Tottenham Hotspur Supporters’ Society Limited (“the Trust”)

4.5.2001

Minutes of a Public Meeting held at Whites, Paxton Road, London N17 on 25th April 2001

Trevor Payne, Vice Chair of the Steering Committee of the Trust welcomed some 350 attendees to Whites club, adjacent to White Hart Lane.  Trevor stated that the purpose of the meeting was to explain to those present the concept of Supporters’ Trusts and particularly how the concept of a Supporters’ Trust was applicable to Tottenham Hotspur Football Club. Trevor thanked Spurs for the use of facilities and the security and staff who had been a great help.

Trevor introduced Steve Warby, the Trusts’ case worker from Supporters’ Direct (“SD”).  Steve, who is a Spurs fan, explained that SD is a government backed and funded body which was established as a result of the Football Task Force.  SD are mandated to help supporters form societies to enable them to have a say in the way that their clubs are run and overcome the “them and us” feeling that pervades modern football.  Steve explained that the first such society was founded at Northampton Town in the early 1990’s (i.e. it pre dated the formation of SD).  In the case of Northampton, the Supporters effectively saved the club from oblivion and, even until today, the Northampton Trust has a representative on the board of the club.  There are now 119 clubs who have or are in the process of having trusts formed.  Clubs with trusts range from Aylesbury to Sheffield Wednesday, Celtic and Manchester United. Steve commented that this meeting was the largest launch meeting he had been to and it demonstrated a great deal of enthusiasm.

Steve expressed the hope that, with the recent changes at senior management and board level at Tottenham Hotspur, the Trust had a great opportunity to be a real and positive force. Steve explained that SD had approached various supporters’ groups at Spurs and, over the past several months, had tried to get as many fans involved in the preliminary stages of establishing the Trust.  As a result of a public meeting, a working group had been established and that group has met on a number of occasions to thrash out the basics of the Trust.  That working group had selected a Steering Committee which was to oversee the formalisation of the Trust through to its first AGM which would be held within 6 months of the current meeting.

Joff Wild, who had been selected as Chairman of the Steering Committee was introduced and began by telling those gathered that they supported the greatest team in the world.  Joff explained (with various examples) that despite the worst decade in the club’s recent history we were still in the top 5 clubs in terms of UK fan base, with over 1,000,000 fans and were the third most watched team over the past 100 years.  Our average attendance had never been below 20,000 which proved that far from being fickle we are the most loyal, dedicated fans in football.  Joff explained that we, the fans, are a massive resource to be harnessed, as never before, in a positive way by the club.

Joff urged all fans to forget about the past - “the anti this, anti that days” - and to put behind us the days of demos and leafleting.  All of this can be in the past now since we have a great opportunity with a new manager and a new board who, for the first time in recent history and possibly ever, are Spurs people from top to bottom – a real Spurs family. Joff explained how the attitude of the new owners had already had a positive impact at the club and revealed that the use of Whites, the stewarding and the tea, coffee and biscuits at the meeting had been provided by the club free of charge.  The club has allowed the two most recent match day programmes to carry details of the meeting and had helped to distribute the flyers for the meeting.  This, said Joff, was unthinkable even 6 months ago. Furthermore, the Trust has been given an official liaison officer at the club and positive dialogue has already been established.  It appeared that the club now saw its supporters as a force for good with massive energy.

Joff explained that the Trust was not about who was manager, who should play or who we should sign.  The Trust is about creating dialogue with the club on issues of concern to fans.  There is a unique opportunity to do this now as ENIC had made their purchase of shares at a massive premium to the current share price and they, as a business, need to show a return to their shareholders.  The only way for them to do this was to make Spurs a force again and to achieve that, they needed us, the fans, to make it a success.

Joff explained again that SD were vital to the establishment of the Trust, and that SD would not back the Trust unless it was a positive and democratic organisation.  If SD felt that the Trust moved away from this, they would withdraw their support and the Trust would loose credibility with fans and the club alike.  SD was the independent stamp of approval that the Trust was not just a rehash of old supporters groups.

