History of the Supporters’ Trust
In December 2001, the directors of Bootham Crescent Holdings plc (“BCH”) announced that York City Association Football and Athletic Club plc was for sale. Under the management of Douglas Craig and his fellow directors, the Club had underachieved at income generation and spent excessively on costs – particularly since the 1999/2000 season, which coincided with the creation of the holding company (BCH) and the ownership of Bootham Crescent being stripped out of the Club. At best this management can be described as “poor”. Some have described it as “deliberately destructive”.
In January 2002, the directors of BCH announced their intention to sell Bootham Crescent and slapped a £4.5 million price tag on the site. Bootham Crescent has been the home of York City since 1932. The supporters have invested in the site financially and emotionally for 70 years. The increase in value of the assets is largely due to the good fortune of location in a city with booming property prices. It was not due to the management of the Club over the past ten years, yet it was they who sought to profit at the expense of the club and the community. The actions of the BCH directors have been widely condemned.
In March 2002, John Batchelor acquired the Club from BCH for just £1. At the same time, and unbeknown to the Trust, Batchelor pocketed a £400,000 payment and the Club’s security of tenure at Bootham Crescent was ended. Batchelor was in control of the Football Club for just eight months. He fed his own ego with a series of sometimes bizarre media utterings and lined his own pocket with the proceeds from the so-called sponsorship money that was supposed to have come to the Club. It transpired that Batchelor made a bad situation worse.
In April 2002 BCH entered into a secret deal with property company Persimmon plc (who happen to be headquartered in York), such that Persimmon would buy Bootham Crescent for £3.5 million when vacant possession is achieved (i.e. the football club has been ousted). In July 2002 Persimmon submitted a planning application to demolish York City’s Bootham Crescent home and replace it with 93 houses.
Having diverted the £400,000 away from the Football Club, Batchelor also committed the Club to costs far beyond its means such that, by December 2002, the Club had accumulated debts of around £1 million that, without corrective action, were forecast to climb by up to a further £3/4 million by June 2003. As the Club was plunged into Administration, the threat of the Club being liquidated was a very real prospect. The Club had been driven to the brink of extinction.
Some people said the club was “beyond salvation”, but the Supporters’ Trust was not prepared to let York City die. Liquidation would not only have meant an immediate end to the season for York City; it would also have been the end of York City as a Football League Club and the end of employment to all the players and other staff. And, of course, it would have been the end of the Club for the supporters and the community.
Building Trust between Community and Club
The Trust is the main body through which the supporters of York City have acted.
With the help of Supporters Direct, the York City Supporters’ Society Limited (known as “the Trust”) – an Industrial and Provident Society – was formed in record time in January 2002. This was against a backdrop of the serious threat from owners BCH to close down the Club in April 2002 (they had, in fact, lodged a letter of resignation with the League as part of their plan). Aided by the Evening Press Save City Campaign, the Trust generated an enormous amount of support, publicity, fundraising and positive action for the benefit of the Football Club.
From the outset, the Trust established a set of guiding principles. Principles that were, unfortunately, alien to some of the parties that Trust representatives have had to deal with.
The Supporter’s Trust stands for:
- Community values
- Democracy and representation
- Commitment and solid organisation
- Business values aligned to all of the above.
Back in June 2002 the members of the Trust (of around 1,400 supporters) elected a Board to carry out the Trust’s work. That is, a small group of City fans who were prepared to volunteer their time and efforts to help save the Club they love. The work of the Trust has been led by that Board.
The Trust Board comprised Steve Beck (Vice Chair), Mike Brown, John Catton, Kirsten Gillies, Terry Herbert, Ian Hey, Graham Kilby, Sophie McGill, Paul Rawnsley, Peter Rookes, Michael Shannon, Richard Snowball and Richard Willis.
Since then, there have been various individuals who have joined and left the Trust board. There have also been plenty of other City fans who have also applied their time and money to help the cause. It has always been acknowledged that the success of City’s Trust is due to the efforts of many people and the positive support that the Trust has both created and received. Since it was first created, the achievements of the Trust have been portrayed as a team effort, which it has always been.
The ‘Save City’ Campaign
From the very start – back in January 2002 – the Trust set out to ensure the continuation of professional football in York and to secure representation for supporters in the ownership and running of York City Football Club. In November 2002, when it became starkly apparent that we could be facing the end of York City, the Trust set itself one ultimate objective:
“To work to save York City Football Club from extinction so that our Club could continue playing in the Football League.”
Everything that was done by the Trust up to March/April 2003 was carried out with this objective in mind. All those involved in the Trust’s work are genuine life long fans with only the best interests of York City at heart. All of the actions and decisions of the Trust Board have been carefully considered and have been made on the basis of what the Trust Board, as an elected body, believed was in the best interests to save York City for our community.
Eventually, against all the odds, the supporters of York City saved the club by raising £600,000 and purchasing the assets of the company from the administrators. The Trust formed a new company, York City Football Club Ltd in which it was an 85% shareholder, with the remaining 15% being owned by director Jason McGill.
Operating the Club
Following the acquisition of the Football Club, the Trust appointed a board of directors to manage the day to day running of the club. Working on a voluntary basis, the board comprised of Steve Beck, Jason McGill, Sophie Mcgill, Ian McAndrew, Mike Brown and Terry Doyle.
Shorly after the takeover, the football club negotiated a low-interest loan of £2 million from the Football Foundation which would allow it to acquire a majority shareholding in Bootham Crescent Holdings and thus provide security of tenure for the football club for the foreseeable future. The loan agreement included a condition that the club would seek to relocate to a new stadium by 2014. Furthermore, an agreement was reached with Persimmon Homes in respect of options to acquire Bootham Crescent when the ground was vacated by the club.
At the start of the 2003/04 season (our first in control of the club) we achieved a maximum 12 points from four games and the future of the club was looking incredibly positive. However, by the end of the season, the turbulence of the previous years took its toll and the football club was relegated from League 2 to the Conference.
Sale of the club to JM Packaging Ltd
By mid-2006, it was clear that the Trust could not continue to operate the club at a profit. In previous months, Club director Jason McGill had loaned the club £350,000 in order to ensure it remained solvent. In April 2006, Jason McGill requested repayment of this loan but also suggested an alternative arrangement whereby he would acquire 75% of the shares in the club in return for additional funding.
In June 2006, the Supporters’ Trust held an EGM at York’s Barbican Centre attended by some 700 members. The members were asked to vote upon a motion to transfer 75% of the club to JM Packaging (a company owned by Jason McGill) in consideration of a) withdrawal of the demand for repayment of the loan and b) additional loans of up to £650,000 over several years. Trust members approved the motion by a large majority and the transfer of ownership was subsequently completed in February 2007.
The Supporter’s Trust continues to be a 25% share holder in York City Football Club Ltd and plays an active role in protecting its future.