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Looking Ahead
Looking Ahead

Tick Tock!

By: Bill Osborne
Date: 10/10/2007

IN my previous article, I wrote about the dangers to football clubs, particularly lower league clubs, when they fall into the wrong hands and I did not discount that happening to Grimsby Town in the future.

Home > Features > 2007 Features > Tick Tock

I would go further by saying that, based on our recent problems, recent being the last five or six years, Grimsby Town, without John Fenty's arrival, would have been a prime target and I am not convinced that if John Fenty moves on that they still won't be.

Although the club do not have great assets, they have a football ground and that may be enough for some fly-by-night.

What has happened to too many clubs in the past decade has clearly demonstrated that the fans and supporters have never looked ahead and planned for the possibility of losing their club and have been happy with the thought 'it can't happen to us'.

I am not saying that Grimsby Town are in peril of that happening, but what I am saying is that we should be looking further to the future and taking steps to ensure it doesn't and we should be looking at what we can do now to prevent the possibility of it happening down the track.

There are a number of ways and I am not going to pretend that my ideas are the best, but they are at least, feasible, and they do include the Grimsby Town Supporters Trust.

( If the fans and supporters of Grimsby Town do not understand the trust concept and support it, the future will be very bleak. It is the trust movement with Supporters Direct that that have had the most effect on football these latter days.

Other trusts have worked with their clubs, established a strong bond between fans and the clubs, owning part of the clubs through their shareholding and even owning their club outright.

All done by the fans and supporters.)

We should be looking ahead and planning to do the same at Grimsby but we cannot do that unless the fans and supporters acknowledge that the trust belongs to them and start supporting it using it to fulfill our aim and that is to see a successful club that we can be an active partner in.

The GTST have established a good and cordial relationship with the club so we have avoided the problems that other trusts had in the beginning to get their clubs not only to accept the trust concept, but to get them on board.

But we need to go further. First, we have to get the fans to join. Not an easy task, but it is there representing us at club level and working hard behind the scenes to establish and maintain a strong working relationship with the club.

The current board have welcomed the trust and accepted it as the representative of the fans and supporters. A situation that is envied by many other clubs.

In relation to the trust, I believe that they need to correct the mistake they made in relation to the purchase of shares. The members voted not to continue purchasing more shares, but instead to sponsor something at the club and I believe they are now doing that.

A grave mistake, in my opinion. The trust should get its hands on every share that they can. Taking up sponsorship, certainly helps the club but not sufficiently enough to have an effect. But getting a major shareholding is an absolute priority and getting more than 26% is vital.

The articles of association protects not only the shareholders but the fans and supporters too. No one can change the articles, make a new share issue or otherwise change the constitution without the consent of 75% of the shareholders.

Currently, John Fenty owns a controlling interest in the club but he does not have absolute power. 75% of the shareholders have that and if the trust own 26% of the shares, they have the power to prevent it ever happening.

Another reason they need to buy the shares is that if the club did go up for sale, the trust, as a major shareholder would have a major say regarding the new owners and if it was the case of the trust or bust, the trust would not need to buy many more shares to get a controlling interest. I am talking insurance here.

The club said the trust would be represented on the board in return for a cash injection equal to the other directors. Usually if you hold 20% of a company you would expect to be invited to join the board. Holding 5 % isn't going to impress anyone.

So buying shares is the way to go and that just isn't the trust I am talking about. We too should buy what we can and hold them for the future.

If the trust starts buying shares, I personally will buy them 100 shares to start with because I see the trust or fans holding shares is vital to our future and I know of others who would be willing to transfer their shares to them.

The club too, are playing their part in the club/trust relationship. Fans forums and the awards night income goes to the trust I believe. So they are working with the trust. but I would urge them to assist further by changing the system of issuing tickets for special games. If they were to allocate tickets to the shareholders, season ticket holders and trust members first, that would encourage people to join the trust and help build the membership.

There is no way ahead for the fans and supporters without the trust. Past experience has shown that without a recognised body representing them, they have achieved little on their own. So I for one would be fearful of leaving the future of the club in their hands if they stand alone..

Together they are a force. Individually they are a voice in the wind. So it is time to start looking at what they can achieve together. And that does mean the GTST. I cannot see any other way.

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