The Steering Committee was just an interim body and that, after the AGM, it could be any one of the people present at the meeting [or any member] who could be sitting on the committee, sitting down discussing supporters’ issues with David Buchler or Daniel Levy.  Any member can stand for election at the AGM and every member will have an equal vote.  Officials of the Trust are elected by the membership and if the membership feels a bad job has been done, the membership can elect someone else to his or her place on the committee.  Joff made it clear that each member’s voice would be heard and that each members voice counted.

Joff then set out what the Trust could do and in what areas it could be involved, such as; a Q&A session with David Buchler (and maybe, at a later date, Glenn Hoddle).  This could take place in the close season and David Buchler had suggested this event himself.  This would be for Trust members and the club were willing to do this as the Trust was going to be representative of the fan base; consultation with the Trust on stadium development, disabled access, relationship with the community.  Basically, the Trust presents an opportunity for fans’ views to be put directly and constructively to the club, who have shown a genuine willingness to embrace the Trust.

Joff urged fans to seize the day, to help Tottenham Hotspur be the standard bearer in London football (he asked those present to consider if Ars*nal or Ken Bates at Ch*lsea would allow such an organisation and embrace it as Spurs have done).  The Trust is a vital component of getting “our Tottenham back”. Joff urged people to sign as members and to provide their names if they wanted to help in whatever way, for example in press and publicity or community, etc.

 

Questions were taken from the floor (where possible names of people who asked the questions have been credited but often no name or only first names were provided – my apologies for the mis-spelling of names!)

There were a number of questions, many dealing with issues such as the stadium which were related to issues which people wished the Trust to raise with the club.  Trevor explained that these were all the kinds of ideas the Trust needed to canvass but that this meeting should focus on the Trust itself.  There followed a number of questions on the Trust and its relationship with the club, for example “what meetings were planned with the club?”.  Joff explained that John Fennelly had been appointed as a liaison officer between the club and the Trust and that regular meetings would be planned with the club. [it has since been confirmed with Daniel Levy that monthly meetings will be held between senior management at the club and the Trust with other regular meetings to be held between Trust officials and members of staff at the club on issues which the Trust identifies.]

Tracey Smith raised a question about what would happen if SD had to close through removal of funding.  Both Steve and Joff replied and it was made clear that SD provided the platform for the Trust to launch and provided it with help and guidance but that the Trust was independent and, hopefully, self financing so that, even if anything did happened to SD, the Trust could still continue.  It was mooted that the Trust would seek a new independent body to ensure transparency and democracy if SD folded.  It was also made clear that SD’s funding was guaranteed until August 2003 in any event.

David Silverman congratulated Joff and the steering committee on forming the Trust but was very concerned about the former supporters groups, he felt that everyone needed to come together.  Steve mentioned that most of the old groups had been involved in the discussions which had led to the foundation of the Trust which was to be an umbrella organisation.  The idea was that the Trust would enable dialogue with the club to go beyond mere lip service.  Joff pointed out that the club now realised that they needed us, the fans, and the ball was in our court to prove that we are democratic and a power for positive change.  Joff explained that groups such as TAG and SOS had committed themselves to the Trust and that they were going to close down.  TISA were consulting their membership with a view to taking the same route.

Valerie Fry asked whether the relationship with the community was really a concern for the Trust or if it should be the club’s responsibility.  Joff replied that the Trust was to act as a facilitator for fans’ to be communicated to the club but it was up to the club to act on the Trusts suggestions and to go out and do the work.

