Fan On The Board Our Opinion
We’ve seen and heard a few things in the press and on the message-boards about a main aim of the proposed trust to put a “fan” on the board. As you all know, the trust has not been formed yet and we are working towards a public Open Meeting early next year where we will present our proposals for the potential membership to vote on.
We have five aims for the trust which are currently in draft form which we expect to finalise over the next week or so, at that stage we will publicise an aim at a time and explain our rationale for each aim. In the meantime, we want to clarify the “Fan on the Board” issue as it is important that we continue to be clear on this subject.
However there seem to be a couple of myths around the issue of supporters as directors.
(1) Supporters don’t belong on the board.
We don’t believe this and neither do Supporters Direct. Chairmen, directors, managers and players come and go but fans are here for the long term. Who is better equipped to influence the long-term direction of the club? Who really has the long-term interest of the club at heart? Who will put that long-term interest before worrying how they are going to maximise or recover the value of their investment? Our fans, that’s who.
Of course any representative of the trust put forward for such a role must have the appropriate background and skills that will complement and enhance the current board. Any representative of the trust must not be there just to be the voice of the fans but to add something to the existing board. Many supporters of Manchester City probably have the requisite skills and experience. So do many supporters at other clubs.
Of course there are issues with having a trust representative on the board. The most obvious one is who their loyalty is to. Confidential matters discussed clearly can’t go out the boardroom. There needs to be agreement between all parties as to what can and can’t be reported to the trust. It’s not easy but it can be achieved and has been at a number of clubs.
(2) You have to have a lot of shares or put in a lot of money to be on the board.
Of the current board, John Wardle has around 16% of the shares in his own name and another 13% in trust with David Makin. They have put in a lot of money, which they’ve not received a penny of back. They are also undoubtedly fans. Mark Boler represents the shareholding of 18.75% built up by his late father. In both these circumstances, it is natural that they should have a seat on the board. The other three directors are there for their skills rather than their investment in either shares or cash.
The supporters of Manchester City have invested a lot of money in the club over many years. We pay for season tickets and buy club merchandise. We also own shares. The big four shareholders own two thirds of the shares so we can assume that fans hold the other third, in various quantities. That’s more than double the holding of John Wardle.
From when we started in earnest three months ago and more recently on Thursday 2 November 2006 on this blog we have made our views known. The formation of the trust is a good few months off and it is too early to tell how much support or funds will be raised.
We have already said that representation on the board of Manchester City plc will depend upon the amount of shares under the direct and indirect control of the trust and the views of the trust membership. It will also depend, as we’ve already said on having potential representatives with the appropriate experience. However, we're not worrying about that at the moment as it's a long way off.
Until the appropriate time, discussion about representation on the board is premature but we do feel that when the trust has a significant shareholding either directly and/ or indirectly it will be an important issue for the board of the trust and it’s membership, at that time, to debate internally before approaching Manchester City plc.
One thing that we can be sure of, is that not one of us feels that we have the requisite skills or experience to be able to represent the trust on the board of Manchester City Plc should or when that time comes.