sum payment can confer membership; or whether transferring ownership of shares in Falkirk could be made in lieu of membership payments.
By becoming a member of FSS, the first thing you get is being a member of a large and growing shareholder in Falkirk FC. As part of this, you will have a vote on key decisions – FSS operates a one member one vote policy, regardless of your contributions. We may add additional benefits in time, but you’re buying into the principle of fan involvement and ownership.
You can join and argue your case. All we’re doing at this stage is getting it off the ground so we at least have a foot in the door. We’re deliberately not setting long-term policy, other than gradually increasing the proportion of fan ownership. It’s also about protecting our club from predators, while leaving room for well-meaning investors.
FSS holds around 97,000 shares from the old Bairnstrust. This is approximately 3% of the club, as of October 2021. FSS was the seventh largest shareholder in Falkirk FC as of November 2021.
You can still buy shares directly in the club subject to their rules. This effort is about collective ownership so you own a share in the organisation which, in turn, owns shares in the club. There’s nothing to stop the organisation reinstating ShareSave in the future, if there was a demand for it.
We expect to buy shares at 40p each. The board has told us that they reserve the right to vary this price in the future.