Saturday, 4 May 2013

Chelsea Supporters Trust Special General Meeting

Notes of Chelsea Supporters Trust Special General Meeting held at 17.45 on Sunday 28/4/13

These notes focus on issues raised by the CST Working Group at the meeting, and answers to questions raised by members.

1.  Membership
Working Group Update
There have been a number of teething glitches with the In Touch membership system, which are beyond the Trust’s control and these are being addressed. More members have joined the CST that had been envisaged in the two months since the launch, even without taking into account affiliate groups.  To get over 1000 members of the CST in such a short space of time had been beyond Working Group (WG) expectations.  The split of paid to unpaid members is approximately 40/60.  As part of the ongoing membership drive, a further leafleting day will take place at the last home game of the season against Everton.

Q.  What are the benefits of being a voting member?
A.  The biggest benefit is making your voice heard with the club.  The membership survey will be a strong tool in identifying key areas of concern to our membership, and future surveys will only be open to paid-up members.  Only paid-up members will be able to attend the AGM and vote in the board elections.  In addition, a CST badge will be available to all paid-up members, and discounts given at future social events.
Q.  Does the 1000+ members included groups? 
A.  This figure only represents individuals. The CST will have a better idea of the number of individuals covered by affiliates nearer the AGM.   Affiliates will benefit from a strapline on the website and a dedicated Affiliates page. 
Q.  How many affiliates have signed up? 
A.  Around 30 have signed up and discussions are under way with groups in Dublin and Copenhagen, amongst others.  

A healthy turnout of members at the Chelsea Supporters Trust Special General Meeting

2.  Membership Survey
Working Group Update
Everyone in the room should have received the membership survey.  Its purpose is to find out the main concerns of members prior to the AGM and establish what matters to them.  This will help shape future CST priorities once the board has been elected.
So far responses are split 50/50 between Voting and Non-Voting members.  The survey will provide the CST with a strong mandate going forward, help set the agenda for next season and help give the CST legitimacy with the club as it will be able to say ‘This is what matters to our membership’.
This is probably the biggest ever independent survey of Chelsea supporters and the press might well be interested.  CM confirmed that in excess of 250 responses had been received in just the first couple of days following distribution of the survey and pro-rata this was probably already a better return than the club's own survey.

Q.  When will the survey results be published? 
A.  The survey closes at the end of May, and analysis will take place thereafter.  Analysis of the results should be fairly quick and they would probably be available mid-Summer and formally presented at the AGM.  The earlier the results are available, the more time members will have to consider them prior to the AGM. 

3.  Stakeholder Engagement – club, council, CPO etc
Working Group Update
The Trust has already had one meeting with club executives, and a second is scheduled for early May.  The original feeling of the Working Group had been that the club would give them a short initial meeting - this subsequently lasted nearly 90 minutes and was seen to have been informative and useful on both sides.  The follow-up meeting scheduled for early May is at the request of the club, not the behest of the WG. 
The CST will not be ‘going to scratch the clubs backs’ – the CST will be willing to help the club, but will not be afraid to tell them is something is going wrong.  We believe that over time the club will see the CST as a legitimate, democratic organisation, representing its membership.
The importance of building contacts with the local community was stressed.  There has been initial WG contact with H&F Council and future dialogue will take place once the elected board have a clear mandate.  The CST will also be looking to build relationships with local businesses, and is happy to visit affiliate groups.
The CST will move forward on their position with regards to Chelsea Pitch Owners, and open dialogue, once the Board was mandated following the August elections.

Q.  Will the Working Group be asking the club to promote the CST? 
A.  It is important that the CST is seen as independent. 
Q.  How many members did the WG think it would take for the club to consider offering the CST a place on the board?
A.  That is hard to answer, but clearly the greater the number of members, the better – 10,000 members is clearly more compelling than 1,000.  It is important to note that this has to be seen as a long-term objective for the CST.  If the CST was mandated with thousands of members, the club would find it very hard to ignore.  

The Chelsea Supporters Trust Working Group answering questions from the members

4.  Membership Communications
Working Group Update
One key focus for the Working Group has been ‘getting the message out there’ in the media.  The decision to broadcast this meeting live on Mixlr is part of that, together with the Members’ Newsletter and an active presence on social media.  The CST also aims to cultivate the best possible relationship with the media.  Any help with spreading the word would be gratefully received.
The CST had already received a favourable response from the press following the launch event, with national correspondents attending and a number of positive articles produced.  The CST website is being updated constantly, and regular newsletters are being sent out.
A number of members urged the WG to disseminate the discussions of the SGM as widely as possible as the news that the club had asked for a further meeting with the CST was the strongest possible message they could broadcast.  Another speaker supported this statement, concurring that the press are looking for a story and all at the meeting were passionate supporters, and media coverage would result in 'getting the message out'.  The WG believed in this respect the CST were to a certain extent pushing at an open door and members of the press see the CST as a legitimate supporters' voice.

Q.  How can members get their points across to the media via the CST?
A.  That this would be difficult until the Board is elected; the CST have a broad idea of what members think, but have to be careful due to having no mandate.  It was important to note that the mandate given by the membership related to issues that we could contribute to and help resolve, and did not extend to on-the-field matters, which are beyond the remit of the CST.
Q.  How will the CST come to a position on statements to the media on, for example, the issue of a new manager?
A.  There wouldn't be a special meeting to discuss this; The WG would have to use its judgement on such issues due to not being an elected body, but felt it had a grasp of the groundswell of supporter feeling and it would be counter-productive to avoid the media on such a crucial issue.

