At this present moment in time, the Aldershot Town Supporters Trust does not have any form of plan in place which would be able to assist in securing the future of the Football Club should any such need arise.
Back in 1992 the High Court made the decision to wind-up Aldershot FC declaring the club as “hopelessly insolvent” with debts of over £1.2M – similar debts that are owed by the club at this present day which caused the club to go into administration for a “second” time just 21 years later.
Supporters were not prepared and there was very little they could have done regardless as the “Trust” option had not been in existence and without the dedication of several key figures at the time, the decision to “re-form” a football club in Aldershot, would never have happened and we wouldn’t have the successful club that we are able to support today.
Despite the clubs success and rise up the pyramid system since 1992, running the club is a very difficult and often precarious task and to have no “safety net” in place should the worst happen again, is a serious cause for concern for a proportion of our membership.
Having already lost one club to bankruptcy, and the second one having hit administration in April 2013, we should not ignore this issue any longer as we know that the “it will never happen to us” argument, is far from the truth and you only need to look at the recent issues at other clubs at to see how trouble can rear its ugly head with little or no warning for supporters who are often kept in the dark and fed false hope by the people running their clubs.
Prior to the 2010-11 Trust AGM, initial research had already been carried out into this subject and the AFC Bournemouth scheme: Cherries Forever was identified as a model that could work successfully with the limited resources available for our Trust.
This initial research was proved worthwhile when, at the AGM, various attending members also raised the subject as one of their concerns about the future of the club and the apparent lack of plans being drawn up by the Trust in this area.
Three years on and during my time on the Trust Board, the idea was always pushed to the bottom of the pile and as such, the Stray Shots made the decision to press ahead - independently of the Shots Trust – who perhaps wished they had done something when fans were left wondering what to do when the club were hit with administration at the end of the 2012-13 season.
As previously mentioned, our club has limited resources available, but here at the Stray Shots, we do not believe that should be used as an excuse for “doing nothing”.
Isn’t the fund going against the Football Club and the Shots Trust?
We do not believe that this project is going against the Football Club or the current Board of Directors and it is certainly not a reflection on those currently or previously involved in running the club. Various members of the Shots Trust Board showed little to no interest in the project so it was no possible to run the fund without their support.
This scheme is designed as a “backup plan” should the Football Club get into serious financial difficulties in the future - not a plan to oust anyone.
What would the objectives of the fund be?
The objectives of the fund would be decided by the Shots Forever membership upon its initial set-up, but they must be clearly set out. By example, the Cherries Forever fund lists their fund objectives as being:
- Acquiring the future ownership and direction of the club.
- Purchase of a stadium.
- Helping to fund the club through any future administration and any “new” club set up.
Who decides how to spend the funds?
The only persons to decide will be fully paid up members of the fund in any season where the funds were required. A vote will be held when required. It is envisaged that the membership would nominate a suitably qualified person to perform any negotiating detail to define any specific offers or prices and their members and then paid up members would then vote on whether those offers or prices were worthy of utilising the fund.
Who would check that the scheme is running as it is designed?
We hope to gain three “Trustees” and if agreed, we would like to invite a Shots supporter, one non-Board member from the Trust and one representative from the Stray Shots. The role of each Trustee will be to meet once a season and produce a short paragraph on checking no money has been removed from the fund account, checking the balance of the account and to update on the best interest rates available from banking establishments.
What are the costs associated with the running the fund?
The fund would be a no-cost initiative. There would be no banking fees.
What account would be used?
A free banking account would be selected and become operational as soon as it was opened. The interest rate will be reviewed every year to ensure it continues to be a consistent high interest paying account. Any account selected must be free to operate without any charges.
How would the Stray Shots communicate the status of the fund?
On request. The Stray Shots website would also provide updates at least once each season.
What is the target amount?
There is no specific target amount. The fund will simply increase in size until the members wish to use it. There are initial amounts to aim for and these could be used as a form of "targetometer" ie £50000 for setting up a new club would be the first one, final one is enough to buy the ground and the club (if you don't aim high what's the point?)
What if the club do go bust before the fund is large enough?
If the club does happen to go bankrupt before the fund is large enough, all monies would be utilized and go towards assisting with setting up a new club.
What can the fund not be used for?
The fund would not be available for anything other than the objectives that had been set (ie: purchase of ATFC, stadium purchase or a new club start up).
For clarity it is not for any of the day-to-day expenses of the club. So it is not for wages, pitch maintenance, any club bills, helping fund a transfer, coach journeys, hotels etc.
Aren't you taking money away from the Trust?
This is being set up due to a member requirement following the issue being raised at the 2010-11 AGM. The Stray Shots encourage fans to continue to spend their money at the Football Club and to join the Shots Trust. 100% of each Stray Shots membership donation each season will be placed into the fund along with our quarterly site payment and any donations we receive.
Once I donate, do I have to keep putting money in or is it compulsory?
There is no compulsory amount or any need to continue putting money in unless you want to.
Why don't you give this money to the Club?
The Stray Shots are not a fundraising arm of the Football Club or the Trust. ATFC and the Shots Trust already have a number of ways that fans can give their money already through Season Tickets, Matchday Tickets, Club Shop, Hospitality, Sponsorship, Advertising, refreshments and other areas such as joining the Shots Trust.
Won't the Stray Shots end up giving this money to the club in the end if the club is desperate?
No. The fund will have clearly defined uses that we hope will eventually be entered in to the Stray Shots "Forever Shots" constitution in due course. The Members, by voting, will decide if any of the specific goals are to be actioned.
While carrying out research for this project, we saw that the Cherries Forever scheme drew some very public negative reaction from AFC Bournemouth Director Steve Sly who told the Daily Echo: “This unofficial venture is counter-productive and potentially damaging to your football club`s stability, both on and off the pitch.
"The progress being made is evident for all to see, so why these so-called supporters of this club choose to fundraise for another possible future entity is beyond belief...'
'...However, if you wish to fundraise or rally support for other future pipe dreams then you will not be made welcome by this board or, indeed, the vast majority of AFCB supporters."
With these comments in mind, at a Board meeting with previous CEO Peter Duffy (as part of the Shots Trust Board), he was asked for his views. He was clearly against any such fund, saying that any money was technically “wasted” and it would be far better being used for projects to help the club “now” rather than in many years time.
These views are equally valid and represent the other side of the coin which is why we can only act as donators to any such fund see’s fit.
It is also worth remembering however, a short time after he spoke these words, the club ended up in administration and the supporters – who remain the only constant at the club, were left to pick up the pieces… AGAIN.
While we at the Stray Shots do not want to upset anyone at the club, our overlying commitment is to act under the donators wishes and we would urge all members to consider this proposal carefully before making any donation in the future.
After discussing the proposed fund, the idea will be opened to donations and all members will be invited to decide on the “objectives” of the fund.
Having liaised with the AFC Bournmouth Trust (Cherries Trust) over the issues they faced, the fund will be started as of now in order to do all we can to safeguard the future existence of the football club.