We would like to start this communication with an apology. It has been sometime since we wrote to you and we appreciate that the lack of information from ourselves has been a great source of frustration.
We will also give a commitment that the Board of WST will communicate direct to members on a more frequent basis. This may not be every day, or even every week, but you will notice an increase in the amount of information we will be making available.
Rest assured we have not been idle, and in the remainder of this communication, we will attempt to convey our recent activity.
Diary of Events
As previously communicated, the board of WST met with the directors of Wrexham Village (WV) in April 2010. At that meeting the idea that WST could acquire the club and ground was raised by Messrs Roberts and Atkinson.
Subsequent requests to follow up this proposal were not successful until WV agreed to meet us in October 2010. At that meeting WV agreed to share figures with WST in order to move the discussion forward. We wrote to them several times but they would not provide us with the information that we had been promised.
During this period the Board had been working on developing a vision and business plan that would enable us to take the club forward.
After Christmas the events started to move quickly. Firstly, on Jan 3rd, it was revealed by Ian Roberts that the owners of the club were intent on removing the Racecourse from the ownership of the club. The intention was to charge the club a maintenance charge for its use. Following this we learned that the Rugby League had a mortgage on the Racecourse of £700k. This was to cover money owed to the RFL by Messrs Moss and Roberts.
A bidder for the club emerged in the shape of ex-Shrewsbury Director, Rob Bickerton. It soon became apparent that Mr Bickerton was fronting the bid for Steven Vaughan through the Van Morten vehicle. Another bidder Mr Steven Cleeve also came forward.
Over the previous weeks, the WST had held meetings with Supporters Direct, various local and national bodies and had been working towards a launch deadline date of March 14th. Our proposal was gaining momentum and was warmly received by all parties involved.
At this stage we were expecting to go to members and the public with our offer and call for the support of the whole community in putting forward our bid to buy the club and ground.
However, on February 22nd Cllr Phil Wynn launched his press bid to buy the football club and Stephanie Booth also indicated that she was interested in becoming involved with the club.
We invited Cllr Wynn to meet with us at our board meeting on the evening of the 23rd. Having discussed his thoughts with us it was clear that Cllr Wynn had not formulated any strategy or plan beyond clearing the clubs immediate debts. As a part of our proposal would do similar we invited him to support the WST bid in order to ensure a united fans bid. He asked for time to consider this and later declined the invitation.
On the 24th we met with Stephanie Booth with a view to enlisting her help with our bid. Let’s just say, it was not an easy meeting. We were informed by Stephanie that we needed to drop our bid and come in with her. Unfortunately she could give us no more details on her proposal as she was in the early stages of her bid. We offered Ms Booth a few weeks in which to formulate some proposals that we could put before the membership. This was not acceptable to Ms Booth. Subsequently and as widely reported in the press, this has been an unpleasant and unnecessary cause of division in the Wrexham FC fan base.
On March 2nd we met with the directors of WV for the first time since October. Also present was a representative of the Council and the Crusaders Chief Exec, Rod Findlay. At this meeting we were informed by WV that no decision had been taken on the ownership issue, that the RFL had an interest in acquiring the stadium and would look at different ownership models for it. We were told that, subject to a confidentiality agreement being signed, our advisors would finally be given access to the club’s accounts in order to conduct a preliminary due diligence. The owners of WV stated that they would sell to the first party that could meet their requirements.
The following evening we met Stephanie Booth for the second time. This time the meeting was held in front of council officials. At this meeting Ms Booth continued her antagonistic approach towards the WST representatives. During the meeting Ms Booth explained that she did not want to own the club and would only want to control the Stadium.
We are very aware that our members and the wider fan-base are anxious for us to work with Ms Booth on a joint bid. Despite the needless antagonism promoted by Ms Booth we would also like to see a joint and unified bid for the club and would be prepared to work with her, or any other party, to move the club forward.
On Saturday, to no great surprise, Stephanie was unveiled as the preferred bidder for the club. She released a mini manifesto detailing her proposals. It would be inappropriate for us to comment fully on these proposals until we have seen the full official version, however we have release a press statement commenting upon the draft.
Following discussions over the weekend, our main backer has withdrawn their support for a WST bid due to their reluctance to get involved in a bidding war with other locally based consortia.
Naturally we are disappointed although there may be an opportunity to engage with this party at some point in the near future.
This setback has left a hole in our finances and makes it difficult, but not impossible for us to complete a deal. We still have the option of taking the bid forward supplemented by share issues in the Stadium and Club.
However this would lead us into direct competition with Ms Booth and it is our opinion that two consortia chasing the same investment money would be a recipe for disaster.
As a result of the withdrawal of our backer, coupled with the lack of access to the club’s financial information, our public meeting on the 14th has now been cancelled.
Where do we go from here?
Under these circumstances it would be prudent for us to park the WST bid for the time being and look for other opportunities to help secure the future of our club.
WST is the largest fans group and our financial position will probably make us the largest single block investor in any club purchase vehicle. We need to recognise this and proceed accordingly to secure best deal for Wrexham Football Club.
Thus, it is our belief that Stephanie Booth’s bid needs the involvement of the WST, and the wider fans movement, in order to succeed. We cannot see a queue of investors willing to invest c£400k in Wrexham FC.
We would like to sit down with Stephanie, once her proposals have been finalised, and discuss the involvement of the WST.
There are other options open to us.
Over the weekend WST representatives met with representatives of another consortia and the council. They are keen to take on the football club and have the WST work with them on rebuilding the club. The meeting was an initial discussion and we have agreed to meet with them again to learn more about their proposals.
We are given to understand that there may be other parties out there who are considering a bid for the club. We would appeal to them to come forward, in confidence, and speak to the largest fans group about their proposals.
The board of the society now believe it is right to return to our membership in order to gauge opinion and seek confirmation on our future strategy.
It is likely that we will be talking to different parties and trying to negotiate the best possible long term deal for our club.
Remember that as fans we hold different perspectives to other parties and our interest in the future of the club is deeper and stronger than an outside investor. Players, managers and directors come and go. We remain though good and bad and any settlement that we reach has to reflect that passion and commitment to the club that we all feel.
When we negotiate on behalf of the fans we need to do so confident in the knowledge that our objectives are clear and supported by our membership.
It is our intention to canvas the opinions of our membership regarding our objectives in these discussions.
As such we intend to call an EGM to let members decide the underlying principles of our position.
As an example:
- Would it not be unreasonable to expect any prospective owner to have a realistic and workable business plan for the club?
- We would surely want to see the Stadium protected from falling into the hands of property developers.
- Should the company be structured in such a way that it can attract grant funding?
What do you, the members feel is important?
We would like to hear your ideas on this critical issue. What do you want your club to look like? Tell us and we will take that mandate into negotiations with every party we sit down with.
Every member should be responding to this request. Because of the urgency involved in all of this we are allowing a week in which members can feed back to the board.
We will then require a short time to collate and assemble the EGM pack. Our constitution requires us to give 14 days notice of an EGM and so in the very near future we will set the date for the EGM meeting – details will follow in our next communication.
The strength of any organisation is in the commitment of its membership. We all need to take up this responsibility and make our collective voices heard.
Online enabled members can discuss their ideas on the WST forum at www.wst.org.uk (you may need to register before posting if you’ve not already done so)
To return via post - please return in an envelope with just the words FREEPOST WST as the address no stamp required.
We will take all submissions and fashion a workable list for members to discuss and vote on.
Many thanks for your emails of support and offers of help.
The Society Board of the Wrexham Supporters Trust.