On the 16th September 2021, the Supporters’ Trust held a Special General Meeting at the Burton Stone Working Mens’ Club to debate and vote upon the members’ motion shown below.
“We move that the Supporter’s Trust board makes a public declaration of no confidence in the boards of York City Football Club Ltd and its subsidiary companies.”
The total valid votes cast were 309 of which 282 were in favour of the motion and 27 against. This represents a 91% majority in favour and passes the two-thirds majority required to give formal instruction to the Trust board. The turnout was 29.4% of our 1050 membership, which is roughly consistent with previous SGMs held in 2018 and 2006.
The Supporters’ Trust and a large majority of its members clearly have no confidence in the football club or its subsidiary company boards. Their record speaks for itself, but the Trust would like to outline why we believe our members have reached this verdict.
In 2006, the fans entrusted Jason McGill and his company to take ownership and guardianship of our beloved football club. We recognise that this was a huge undertaking for him, his family and his business.
At the time and given the club’s turbulent history in the early 2000s, many fans were concerned that without proper protections our football club could again become a closed autocracy, disengaged, and disconnected from the community it has served for almost a century.
But the trust placed in Jason McGill wasn’t unconditional. It came with an agreed set of assurances, responsibilities, a spirit of partnership and numerous checks and balances designed to protect him, his company, the fans, the Trust and our cherished community football club. These commitments were enshrined in a written legal framework that was negotiated, agreed, and signed by all parties. It was designed to ensure that history couldn’t repeat itself.
At the time, nobody could have predicted a 10-year delay in the stadium project, a global pandemic or the club’s slide into regional 6th-tier football. But despite those hurdles, a model existed that could have helped to mitigate these unprecedented challenges together.
So, Jason McGill and his co-directors did not have to tackle these challenges alone. Over the past 15 years, they have chosen to divorce themselves from the wealth of goodwill of the fans and their binding commitments to us all. These choices have only served to amplify a negative and toxic atmosphere at the football club and fuel growing mistrust amongst the fans. We remain at a loss to understand why they made that choice.
A catalogue of poor business decisions, lack of effective communications and disrespect shown to the fans have sent the club into a vicious cycle of falling revenues and spiralling debt. Any football club that systematically disenfranchises its supporters, volunteers and sponsors will never deliver a successful and viable business either on or off the pitch. With constructive engagement with the fans, this would have all been entirely unavoidable.
Part of the charm of football is that we come together as a passionate and faithful tribe working together in harmony with our club, particularly during times of adversity. This togetherness goes to the heart of what a football club is, why it exists and how it can succeed.
Whilst we thank the club’s Managing Director Steven Kilmartin for taking his time to attend and answer member’s questions, sadly his responses were woefully inadequate. There are clear fundamental issues that underpin the club’s substantial losses, league position and uncertain future. Fans do recognise that we can’t always expect success, but there seems to be an unwillingness by the board to even accept there are any problems.
At the core of York City’s challenges is the sad erosion of the close affinity that so many fans feel toward the club. They feel let down by the broken promises, systematic management failures, terrible customer service, poor communications, data protection breaches, ticketing problems, verbal abuse, threats of physical violence, a constant blame game, and a lack of effective leadership or governance. Many fans don’t even recognise the football club as their own anymore. They feel painted as an inconvenience and sometimes even the enemy.
The directors seem to be in denial, accepting this tragic fate and simply borrowing more money to deal with the fallout. No consumer-facing business can solve its problems without first acknowledging, understanding, and confronting them head on. Give the customer what they want and the respect they deserve, and many of the financial pressures will naturally melt away.
It is for the club board to reflect on the outcome of this vote and the implications it has for themselves and the club’s future. It represents a wakeup call from the fans without whom there would be no club. If they choose to ignore it, then the problems will only worsen and the bottom line will become an increasingly deep shade of red.
The Trust encourages the board to consider their willingness to meet their moral, fiduciary, constitutional, contractual, statutory, and legal responsibilities. Moreover, they might wish to reflect on their own abilities to effectively communicate, engage and empathise with the club’s customers. Thousands of loyal fans expect and deserve much better.
Over many years, the Trust has offered opportunities for direct dialogue to rekindle the partnership that the fans entered into in good faith. Yesterday’s vote shows that their patience has now worn thin.
The Trust recognises the commercial realities and have been more than willing to reach compromises and find solutions in the best interests of the football club and its majority shareholder. It is disappointing that this has been met with blank refusal to talk and repeated attempts to discredit the Trust. This in itself has only led to further mistrust and further loss of revenues for the football club.
No matter how difficult it might be, the Trust are still willing to seek amicable solutions, but the club board first need to recognise the failings, work harder to meet their obligations, and face up to some tough questions. We want to talk, but they must be in no doubt that if necessary, the Supporters’ Trust is prepared to use every legal mechanism at our disposal to protect the future of the football club.
York City fans are sometimes an irrationally optimistic bunch and the Trust are confident there can be a brighter, debt-free and financially viable future for the football club. We need to take stock, heal some wounds, and go back to basics with a clear vision, mission and plan. Only then can the fans’ confidence be restored, and the club’s future secured.