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Supporters are the heart of any football club. Indeed, it’s the line being used by Partick Thistle to try to sell season tickets.
It may tug at the heartstrings and play on fans’ loyalty, but does it ring true when the future direction of our club seems so uncertain?
- Does it have any meaning when weeks into the new season, the proposed takeover remains a mystery?
- Does it have any meaning when there is little engagement from the board with the wider fan base and ordinary shareholders about the motives behind the proposed takeover deal?
New City Capital and the new Board are reportedly on the verge of a deal that will see a majority shareholding transfer to an international group who have no emotional commitment to the club.
This would be the biggest change in the 143 year existence of Partick Thistle, yet it’s being rushed through.
Twenty years ago, when Thistle were on the brink of going bust, the fans rallied round to launch Save The Jags and we were promised the club would never be in a position where its future was in the hands of people outside the Thistle family.
Now there is a very real danger that our club could be quickly sold from beneath us with no real information about why and what that will mean.
The ordinary fan will have no say in the future direction of the club. Instead, a small group will decide what is next for Partick Thistle. We have to ask what is the Board’s motivation in doing this?
We are concerned. We believe there is a need for a better future.
- A better future that would make Partick Thistle a supporter owned community club
- A better future that would put the long term security of the club at the heart of everything
- A better future that would offer a sustainable, prosperous club at Firhill for generations to come.
After a difficult season back in the Championship, the manager had a recruitment plan, a strong budget for the coming season and around £750,000 of funds for the dealing involving Liam Lindsay and Aidan Fitzpatrick were heading for Maryhill. The club is of course debt free and thanks to the generosity of Colin Weir.
But Colin has withdrawn over ownership concerns.
The manager has had his transfer budget restricted and until this takeover is done, Thistle look short of players and low on confidence
The current Board have said very little. They describe the deal as “transformational” but for good or bad?
Things need to happen quickly. Once share certificates are exchange it will be too late and any agreements on supporter involvement, investment of the role of the Group in the club could change.
These people may be wealthy, but they are not Thistle fans.
The most significant investor in the club, who has invested millions in Thistle, has walked away because of uncertainty around the intentions of the new owners.
That raises concerns about the Academy and the club’s well-respected community programmes putting Thistle at the heart of the local community.
Some fans saw this new investment as a real opportunity. Global investors could propel us to upper reaches of Scottish football, competing with the Old Firm etc.
But we are struggling to find examples of this working anywhere for a club of Thistle’s size. Instead, we would be a feeder club dependent on its parent, and as such would sacrifice our independence, ambition and success.
In other words, a Ghost Club – Partick Thistle in name only. Football fans love to dream but under this model, it could be more of a nightmare. We have seen such nightmares emerge recently in England at Bury and Bolton Wanderers.
There is an alternative. A club owned and run by the fans. A community club model that would ensure a better future for Partick Thistle.
It’s a model with a proven track record of success and other Scottish clubs – Hearts, Motherwell, St Mirren, Dunfermline and Stirling Albion have successfully gone down that route. Yes, there are challenges but it would be Our Club, not the whim of someone with a fortune that’s half the world away.
Time is of the essence. If the new board has the club at its heart, then it needs to engage with fans to consider a viable alternative to the takeover and it needs to do so now.
Q. Who started TFE and who else is involved?
The names of those involved have been made clear from the day that Thistle for Ever was launched – Paul Goodwin, John Penman, Allan Heron, Erik Geddes, George Pullar and Keith Rarity. They are all Thistle fans who are keen to see the club owned by the people it means most to – the supporters – and the added benefits that come from being fan owned.
We are always open to being joined by other fans who share our aims.
Q. Who is Paul Goodwin and what is his motivation in all of this?
“Hi, Paul here. I’m a long standing fan and have followed Thistle for many years through many good times and many bad times. I was involved in the Save the Jags campaign many years ago and in recent years I have advised numerous other clubs in Scotland on the area of community ownership initially in my role as Head of Supporters Direct and more recently as the Co Founder of the Scottish Football Supporters Association. I have consulted for the Scottish Government on the area of community ownership of football clubs. My motivation? Simply to see Thistle in the hands of Thistle fans and for it to be a real force for good in the community and successful on the park.”
Q. Why did you launch the day after Ian McCall was appointed?
Thistle For Ever was launched on the 3rd of September. The offer to buy the shares that had been put up for sale by a number of shareholders was made on the 24th of September because it was very important for the club’s directors to have it before the club’s AGM on September 26.
Q. Who would be on the board between the date of the share purchase and when elections are organised?
An interim or transition board would be appointed and made up of skilled people. We are looking at the composition of that transition board now and would certainly consider any offers of support from those who wish to help. It’s important for Partick Thistle that we have continuity and stability both on and off the park.
Q. Who would choose who those board members should be?
There would be a transitional board the composition of which would be part of the negotiations with the selling shareholders.
Q. What assurances are there that it would be professionally run?
Thistle For Ever is about making Thistle a community owned club like Motherwell. Hearts, St Mirren and Dunfermline to name just four. Community ownership is not a new thing as we know and the daily operation of the club would not change. The club has been financially well run over the last few years and there is nothing to suggest that would change. In fact, we firmly believe that there are lots of opportunities available to build the club by becoming community owned.
