AGM 2022 – Summary

Held in the Glass Bar, Brunton Park, Sunday July 31, 2022

Resolutions

  1. To accept the 2021-22 accounts: FOR 200 AGAINST 8 ABSTAINED 2
  2. To accept an independent examination of the accounts for next year, in place of a full audit: FOR 202 AGAINST 5 ABSTAINED 3
  3. To allow the board to set the remuneration of the auditors: FOR 200 AGAINST 8 ABSTAINED 2

Board Election results

Dan Maclennan 149 votes, Matt Spooner 146, Chris Armstrong 141, Dave Noble 140, Kieron Bulman 134, Billy Atkinson 93, Gerard Gornall 88, Norman Steel 56

Link to the report of the Independent Returning Officer

A question and answer session followed, chaired by Frank Beattie.

Frank began by thanking both Jim Mitchell and Norman Steel for their long service to the Trust. He paid tribute to Norman for his loan in 2006 which allowed the Trust to take a 25.4% stake in CUFC Holdings Ltd. Norman said that others had helped towards the acquisition of the shares.

The new board members present introduced themselves alongside existing board members and secretary.

Frank stated in response to a question that the board intended to continue working with both Gerard Gornall and Norman who had finished outside the top six in the election. Billy Atkinson said the Trust wouldn’t exist without the likes of Norman being involved from the beginning.

Matt Spooner stated it was time for everyone to work together. Dan Maclennan echoed this view, saying it would be ‘foolish’ to shut out Norman. He said it was important to remember the Trust didn’t belong to the board but to the supporters.

Ross Parkinson said more people should become involved to help the Trust. Dan said there was talent within the fanbase that should be utilised.

Frank agreed with those sentiments. He referred to personal attacks aimed at CUOSC board members in the recent past which had contributed to some people walking away from their positions. He reiterated that all board members were unpaid volunteers who received no perks. He made reference to the volunteers who help pack season tickets every year, saving club staff a lot of work.

He then moved on to the issue of the PurePay debt. He made reference to the club’s offer to PurePay which has so far not been responded to.

Billy stated the club’s business model means it loses about £500k every season. He said the move to increase the CUOSC board size to 10 was an attempt to get more fans involved. He said he was surprised to be re-elected.

Dan said the Unita Fortior-aligned board members being elected was not a ‘coup’ but it was time to move forward.

George Graves proposed a vote of thanks to both Norman and Jim for their efforts.

Ross said that while people should not be abusive on social media, this was sometimes the result of a lack of response to questions put. He said he had turned to the independent returning officer Neil Le Milliere to get some answers during the election period.

Matt said some ‘feedback’ received had been ‘misconstrued’ as personal criticism. It was time he said to learn from past mistakes.

Frank said that the board couldn’t always respond as quickly as it liked due to legal implications and the need to get agreement of board and sometimes the club.

He proposed a consultation with members should take place about the role of CUOSC in fundraising. The club had stated a desire for the CUSG, the umbrella body representing most active fans’ groups, as the main fundraising body.

Matt said that anyone should be able to raise funds to help the club. He said the CUOSC brand may need some work. He said there were two separate strands to what CUOSC did – the supporters club element and the shareholding/representation element.

Billy said the name had been changed to CUOSC (in 2015) for the right reasons. He wasn’t sure those reasons still applied. He said it was necessary to work closely together as supporters and with the club to find a way forward.

Dan said there was an expectation amongst supporters that CUOSC should be raising funds.

Simon Clarkson stated a preference for two new reps on the CUSG from CUOSC who could focus on fundraising. He said the CUSG needed a bit of a re-boot, but that it was an important vehicle to get information from the club. He said the club needed more money to help improve the ground in many areas. He said the problem of finding a permanent chair of CUSG was close to being solved and a new person should be in position by next week.

Matt said the CUSG only existed due to what he called the ‘failings’ of CUOSC. He said CUOSC should look to absorb the away travel function and bring in the disabled fans’ group. He said the groups in place today are too small. A bigger CUOSC could make the CUSG less important, he said. He called for a change in the way we do things as supporters.

Dan said none of these changes could happen overnight, but CUOSC could become bigger.

Simon stated that the raising of funds needs to be better targeted.

Frank called on the ‘rank and file’ members at the meeting to have their say. He said that one of the main roles of CUOSC today was to ensure the club was run in the right way.

Ross said that CUOSC has to look to do more. The recent football fun day could turn in a big profit of £2k-£3k if it was expanded. He suggested a sporting dinner with a big name attached could bring in a similar sum.

