As promised, The Jags Foundation has examined the PTFC Trust proposal document (published on Friday). We are told this formed the basis of their offer to Three Black Cats (3BC) for the majority shareholding at Partick Thistle. Far from clarifying matters, the document raises further serious questions. The same must also be said for both the trustees interview with journalist James Cairney and the Club Board Q&A published on the PTFC Trust’s Facebook page yesterday.
We fully appreciate that some people find these back-and-forth exchanges antagonistic and draining. But our members want, and have asked, us to provide leadership and candid appraisal of what is being done. We would be more than happy to discuss these matters face-to-face with the PTFC Trustees, and our Chair has, today, reached out to the trustees in a renewed attempt to open dialogue. Our frustrations are borne out of the fact that they have been uncooperative with requests for information we have made on hundreds of their own beneficiaries’ behalves. Dialogue requires reciprocation.
We have a more detailed document, which you can access using the button at the bottom of this page, but what follows is a high-level summary of its contents.
While the aspired values of the PTFC Trust are completely unobjectionable (and cover very similar themes to our own Vision Statement) we don’t think they are embodied in the recent actions of the trustees. The Trust lacks credibility to deliver on those going forward. They haven’t been open. They aren’t democratic. They have, in several ways, disrespected the fanbase with their clandestine activity, lack of professionalism and persistent failure to disclose key information.
There is still no clarity about how, and to what extent, those without a season ticket can participate in this revamped organisation. They are an afterthought in the PTFC Trust proposals.
The PTFC Trust still won’t tell us the nature and extent of involvement of all parties other than the current trustees since March. They say Club Directors weren’t involved in “drafting the wording” of the proposals but it seems clear, by inference, they did have influence over the structure and substance. We think the PTFC Trust minutes from March 2022 onwards should clear this up. When will they be disclosed to the hundreds of beneficiaries on whose behalf we requested them?
The fans will have no say at all over whether this organisation accepts the shares, even though it claims to speak for 1600 of them. They won’t get to elect any of the trustees before any share transfer, and the body won’t be fully elected until (at least) May 2025. We think this isn’t good enough.
The story on whether the Trust requested club board representation and why – or why not – has changed more times in a fortnight than Ian McCall’s back four this season. It is disrespectful to expect the fans to swallow revisionist accounts of the negotiations every time the answer looks embarrassing for PTFC Trust, 3BC and/or the Club Board. We think these proposals are completely inadequate.
Fans are being sold short, not just on fan representation, but also on the lack of legally enforceable safeguards under this model. The reliance on a memorandum of understanding is extremely concerning, and not consistent with best-practice at other clubs like Motherwell, St Mirren and Hearts. The trustees’ duty is to provide a settlement that endures when the current PTFC Board of Directors, and the current PTFC Trust trustees, are long gone. A memorandum doesn’t deliver that. A legally binding agreement, like we asked for, could.
The Trust is taking far too much of what the Club Board says about finances at face value. Instead of simply accepting that the Club budgets for break-even, the underlying assumptions should be probed by any prudent prospective majority shareholder.
This means going beyond the audited annual accounts and asking more searching questions about whether, and to what extent, the current majority shareholder has, directly or indirectly, provided financial support in recent years. The inability of the trustees to answer basic financial questions about the published accounts at the recent Q&A does not inspire confidence as to the Club’s stability.
The absence of meaningful Trust-led fundraising places this “innovative” fan ownership model out of step with those at other Clubs. We continue to be baffled at this.
Not what was promised
Fans can see how far these proposals have drifted from what was sold to the outgoing shareholders, to Thistle For Ever, to the wider fan base, back in the autumn of 2019. The wool can’t be pulled over their eyes.
The proposed model is deeply flawed, lacks the buy-in of the support, and is broken in ways that will be difficult to fix even several years down the line. Most of what is on offer for a 74% shareholder in a football club is available to supporters’ associations across the land with a minority shareholding or even no shareholding at all.
This proposal isn’t a viable way to help the Thistle support unite and move on. It’s a charter for stagnation, as deeply inadequate arrangements keep getting squabbled over and revisited.
It’s time for everyone to take stock, dispassionately and candidly assess whether this is really in the interests of Partick Thistle, and to revert to a more conventional form of fan ownership. One that is proven to work at other Clubs, and in which the fans actually had some involvement in developing.