Community Ownership fan’s meeting
Bath City Supporters Society
By Mark Tanner
On Monday 26th Jan a process started that could revolutionise the way Bath City football is run after it’s historic 125 year. The Bath City Supporters Society are coming forward with a community ownership proposal to pitch to the board of directors on February 9th but first held an open question and answer session to fans of the club; with many well wishers from Bath also in attendance.
The Society’s chairman Martin Powell addressed the 100 odd crowd, all sat or standing around the society committee, with an overview of how they have got to this point:
June 2013 – They tried to pitch the community ownership proposal to the board of directors after consulting the fans in a similar night (to this one). However the four major shareholders publically turned down this offer in the local paper a few days later. It wasn’t the right time for the club.
November 2014 – The board released a public statement asking for investment in the club or they would be forced to sell the club. This is when the community ownership action group formed within the society with three aims: To explore the available community ownership models, write their own business plan and to consult the fans to see if the support is there to make it work.
January 2015 – A detailed proposal has been agreed within the action group after recruiting experts from around the City. The board of directors at the club then agreed to meet them to pitch the idea on February 9th.
The rest of the committee then addressed the crowd to give their say on how community ownership can work. Film Director Ken Loach spoke about the issuing of community shares to form a more democratic way of owning the club with one person one vote regardless if they have put in the minimum amount or the largest amount possible.
We need to safe guard the future of the club
Shane Morgan, who is the Society board representative, made an emotional speech urging people to get behind this new venture. He also praised the current and past directors for putting in their personal money to enable the club to reach this 125 season and wants to see the 150 year season under a new community model debt free.
Bath City Community Sports Foundation Director Pete Sellwood talked about how the club can expect more young supporters if the club was community owned.
Getting the City into the club
That was his main message as coming up on the club’s community day on March 14th there are 300 plus children coming with their teachers. There is no reason why this can’t happen at each game in the future with closer working links with the local community. Another aim would be the possibility of forming a Bath City Ladies team as back in the 1920s Bath boasted one of the best Ladies team in the country.
A possible 3G pitch would also generate income every day and night for the club allowing Bath’s youth teams to have a home. The club could also apply for a lot more grants from governments, councils and sporting bodies which the Foundation currently make use of. Local businesses have also put in good amounts of money to see the Foundation grow and grow over two years.
William Heath from the Bell says the aim should be to be the best run community club in the country. He went on to describe Bath’s other success stories and drew on comparisons with the Bell. Kat Byles is a PR expert, who has worked on national and international campaigns, talked about her vision for not just a local campaign in the media but a national one. She is already working with Bath Spa marketing students and looks to tap into the City’s vast talent.
The key speech was from Olive Holtaway who has been a Society member for five years but is driving this bid forward. He very clearly outlined the three routes the Society/Club can take:
1. Continue to be a public limited company and try and reach 51% or 76% to get a deciding vote. This is the model the Society have adopted since it began and have just over 17% of the shares (making them the largest shareholder). There are currently 500,000 shares issued to date.
2. Become a Community Benefit Company. This is where there will be a community share issue by the Society, with one person one vote. This would aim to raise enough capital to buy the club, clear the debts and run it for the first year. Features of it is that people can ask for their money back but only after 3 years, there will be a small amount of interest, a limit of investment of £100,000 still with just one vote and it would be subject to tax relief.
3. A hybrid of the two. This would be adapted using advice from Supporters Direct but would lose some features of being a Community Benefit Company.
The society are looking to option two as it would bring the most value to the football club in regards to grants and investment.