|Trust Update |
at 20:03 4 Apr 2019
It has been a couple of months since the Swans Trust’s AGM where, during his address, our Chairman Phil Sumbler outlined the timetable and actions to be taken within which the Trust will seek to resolve the long-standing legal issues regarding the Trust’s shareholding in the football club.
As communicated to our members a few weeks later, we were disappointed to announce that the proposed mediation, planned for the end of February, was not going to proceed.
This was for two reasons. Firstly, the legal representatives of the selling shareholders informed our legal representatives that he had been instructed not to provide a detailed response to the claim letter, demonstrating that his clients had no intention of complying with the Practice Direction. Mediation cannot sensibly take place without that response/defence and the Trust cannot commit to wasting the funds of our members whilst the selling shareholders concerned refuse to properly engage in the pre-action process.
Secondly, it became clear prior to the mediation dates that neither of the managing partners of the majority shareholders, Steve Kaplan or Jason Levien, were planning to attend the proposed February mediation dates either, despite the Trust having made it clear that the attendance of one of them was vital if the Trust was to commit to spending thousands of pounds on a mediation. Although alternative attendees were suggested, a mediation is much less likely to be productive while the managing partners of the club’s owners are not prepared to fully engage.
At the time of that announcement, the Trust noted the willingness that had been shown by the majority owners to at least engage in the process to try to seek a mediated settlement. It is therefore disappointing to confirm that no progress has been made in that regard. The Trust has communicated our willingness to proceed with further dialogue, however we have not received any response.
In terms of next steps, as previously outlined, the Trust had planned to proceed with the members consultation on all available options during March. Unfortunately, for a variety of reasons, such as the changing circumstances, required legal activities taking longer than anticipated and the need to provide our members with information that is as comprehensive and accurate as we can, this has not been possible.
We apologise for any disappointment this causes to our members, however the Trust board is of the view that it is critical that we clarify all options for our members, where at all possible, prior to that consultation. The Trust board is still very much of the view that the members consultation will occur as soon as possible, and we will publish the timeline for this as soon as possible.
Football Club Update
Since our AGM, there have been some significant changes in the running of the football club. February saw the departure of Huw Jenkins from the role.
Huw deserves considerable credit for his part in the Swans’ rise to the Premier League and for that the Trust thanks him. However, we must also point out, once again, his involvement in the way the sale of the football club to its current owners was conducted, as well as the continuing negative impact of that sale. It is also important to remember Mr. Jenkins’s culpability for the disastrous transfer dealings of the past three seasons, which are the main reason the club is in its current position. For these reasons, change was inevitable and necessary.
Moving forward, it is accurate to say that the Trust has been keep informed by the club in terms of plans to find a replacement chairman, with the preferred candidate of the majority owners being Trevor Birch. As previously communicated, the Trust were informed that Mr. Birch was the majority owners’ preferred candidate in advance of his appointment and have met him both prior to, and after, his appointment. He brings wide experience and expertise to the role.
We are aware of the concerns raised by our members regarding the remit and targets he has been set by the majority owners, which ties in to the press reports regarding members of staff being notified of a consultation period regarding potential redundancies at the club. The Trust is acutely aware of the financial challenges which life in the Championship brings, but it is disappointing that jobs are at risk primarily due to the poor management of the football club in the past. However, we have been told that his focus is on stabilising the club rather than preparing the club for a sale. The Trust, through our supporter director, will be strongly representing the views of our members to the new chairman and the club board that any decisions made are taken with the best long-term interests of the football club at heart.
We should once again note that the Trust has previously communicated our concerns regarding some aspects of his remuneration package, which we have been informed contains an equity element. The details and conditions of this are unclear but, if true, would potentially dilute the Trust’s shareholding and further prejudice our position as a minority shareholder in the football club. The Trust raised our objections to the majority owners prior to the appointment but, to date, we have not received a response.
Welsh Baccalaureate Project
Frequent readers of our article in the matchday programme and website will be aware of the Enterprise and Employability Challenge that the Trust has worked with the WJEC to offer to schools as part of the Welsh Baccalaureate qualification. This challenge requires pupils to develop a product or service that will enhance the matchday experience for young people.
During the summer of 2018, pupils in Dwr-y-Felin Comprehensive School in Neath were our pilot school for this initiative and we are now starting to see practical applications of the excellent ideas being put forward by pupils.
Before the FA Cup game with Brentford the pupils offered face painting in the Family Stand. They worked in two groups and raised £125 for their school charities such as Tŷ Hafan and Great Ormond St Hospital. At £1 at time, that took some doing! Our thanks go to the Club for its support and to all fans who contributed to these excellent causes.
The Trust is pleased to say that this initiative continues to develop strongly, with a number of other schools taking up the challenge. As an example, Gowerton School were recently ready to present their ideas and, while they were expecting to present to the teacher and Trust representatives, on the day they were delighted to find themselves explaining their ideas to Swans legends and club ambassadors Lee Trundle and Leon Britton who were excellent in the way they engaged with the initiative.
To date, nearly 400 pupils in the local area have been introduced to the recent history of the football club and the Supporters’ Trust through this initiative. Early indications are that those schools are keen to continue repeat the experience with their next year groups. The Trust hopes to expand this initiative even further, and we have already signed up Dyffryn Taf School in Whitland, Carmarthenshire for the first time in the coming months. If your school is interested in participating, then please contact the Trust as soon as possible!
Disabled Supporters Association (DSA) Update
As part of Level Playing Fields’ week of action, the DSA approached the club with an idea of taking some of our members for a tour around Fairwood and we are please to confirm this happened last week. The DSA offered this opportunity to all our DSA members, with the lucky winners being drawn at random.
As a result, 23 of our members had the chance of watching the first team train, getting to looking around the facilities and also getting the opportunity to meet many of the first team.
The DSA would like to thank the club, players and management. We’d especially like to thank Suzanne and Mike Eames for the way they engaged with the members and kindly gave everyone a spare shirt.