There followed another question about the involvement of SD and the “independent seal of approval” which it provided.  Peter Haring (who is the member of the steering committee responsible for Finance and PLC relations) commented that the Trust was not financially dependent on SD and Steve pointed out that the Northampton Trust had existed perfectly well without SD for 7 years.  Joff went on to reaffirm that the Trust had a constitution, approved by lawyers and registered under the Industrial and Provident Societies Acts and that the constitution would ringfence the democratic, transparent nature of the Trust.  To have credibility the Trust must be fully transparent and democratic.

Trevor introduced Andy Manston who has responsibility on the steering committee for Community Relations.  Andy explained that the Trust presented a great opportunity to bring football to the community and to use it to break down social and racial barriers.  He reviewed a number of possible initiatives which the Trust could run with, such as urging the club to run coaching sessions for local kids, player visits to schools in the local area, enhanced co-operation for womens’ teams, tours of the ground for local kids, better access to Chigwell training facilities, Spurs open days and roadshows, match day tickets for local schools for non sold out games, hospital visits more than once a year at Christmas time.  Andy reiterated that the agenda would be set by the members who would decide which issues needed to be put to the club. 

 

Questions were taken from the floor.

Glenn Weaver, who runs the Spurs Ladies team, wanted to make it clear that the club did support ladies football and had allowed training to take place at White Hart Lane and was generally very helpful.  It was suggested that the links be even more strengthened through the Trust, perhaps in liaison with Steve Grenfell and his community team at the club who, it was widely accepted, had been doing a very good job.

A number of questions were raised (by Peter and Kingsley) on ticket allocation, both at home games, where away fans had seats in home supporters’ areas, and with allocation and distribution of away match tickets.  The general feeling was that away fans should be segregated from home fans and that the issue of the ticket office was one which the Trust would prioritise.  Joff acknowledged that, at times, the ticket office had appeared to be a shambles but that for the first time in the near 120 year history of the club we, the fans, have an opportunity to go to the club and express our views.  [Note that since the meeting the club has approached the Trust to consult with its members as part of a thorough review of the ticket office operations.  All members are encouraged to communicate to the Trust (either through the Trust’s website or the PO Box address) their personal ticket office experiences and suggestions for its improvement.  This must be done by mid May to coincide with the review by external consultants which the club has employed to look in to the running of the ticket office].

June (who is a member of the Supporters’ Club) mentioned that Spurs could generate a lot of goodwill by ensuring players were available to open hospital facilities and the like and to get out and meet young fans.  June wanted reassurances that the Trust was not attempting to replace the Supporters’ Club.  It was made clear that the Trust was an umbrella organisation and wanted to embrace the members of all different groups, including the Supporters’ Club.

Jimmy Brecknock (who has responsibility on the steering committee for press and publicity) raised the example of Newcastle where the club is the town and vice versa and that we had to strive to replicate that with Spurs.  He said that, much as it pains him, Ars*nal present themselves as a club which takes a keen involvement in areas, such as womens’ football, that show it to be a well run club. The Trust has a massive role to play in helping the club to present itself in a similar light.

John raised an issue from the floor that it was all well and good communicating with the club but the Trust had to ensure regular feedback to its members.  It was reiterated that the Trust committee members would be elected to have dialogue with the club amongst other things and would provide feedback on all of the aspects of their area of responsibility.  Feedback would be via the website, which was already up and running, and producing a regular newsletter.  The names and contact details for all committee members would be published to members so that each member could raise issues directly with the relevant committee member.  As Joff pointed out, if the members do not feel someone has done a good job the sanction of the members is not to re-elect that person.

Peter Haring was introduced to speak about the financial aspects of the Trust.  Peter explained that the Trust would be charging an annual membership fee of £10. Other Trusts charged between £12 and £35 per annum. Therefore, the Trust will be the least expensive in the country so as to be as accessible as possible.  The money will be used for administration primarily with the aim that some surplus funds would help the Trust to purchase shares in Tottenham Hotspur plc, in the name of the Trust.  It was explained that, given the right circumstances, shares would be purchased directly from the club so that funds were not divested to third party shareholders through market purchases of shares.

