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The Silent Minority!

By: Bill Osborne
Date: 04/03/2003

IN a recent article I posted on the Fishy, I stated that the club should come clean about the new stadium and tell us exactly what is going on.

My call was for the board to inform us as to whether they see the new stadium project as a dead duck - or if there is still hope.

I do not believe that the club should continue to say nothing at all and leave everyone in the dark.

But, I also think that there is a misunderstanding by a great number of people about the agreements that were made to get the project off the ground and where everyone fits into the agreement.

Here is my understanding of what was agreed, taken from statements issued by the board and the developer.

  • The developer, would purchase the land from the Sir Richard Sutton Settled Estates, and manage the construction of the stadium.

  • The developer would sell/lease part of the land surrounding the stadium to retailers and other interested parties and keep the income derived from those sales/leases.

  • In return, the developer would contribute (estimated to be somewhere in the region of 3-5 million) towards the building costs.

  • Grimsby Town Football Club would contribute somewhere in the region of 4-5 million towards the building costs. (The club were hoping to raise that amount through sponsorships etc. and have already secured a commitment of 1 million from Conoco.)

  • In addition to the contribution from the developer and the club, further monies to the building costs would come from grants made by the FA who make grants to all clubs building new stadiums from a special fund created for that purpose.

  • The result would be that at the completion of the project, Grimsby Town Football club would own a new stadium and car park and the developer would own everything else outside of the stadium.

  • All the parties concerned have to sign a contract (the 106 agreement) which lays out what everyone has to do regarding the protection of the Great Coates residents, traffic control, safety issues, parking etc. (I have previously posted the agreement on the Fishy so need not go into that any further). The above is a basic outline of each parties place and responsibility in the project.

    I have no reason to defend the Board of Directors of Grimsby Town Football Club but one can see that they are presently in a loss situation regarding the future of the development.

    Before planning permission can be granted, they have, with the other parties, to sign the 106 agreement with the NELC. The deadline for doing that has now passed although it is possible that an agreement can be reached enabling them to sign it at a later date.

    (It is possible that the agreement has not been signed because of parties being unable or unwilling to part with "upfront" cash until they know exactly what the prospects are of the project actually reaching fruition.)

    There is no secret of the fact that the club has no disposable income and is running on almost a week to week situation and monies contributed by directors and acquired through other income areas is being used to keep the club afloat.

    But what appears to be the main stumbling block, is the fact that the developer appears to be having great difficulty in attracting retailers and others to take up options in the project.

    Certainly, that was the case put before the last fans forum and there have been no further announcements that anything has changed in that direction.

    Therefore it is safe to assume that the new stadium project for Grimsby Town Football Club is in the sole hands of the developer and the club can do nothing until the developer has acquired their share of the construction funds.

    ".…The club are in a "no win" situation!…."

    If and when the developer has obtained the commitments they need, the club can commence its fundraising and sponsorship programme. Based on my 20 years experience in the fundraising and sponsorship industry, it is my opinion that the club can, through a dedicated campaign, raise their share of the building costs. It will not be easy but it can be accomplished.

    So right now there can be no justification for berating the GTFC board regarding the slowness of the project. The club are in a "no win" situation.

    But what should be of major concern to everyone is the board's complete lack of acknowledgement of the concerns of fans and supporters regarding this project and the fact that the board appear to have become the "silent minority."

    "…The link between the club and fans is non-existent!…"

    During the last few months, there has been little or no information emanating from the club regarding the financial situation, the new stadium project or any indication of what they see for the future of the club.

    As one fan commented on the Fishy Message Board: "When I leave the match tomorrow my next interaction with the club will be the following game. The link between the club and fans is non-existent. It is so disappointing. The PR in the boardroom is sadly lacking and I fear for the future."

    If the stadium is a non-entity, then the board should state so. Surely the supporters have a right to know. In fact it is time the whole community knew. No one can blame the club for the developer's failure to attract investors. But if the board see no way forward, then they should say so. They have been silent too long!

    On March 8, the Grimsby Town Supporters Trust is to be officially launched. This comes at an opportune moment. Let us call upon the Trust to make their first project, to organise, in conjunction with Grimsby Town Football Club, an early Fans Forum to enable the board to inform its fans and supporters of the situation regarding the stadium project, the financial situation and what the future holds for the club, with or without a new stadium.

    We, the fans and supporters, are the vocal majority. It is time that the "silent minority" spoke out and brought its customers up to date!!

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