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Reflections on the Supporters Trust open meeting

As mentioned previously on here, it was of course the Supporters Trust open meeting on Sunday where the idea was to try and formally establish the Trust.

Myself and Mr Banks braved the inclement weather to make our way (not entirely confidently due to not thinking to get directions) to the Building where the meeting was being held to take our place amongst another 150 or so hardy souls - including Paul Tyrell and the MEN who featured the meeting in Mondays edition.

The meeting was conducted by master of ceremonies James H Reeve, who controlled matters in typical style. Interestingly, he revealed that Stuart Pearce had spoken to him and asked him to report back on the content of the meeting as he does like to keep in touch with what fans are thinking.

Messages of support (and apologies) from David Bernstein and Chris Bird were read out before Colin Howell ran through the days agenda and an explanation of why the group were seeking to formally establish the Trust.

There were three 'guest' speakers present for the meeting, Dave Boyle, from Supporters Direct, Sean Hamil, director of Celtic Supporters Trust, who gave a very eloquent and reasoned talk on the unique ‘business’ of football and the dangers that increased American ownership in the Premier League could lead to, and Jon Keen, from the Reading Supporters Trust who explained how they had met with initial indifference from the club to get to the situation where they actively worked alongside the club.

The final speaker was the Trusts' Colin Savage, who outline the five aims of the Trust, and made an interesting statement in that although Wardle/Makin had pumped in around £20 million in loans to the club, hadn't the fans also paid an extraordinary amount into the club (not to be re-paid should I add) during the same period?

There was then a Q&A session which raised some interesting (and difficult?) questions, and here I'll defer to Sue from King of the Kippax who clearly did a better job than me with her notetaking:

Q: Contact with the club – when will this be made?
A: The members of the working party have been in contact with the club from day one, and continue with this contact.

Q: Some of the aims need increasing – eg 50% of the shares?
A: There are legal restrictions to adhere to. Fans might want more involvement short term – if so they should get involved with the working party. The trust will represent the fans democratically – one member, one vote.

Q: Has there been any effort to contact shareholders?
A: Yes – those owning more than 25%.

Q: Has anyone put themselves forward to sit on the board?
A: No. It must be someone with sufficient expertise (someone like David Bernstein). There are many highly qualified professionals amongst City fans, but it’s not so much who the person is, as that the kind of person voted into the position would be able have an honest dialogue. Today’s ideas are draft proposals. As a point of interest, Arsenal don’t have a board member, but have monthly meetings with the board.

Q: Would a takeover have a detrimental effect?
A: Until there is a firm proposal we cannot say. We would hope for the right sort of investment package, one without massive debts attached and we fear that an American franchise would eventually reduce football to the level of WWF.

Q: What about the cost involved of becoming a founder member?
A: Reading have a fee of £10 per adult, which seems reasonable, but would be decided upon after formation.

Q: What about existing supporters groups?
A: We would like to see more active involvement, but no preferential treatment for any one organisation. Communication is vital.

Q: Can the Trust function without the co-operation of the club?
A: We would hope to co-operate, but would exist anyway – hoping to achieve our own credibility.

The vote to formally establish the Trust was then held, and was unanimously carried - something of a surprise as I expected one or two dissenters in the audience. Maybe there had have been had Paul Tyrell not already departed at this stage.

So what now? Well, I guess there is still much to do, many questions to be asked and many answers to be given. Judging by some of the message boards since Sunday, there is still a cynical element out there yet to be convinced.

But it is a start. If the Trust now go forward and ultimately fail, then they will have given it a try. It is a long road ahead to be travelled to ultimately begin to influence and effect change and matter may not be helped by the current attitude of the board (who did promise dialogue once the meeting had been held) which was evidence further by their comments in Monday's MEN.

From what I know of those involved in the group - admittedly some more than others, I do know they are committed to this and bring with them a wide variety of background and skills, but one common factor - to see the club prosper and move forward.

Please visit the Supporters' Trust blog for details on the next steps as they now aim to take things forward.