A request has been received from the Aldershot Town Football Club Supporters Trust (the Shots Trust) for the Committee to consider representations on issues relating to the Football Club, in particular
· The conclusion of a new lease of the site in line with the principles set by the Cabinet
· The engagement approach between the Football Club and its supporters
· Future options for running the Football Club
In accordance with the Council’s Public Speaking Procedure Rules the following members of the Supporters Trust have asked to speak to the Committee
· Nick Bond (Trustee)
· Laura Smart (Secretary)
· Alan Hilliar (Board Member)
The Committee was informed that a request had been received from the Aldershot Town Football Club Supporters’ Trust (the Shots Trust) for it to consider representations on issues relating to the Football Club. The representations related in particular to:
· the conclusion of a new lease of the site in line with the principles set by the Cabinet
· the engagement approach between the Football Club and its supporters
· future options for running the Football Club
The Chairman welcomed Alan Hilliar, Laura Smart (Trust Secretary), and Nick Bond (Trustee), to the meeting to make the representations. Mr. Hilliar, explained that they were representing members of the Shots Trust and wanted to raise concerns, on their behalf, for the future of the Club linked to the new long term lease and future potential development of the ground.
Ms. Smart gave an overview of the current financial position of the Club, it was noted that currently creditors stood at £1.2 million, up from £113,000 in 2014, when the Club was taken over by the current owners. These losses had been underwritten by loans, primarily from the Club’s directors, who had contributed, to date, over £1 million to the Club. The Shots Trust felt that the Club saw the extension of the lease and potential redevelopment as a lifeline to pay back the loans leading to an uncertain future for the Club. Ms Smart raised some questions on behalf of the Shots Trust relating to:
· The position of the new lease and the processes being followed
· The assignment of the lease and the conditions to be met by the leaseholder
· The viability of the Club in the long term
Mr. Bond, long term supporter of the Club and Trustee of the Shots Trust, raised concerns about the footballing aspects of supporting the Club, off field activity and the potential redevelopment. He pointed out that over the years the Club had slipped into non-league football, having once played against teams now at a higher level like Bournemouth, Reading, Swindon, Bradford City and Oxford United.
Mr. Bond was of the view that communication with fans was abysmal. He stated that recently the Club had taken the decision to stop free entry for under 11s with a paying adult. The Shots Trust felt that this would lose the Club more adult supporters, reducing gate numbers.
Mr. Bond then expressed the view that the Club needed to create a culture of intention and vibrancy to enable it to survive. The option to redevelop the ground could not be more welcomed by fans, and he felt that a successful team could command gates of 5,000 or more. Attendance was currently at 1,500 and falling due to a lack of success and leadership. He suggested that increased gate numbers would increase footfall in the town centre, generating income for the town. Change was needed, and help required to ensure the ground was redeveloped with a real say from fans on the facilities that could be made available.
Mr. Hilliar shared the Shots Trust’s considered options for the future running of the Club, which were:
· Establishing a Community Interest Company (CIC)
· The Council taking on redevelopment responsibilities
The Chairman thanked the Trust for their representations and reminded Members that discussions and negotiations were ongoing between the Council and the Club on the lease and that these were commercially confidential. A record of the representations and discussions would be made from this meeting and would be relayed to the Portfolio Holder for Major Projects and Property.
The Committee then discussed various aspects of the representations and Members raised a number of issues including:
· The number of members of the Shots Trust – it was reported that there were around 200 direct paid up members and more who supported the Trust through different initiatives/fundraising activities.
· In response to a query regarding the Shots Trust’s membership of the Football Supporters Association (FSA), the representatives advised that some complaints had been made against the Trust, which had resulted in a temporary suspension from the FSA. Following agreement with the FSA a number of things had been done to rectify the situation, this included all the trustees being required to attend a diversity awareness course. The face to face course had been delayed due to COVID-19 and would be carried out as soon as restrictions allowed. A statement addressing the accusations had been issued by the FSA and this would be shared with Members after the meeting.
· The Committee considered it important that there was a thorough process to ensure the new lease agreement protected all parties involved.
The Committee NOTED the representations made by the Shots Trust and AGREED that the information be relayed to Cllr Martin Tennant, the Major Projects and Property Portfolio Holder.
NOTE: Cllrs T.D Bridgeman and Sue Carter each declared a personal but non prejudicial interest in this item, Cllr Bridgeman in respect of his ownership of share in Aldershot Town Football Club and Cllr Carter in respect of her status as a Trustee for the Shots foundation. In accordance with the Members’ Code of Conduct, both remained in the meeting during the discussion.