Q. Will the democratically elected fans be running the club unfettered?
There would be a Club Board of people with the required skills to run a football club just as it is now, and it will be directly responsible to the Fan Board which will be made up from elected representatives of the fans.
We’ve prepared a fuller explanation of how the community owned model works with other clubs like Motherwell. Hearts, St Mirren and Dunfermline which can be seen here.
Q. Will board members need skills to be on the board?
The Fans Board will be made up from elected representatives of the members of the club (fans). It will be up to the fans to vote for whoever they think is best qualified to sit on the Fan Board. If those voting decide to elect someone without the skills they believe are required then that is entirely up to them but we are sure every fan will want to know that those sitting on the Fans Board are able to fulfil their duties properly. The Fan Board would not be involved in day to day decisions.
The Club Board, who would be responsible for the day to day management of the Club, would clearly require the skills needed to run a Club, just as it is under the current set up. Nothing on that front would change.
Q. If TFE is successful how will the governance of the club work?
As we’ve mentioned in an earlier question, we’ve prepared a fuller explanation of how the community owned model works with other clubs which can be seen here.
Q. Do you plan to have an open meeting for fans?
Q. How many pledges do you have and what is the total amount pledged?
At the time of writing we have received monetary pledges from 263 people. Individual pledges vary but average out at £15 each per month which would make just under £50,000 of new income into the club each year which is a tremendous number in just a short period of time. There have also been a number of substantial and generous one-off pledges taking the total to in excess of £50,000. This shows the real potential of what is possible with more fans pledging. We have also received numerous offers of support from other shareholdings and of personal support.
Q. What happens if the number of pledges falls drops off?
We know that other clubs that have successfully adopted the community ownership model have seen pledges increase when the club formally became community owned and would hope that to be the same at Thistle.
Pledges are very important for the club as it creates a new revenue stream that doesn’t exist just now but the day to day operation of the club would still continue as it does now with or without pledges. The club already generates income from fans, hospitality, sponsors, merchandise. If pledges drop off it simply means that a valuable new source of revenue, that doesn’t exist at the moment, would reduce. We would urge every Thistle fan, who is able, to pledge.
Q. Can you confirm that previous board members will not be appointed if your bid is successful?
The club’s Fan Board will be made up of those elected by the club’s fans. The Club Board (which will run the club on a day to day basis) will ultimately be appointed by The Fans Board. As mentioned in an earlier answer, there will a requirement to have a transition board while these new governance arrangements are agreed and implemented.
Q. How many shares does Thistle For Ever need to implement its plans?
Initially we were aiming for a 51% shareholding but with the generous gift of Colin Weir that would take fans ownership to nearly 75% of all shares in circulation.
Q. Can you share the broader details of your five-year plan?
The initial view is that the current plan set out by the current board would not change and that is likely to be the case for a couple of years. During that period the Club Board would be producing a longer term plan to return the club to a higher level on the pitch, based on the new opportunities presented by community ownership. There would be additional investment coming in from the Thistle Weir Academy funding being reinstated and with money from the fans pledges being confirmed.
Please see how new opportunities can come from being a community owned club here.
Q. Will you invest significantly in the club to take it forward, or are you content with the status quo?
No fan is happy with where we currently are. The very generous offer from Colin Weir to gift the club to the fans and remove any debt burden that exists puts the club in a very good place and that is the envy of many other clubs. It creates great opportunities for us all.
Q. Does the arrangement with Colin Weir include money for the upkeep or renovation of the main stand and bing?
The financial offer from Colin Weir is for the purchase of the shares that are currently for sale and the part of Firhill known as ‘Propco’ that isn’t owned by the club. The club will continue to operate as it does now and any operational costs will remain in the club.
Q. Thistle For Ever originally wanted to purchase 24% of the club’s shares, now it’s 51% and a buy-out of Propco. That’s a lot of money to pay back to the Weirs. How long will that take?
Colin Weir’s gesture is a gift to the fans. There is no requirement to pay him back.
Q. Does Thistle For Ever have a Chairman in mind if its bid is successful?
The Fans Board will have the ultimate decision on who the club’s chairman is. In a previous answer we mentioned the need for an interim or transition board and that is something being discussed now. This would be a matter for negotiation with the current club board.
Q. Is there an avenue for the current board to remain at a fan-owned club?
There would require to be an interim or transition board until the elections to appoint the Fan Board. Any member of the current Board could be elected by the fans.
Q. Jacqui Low returns – yes or no?
No. The process, should the community ownership model be adopted, would see a transition board in place until the elections to appoint the Fan Board happen.
Q. Presumably Colin Weir will want a say on the composition of the board, or is that left to TFE?
The composition of the Board will be decided by the fans and who they decide to elect to it. That is a key part of community ownership.
Q. Can you confirm at what stage Colin Weir became involved with Thistle For Ever?
Colin Weir made contact a couple of weeks after the launch on the 3rd of September. He said he had watched with interest the plan to build the fans shareholding and wanted to offer his 10%. At that point he asked to hear more about the community ownership model and after that he offered to fund the purchase of the shares that were on sale and to gift them to the fans.