5.  Supporters Direct Initiatives
Working Group Update
Two WG members attended a Supporters Direct (SD) meeting in Birmingham together with other Premier League Trusts, many of whom have the same issues as the CST.  This consensus led to the CST being signatory to an SD letter to the chairman of the Premier League regarding away ticket pricing.  This campaign is running alongside, but separately from, the Football Supporters’ Federation’s ‘Twenty Is Plenty’ campaign which aims to cap the price of tickets for away supporters at £20.  A response to this letter to the PL is currently awaited.
The WG believe the CST can play a wider part by working with other Trusts.  Obviously it is unlikely that the CST would ever be in a position to mount a takeover of Chelsea FC, but a seat on the board was a reasonable long term objective.  The CST would, however have to work within the remit of SD.  Ultimately, if the CST membership doesn’t like what the WG  is doing then it is up to members to put themselves forward for the board and vote out current Working Group members in August. 
The CST will have a presence at the SD AGM in June, and invited Trust members to attend also (any individual can join SD via their website).  SD have played a significant part in the Pompey Trust’s successful recent takeover of Portsmouth FC.

Q.  How do SD operate? How are they funded?
A.  SD operate under the umbrella of Sport England, they are funded by, amongst other groups, the FA and the PL. 
Q.  How many Premier League clubs have Trusts? 
A.  Currently 13 clubs have a Supporters Trust, although some are more influential than others.
Q.  Could the CST receive any direct funding from SD?
A.  Not as such, indeed the CST will have to pay a subscription fee to SD.  SD has provided training for CST WG members free of charge, CST running costs should be met by membership subscriptions.
Q.  Do the WG see the CST as part of a wider national supporters' group?
A.  Being affiliated to SD made the CST part of something bigger.  There is a big difference between a Trust movement and a supporters' group – the CST is in contact with other Trusts and are looking to work with them.

Paul Jeffrey explaining the procedure for the AGM and Board elections

6.  Process for AGM and Board Elections
Working Group Update
The AGM will be held on the first weekend of the 2013/14 football season (either 17th or 18th August, on whichever date Chelsea are not playing).  There are certain processes the CST have to follow.
An official announcement of the AGM will be e-mailed to members following the end of the season (although the firm date cannot be confirmed until the 2013/14 fixtures are published).
A special Election Working Group will be created to oversee the election of the CST Board, comprising Paul Jeffrey as Secretary, a member of the Trust not standing for election, and an independent person from outside the CST. Communication to members on the election will detail all deadlines and advise how the nomination process will work.
There are likely to be nine board positions and nominations will be accepted up to 8th July.  Any person wishing to stand for the Board must be nominated by a paying CST member and seconded.  The election will be to the CST Board only and positions on the Board will be assigned following the election.  The election to the Board will commence at the AGM, and candidates will get an opportunity on the day to state their case.  Paid-up CST members will then have two weeks to vote and the election results will be declared shortly thereafter.
The CST are taking advice at every step from Supporters Direct, In the event of Trust members having any questions, these should be put to the Secretary, whose position is co-opted and not elected, to give a necessary degree of independence.

Q.  What the supporters want is the best for the club, working as a collective for the best interests of Chelsea. 
A.  The AGM, the survey results and the elected board will all help set the mandate for the CST. 

7.  Social Events
Working Group Update
The WG are open to ideas in terms of social events – it is intended that there will be events at Christmas and at the end of the football season. Members would also qualify for a discount on events which would, effectively, make membership of the Trust free.  Amongst the ideas from the floor were the possibility of sponsoring a horse race, and having ex-players/journalists giving talks.
The members' badges will be available next season.

8.  Financial issues
Working Group Update
The WG set the membership fee relatively low at £5 as it was not seen that there was likely to be high operating expenditure. The most appropriate use for any surplus funds will be addressed by an AGM or SGM.  If further funds were required for a specific campaign, this might be the subject of a special fundraising appeal. 

Q.  The CST is likely to be a powerful entity (as without the supporters there would be no sponsorship, empty stadia and no TV contracts), and hence should it not optimise its income? 
A.  The WG view is that the power of the Trust lay with the number of members rather than cash in the bank (a member pointed out that the Trust was trying to run before it could walk if it targeted funds rather than members).
Q.  Is the membership fee sufficiently high to break even?  The Trust will need to cover their expenses.
A.  A higher cost had initially been considered by the WG but a decision was taken to keep costs low in order to maximise membership numbers.  Membership charges would be reviewed on an annual basis but it was reiterated that they will be set as low as is practicable.  The AGM may well set a budget for the year and address how any surplus cash might be expended. 

9.  Relationship with other supporters groups
Working Group Update
A number of supporters groups have already signed up as affiliates and the WG see it as a priority to increase this number.  It is very early days for the Trust and as it builds, hopefully more groups will join. It is the current intention that there will be a Board member whose remit will be to liaise with supporters' groups. The CST will have a place on the Fans Forum next season. 

Q.  Would it be a good idea for the CST to have talks with other Chelsea supporters' groups?  How much effort was being made to unite other supporters' groups behind the Trust?
A.  Members of the WG would be more than happy to visit supporters groups and are keen to engage with as many as possible.  Other groups have been made aware of the CST; they've been invited to join and one intention of the CST was to be an umbrella group for anyone.  The CST could potentially act as a conduit for other groups, and the club might see it as streamlining the current process.

The meeting closed at 19.20.

An audio recording of the meeting can be downloaded as a podcast from Chelsea Football FanCast on ITunes or from Chelsea Football FanCast


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