Billy stated that PurePay have a number of backers in the Middle East. The amount owed was given as £2.3m in the last club accounts and was rising by about £7k a month due to accruing interest.

Kate Rowley asked Billy to confirm if there was still a debenture on the ground. Billy said there was. She said there were three main issues the Trust had to deal with. First was the Trust element and the shares, second the need to fundraise to help the club and third the need to deal with the remaining debt owed to Norman.

Billy confirmed that CUOSC retain a 25.4% voting stake in Holdings even though the actual stake is now down below that level. The other shares issued recently were all non-voting ‘B’ shares.

Norman was being repaid every month and the amount owed was diminishing each year. He said he was on the ‘last lap’ of repayments and expected the full amount to be paid off soon. He expected the current arrangements to stay in place until that happens.

Frank took the opportunity to apologise for a problem with the Zoom meeting, although this was eventually overcome with eight members connecting using that method.

Alastair Woodcock as secretary agreed that the full report on the board elections from Neil Le Milliere would be made available to members.

Frank said the manifesto remained in draft form and would need further discussion. It had been made available to members and their comments about it had been discussed and would be absorbed into any changes. The large survey of supporters at the end of last year had formed the major part of the input into this document.

He added that a plan had been adopted to get the new board together at the invitation of Gerard who was sponsoring the Swindon Town game on August 13. This would comprise a workshop with a chance to develop ideas for the board to work on.

Claire Winder put on record her acknowledgement of Nigel Davidson’s election to the National Council of the FSA. Nigel said he was elected as an individual but that his work for CUOSC, the club and the CUSG was important in getting him elected. Claire hoped that his work would help the CUOSC Board become more diverse.

Kyle Sproat asked if CUOSC would now ‘merge’ with Unita Fortior. He also wished to thank Norman for his efforts.

Matt said UF was always going to be ‘temporary’. It had been a ‘call to arms’ he said, and had now managed to increase the membership. Dan said the UF social media platforms would be ‘mothballed’.

Dan said the message to go out now should be ‘Come on board, we’re all here for you’.

Billy said there was a long standing issue with CUOSC and CUFC being ‘tarred with the same brush’. He said with the changes introduced last season there had been a new start and a chance to build something positive again. He reiterated how ‘difficult’ negotiations had been with EWM. He said that without CUOSC’s presence on the Holdings board nothing would have changed.

Frank told a story about a Newcastle United fan who had told him that they had ‘no communication’ with their board. He said the question to ask them was ‘How can we help?’. This change of approach was often what was needed to start breaking down barriers.

Billy said that for years in the past, CUOSC had been ‘excluded’ from decision-making even with a significant shareholding. He gave credit to Nigel Clibbens for making a ‘massive’ difference. We were now working with the club more effectively, he said.

A question from the floor questioned the lack of women on the board. There was a lack of knowledge about some of the volunteer work CUOSC do, especially the season ticket packing. There were offers from the floor to join the volunteer effort.

Don Beacock proposed a change to CUOSC’s structure. He talked about having a group of trustees, maybe only 2 or 3 in number, to look after the shareholding. He spoke of a need to ‘divest’ any responsibility for the shares and focus on the operating entity. Kate seconded this proposal.

A comment from the floor said there had been confusion in the past over the different roles performed by Supporters Club and Trust, due to some people being involved with both. Should the supporters’ club and trust elements be completely separated?

Norman reminded the meeting that the shares are legally protected by the 2006 agreement.

Billy said the aim was to consult the membership on any changes of shareholding. The proposed EWM takeover in 2019 would have meant the end of that agreement and its replacement, he said.

Ross stated that a new deal with the club could bring more benefits for members. There was already priority on tickets for some big matches and a club shop discount.

Kate said that it might be possible to put £5 from an increased £15 membership fee towards the Trust ‘element’ of CUOSC.

John Kukuc said it was an issue for some fans that they didn’t get a say in any deal done with EWM for a takeover. That deal did not proceed in the end, but confidentiality had been demanded so CUOSC felt they had to honour that in any negotiations.

Matt called for structured and more frequent members’ meetings. Kyle said that it was difficult to get decent numbers of fans to attend such meetings. Simon said that a larger match day presence within the fan zone might mean such meetings weren’t as important.

George Graves said that Dick Young had been very effective in doing deals with businesses in the past. Matt agreed that more commercial support could help CUOSC.

At that point, Frank as chair declared the meeting closed.