Monday night's Sky Blue Trust meeting at the Albany Club attracted around 100 supporters to hear very informative talks by Ashley Brown, who led the Portsmouth supporters' takeover and is now Chief Executive of Supporters Direct, and Jamie Mathie the Club Development Manager at SD.
James outlined the principles of supporters' involvement in ownership, giving examples of where it has been successful and how other groups had gone about it. Ashley gave a detailed account of what had actually happened at Pompey and the model they adopted with a mixture of several thousand fans buying shares individually or collectively and a dozen wealthier fans making up the ownership.
Both stressed that it wouldn’t be easy. In fact due to the current unbalanced financial structure of football that whilst things were slowly changing for the better it would be a financial struggle for a supporter owned club to compete financially with clubs with benefactors who were willing to lose tens of millions each season pursuing the Premiership dream. However supporter ownership would give a club better gates, better community involvement, better relationships with businesses and local authorities, and local media. However, it wasn’t a panacea or an easy road ‘
Roger Ellis, the Sky Blue Trust Secretary, outlined that the Trust had been working in the background on several contingency plans to meet a variety of situations that might arise, from a willing seller, to administration and even liquidation. He stated that legal and financial experts had been appointed and had already provided invaluable advice assistance. Roger stated that the Trust had approached Joy Seppala twice asking for a without prejudice meeting to discuss a possible exit strategy for SISU but was rebuffed by SISU’s lawyers and an inaccurate story put about by Tim Fisher through the now disbanded SCG. These initial rejections will not dampen the Trust's efforts as things cannot be allowed to continue to deteriorate on and off the field any further.
The over-riding message from both speakers was that it can be done. Supporters working together can be very powerful. Not all supporters will agree but as long as a majority are on message anything can be achieved.
The meeting was then opened to the floor and a variety of questions and opinions were offered but all pointed to the fact that those in attendance all wanted a change of ownership before its too late.
There was a call from one individual asking for a boycott of season tickets - a campaign the Trust will not back as this, just like attendance at Sixfields, is an individual's decision. However it was pointed out by others that there really was no need for a boycott as people were doing it off their own bat anyway. When a straw poll was taken, 75% of attendees currently had season tickets but not one said they would be renewing next year. To make it abundantly clear, no-one - neither the Trust nor the Jimmy Hill Way - is “calling for“ nor promoting a season ticket boycott. Supporters will decide on that for themselves. It was made clear by both organisations that administration was neither desirable nor certain.
Following advice from Supporters Direct the Trust intends to conduct a large scale questionnaire of supporters to gauge matters such as what they would like to happen to their club, what their expectations would be and how that might be achieved. Details of the questionnaire will be released soon.
Another attempt will be made to meet with SISU to discuss an exit strategy. The Trust hopes that there is a change of attitude and Ms Seppala will at least hear what they have to say.