I’m going to crack straight down to business this week, so let’s start with the elephant in the room, ‘the leak.’
We all now know the club is for sale, and we all now know, that the Co-operative have begun a very tentative process of enquiring about buying the club. In doing so, we were sent an email pamphlet by the club.
What happened next is simple. One of our board members, not believing there to be any embargo on the pamphlet as the ground was to go on general sale, passed it on to other people, simply to say, ‘Look, the clubs for sale.’
Of course, looking back, it’s been appreciated that the club didn’t want that news releasing then, but it causes us a problem, because while we strive to be transparent with our members, there now needs to be a bit more secrecy, because we have to respect that the club won’t want every detail of that transaction in the public arena whilst it’s ongoing.
So, we apologise to Lee, as we have already done privately, and we take ownership of that mistake, and we say it won’t happen again. It came from a well meaning place, not one of trying to upset the apple cart (why would we?) but, we all figure we need to be a lot more cautious as we move forward.
To that end, two things have happened. We have asked Supporter’s Direct to act as our representatives in the deal, and we also have to consider what we now make public when talking to you.
Let me make this clear though, we’re not going to be less transparent because of the leak, we have to be less transparent about the negotiations, out of respect of the sensitive nature of any transaction of this sort.
Personally, I wish that wasn’t so. I love that we try to be transparent, and I’ve tried to make that my big goal here, to show you what the Co-op do, because I felt it was something that needed doing better. To that end, we’ve been inviting members to come to our meetings, and last night, we had a member turn up.
Course, now, that put us in a tricky position, because said member wanted to hear what was happening with the bid, but given the stance of the club, we felt that we couldn’t be as open as we wanted. So we invited him to ask questions of us, and I hope we answered them.
Not that, at this point, there is much to tell. We have contacted the club, we have received the brochure, and SD will be taking it from here. No figures have been mentioned, we’ve not met with Lee, we don’t know if there are any other bidders, we’re just turning the key in the ignition at this point.
We were asked by the member, what we would be doing to safeguard the club, as he was concerned by the dwindling gates, and the long term viability of the club. It’s an absolutely bang on question. I can’t think there are many Boro’ fans who aren’t. I’ve gone from standing with a group of lads every Saturday, and having a few beers, and a good craic, win, lose or draw, to at times, being the only one of that group to turn out.
Was it something I said?
Probably not. And it worries me. Not just because people might think I’m a loser, used to that, but because of the ten people or so that I stood with, now at times, it’s only me. That’s a 90% reduction in our group, on gate fees, and an even higher reduction in the amount of cash thrown behind the bar, on account of me not having the tank some of them have.
We have all seen that in our own little microcosms, our own little pockets of fans, we can all pick people who have done a Thackeray, and it’s right we should be challenged on what we’re going to do to address that.
The answer is a complex one, and to be honest, it’s a different answer for each one of those fans we want to win back, and each one of the new fans we want to find. We want to do our research though, and as our bid progresses, you’ll see us out in town, asking the wider community their views of the Boro’, and how we can get them down there, and we’ll also be asking our membership.
There are of course things we want to see. We want to see kids of all ages playing in a Boro shirt. Have a look on the Bedworth website (I know, they have ‘leccy over there, who knew?) and see the picture of their team lining up with their kids teams. Joking aside, that’s incredible. I never thought I would be jealous of Bedworth, but I look at that photo, and I am. You get kids coming through your ranks, it doesn’t matter if they go onto play for you, they have an affinity with you, they go stand on the terraces, some of them for the rest of their lives.
And that’s just one point, of a plan that we’re beginning to pull together, that we will at some point, should this get closer, have to present to you, to convince you to back us. I could drone on for hours here about our visions, and that time will come.
I also sought answers to some of your questions. Obviously on the playing side, we couldn’t answer any of them last night, but if we get the chance to talk to KW, we will try and get them answered. But there were some great questions regarding the future of the club.
The two Marks asked questions, that hopefully we’ve answered in one. Yes, we would absolutely look at 51/49 ownership. We’d look at all options. If the right people come in with us, we want to have that to allow us to be open to outside investment, a problem that I think has been encountered at Telford, and they need to address. That sort of runs into Neil’s question, about whether we think businesses will invest in the club. They have done historically, and I know a fair number who do now, but if we can find out what it would take to get more involved, we’ll do it. I don’t believe that Nuneaton is the only town in the UK, where local businesses don’t want to be involved in their sports teams, so we’re confident we’ll get them on board.
Chris asked if we would look at buying the club without the ground. The truth is, that Supporter’s Direct official guidance is that fan groups should avoid this, as it takes away a key revenue stream, and I, personally, totally agree. It would be nigh on impossible to make the club work without the ground. Just look down the A444, to see a much larger club, in trouble in that situation. That doesn’t mean we wouldn’t talk to anyone looking to buy the ground and not the club, to see where we can fit in, and how we can make it work, but it means that it’s something we would be very reluctant to do, without some sort of favourable deal.
He also asked if the club are interested in selling to us, and if we know if they would wait on our bid. That’s one we can’t answer completely. Obviously we’re in talks, early talks, and we will learn more on that as the process goes on, but we’ve not been told to do one yet, so that’s a good start. If there is anyone else waiting in the wings, we don’t know, we’ll find out I’m sure, if they are, and they have the means, and then it’s on us to see what their aims are and what we can do to ensure the survival of the Boro’.
There were other things we talked about during the meeting. Again, Guy is doing sterling work in the community, and we continue to be impressed by his drive and passion for the club. He’s been a real asset to the club since he arrived, and he is working tirelessly to help the club realise it’s potential, even with it for sale. Genuinely think he’s been a great appointment, and the sub-committee that meet with him have nothing but praise for him.
Finally, the website will continue to be updated, and I’ve got a request, that may or may not come off… but here goes.
I’m hoping to create a visual representation of our membership, to show us all as we really are, Boro fans. So, to do that, it’d be really great if I could get full length photos of you all, in Boro kits if you’d like, to create a mural of our membership. The more we get, the less naff it will look.
I’d also like to let fans know, that on 12th November, at 2pm, the Co-operative will be holding a service for those Boro fans we have lost and are interred at the Memorial Garden. All are invited to pay their respects.
Finally, once again, a plea. To anyone, and everyone, that is out there who isn’t yet a member, to please join us at this time. And if you feel you can come on board, and have skills or expertise that can aid us going forward, do get in touch, as we have positions to co-opt new board members, to make our organisation stronger. Without you, we’re nothing.