 

General questions were taken from the floor.

David noted that players would usually be willing to help for charitable causes provided they were given sufficient notice. Darren asked if it were possible for members to make voluntary extra donations to the Trust over and above the £10 membership fee.  Peter confirmed that this was possible and would be most welcome. Bernie asked to whom cheques should be payable.  Jonathan Adelman (Secretary of the Trust) confirmed that payment should be made to Tottenham Hotspur Supporters’ Society Limited. Daniel Wynne (who also has responsibility for press and publicity on the steering committee) appealed for the fans to unite and make the Trust strong.

John Clemence asked for all groups to think about joining and that no one could be forced to join the Trust but that the club seems to have indicated a willingness to have dialogue so it was in everyone’s interest to join the Trust and make it strong. Dorothea, a member of the Supporters’ Club, again asked for the Trust’s support. Another speaker from the floor said apathy is the enemy of everything the Trust will try and do and that, as a result, everyone in the meeting should do whatever they could to persuade people to join.

There was a question about Tottenham Hotspur plc’s obligations to its shareholders but Joff pointed out that the club could only maximise its shareholder value by maximising its revenues and success. This could only be achieved with the support of the fan base. Nigel Sennet asked about the process by which the club would gather the views of its members.  It was explained that the primary way this would be achieved would be via sub committees set up by the Trust so that all members interested in a particular area could contribute. Danny Keane urged the Trust to approach former players for support.  It was revealed that the likes of Steve Perryman, Clive Allen and Ricky Villa has offered their support already. (There were a number of other questions and comments from the floor but sadly I was unable to write them all down!)

Joff and Trevor concluded the meeting with a big thanks to Spurs, again, for the use of White's and for all the 350 attendees for coming along.  They asked people to bear in mind the unique opportunity before us and urged everyone to contribute their time and effort to the Trust to get involved and spread the word.

 

  25th April 2001 the date; 7.30 the time; White's the place. 300 plus people who support Spurs turned up to hear what the Spurs trust was all about. Having heard about TISA, TAG and SOS, I had never bothered about attending one of their meetings. These "action groups" seemed about nothing more than their own personnel gratification and not about Spurs. Their criticisms were destructive and not constructive. It is always easier to be the former rather than the latter.

  Things are different now we are told. TISA, TAG and SOS have disbanded and thrown their weight behind the Trust and the fanzines had done the same. For once we all seem to be pulling in the same direction. Credit should be given to ENIC for this. Having gained control of Spurs they have unified our support with Hoddle becoming our manager.

  Joff Wild gave a brief history of the club, when Sir Alan Sugar took over in '91. The performance on the pitch had gone down hill but we still support Spurs and this is a big club. He went on to give the vision that is the trust i.e. to put our ideas and views to the club owners, and not about if we should play a 4-4-2 as opposed to a 4-5-1 or what ever. This is fine, but to get the club not only to listen, but to act on our views and ideas we must get someone from the Trust elected to the board. Yes, this will take time, but it has to be their ultimate aim.

  At the moment there is a steering committee in charge, and later nominees will be voted onto the committee proper. To vote, you have to become a member of the Trust. This requires you to join the Trust and will cost you £10. What do you get for your £10? Well, the right to vote for the person you want to see on the committee and committee members can be voted on or off; Regular dialogue with the club that Trust members will be allowed to attend; David Buchler has already set up a meeting with the Trust that will be held towards the seasons end and all Trust members will be invited to attend this Question and Answer Forum.

  This is a great opportunity to join in. Don't let apathy get you. Tottenham Hotspur Football Club used to be pro-active on and off the pitch, now its re-active. Lets get our Tottenham back to it's pro-active days.

Mario Sergides

 

Click here for the need for the Trust and how it all started.

Click here to find out what the Trust is all about.

Click here for the Trust's views on the season ticket price rise.

Click here for a report on the Trust's meeting with David Buchler.

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