More than 60 people attended the first meeting of the Accrington Stanley Community Ownership group, hosted by Ilyas Khan on Tuesday evening.
The point of the meeting was to take a look at how to take the club forward and how a Community Trust could run the Reds - chairman Khan’s hope for the future at the Crown Ground.
Several issues were addressed as follows with Khan setting the scene by stressing that the efforts must be collaborative between the club, its employees, the fans, other stakeholders and the community at large:
THE CLUB AT THE MOMENT
Ilyas said that Accrington Stanley is financially unable to support itself at the moment and the club needs to be self-sufficient. He believes it can become a vibrant, well-run, profitable enterprise which can become an intergral part of the town.
At the last shareholders meeting in January, those there voted on the issue of an extra 200,000 shares on top of the current 100,000. These, Ilyas says, will belong to him in return for the money he has already put into the club to pay off the debt - giving him 66 per cent ownership of the club.
However he intends to pass these on to a newly-formed Community Trust which, he hopes, will be a big part of the running of the club in the future.
Current director Peter Marsden also has shares in ASFC and has offered to also pass his on to the Community Trust.
There will be a consultation process is to ensure that issues such as ownership can be ironed out.
The idea is that these shares can then be bought by people who will become part of the Community Trust.
It is unclear how the share issue will work but there could perhaps be a limit on how many people can buy so no one again has the majority of shares.
Any money from this share sale will go directly to the club so if, for example, 2,000 people pay £10 for a share each then it’s £20,000 into the club. Everyone who has a share has a right to vote so it makes it more like a democracy.
HOW COME THE NEW 200,000 SHARES GO STRAIGHT TO ILYAS KHAN?
Ilyas said the loans he has put into the club over the last 18 months were formally recorded as being convertible. They have not yet been converted so, at the moment, the 200,000 shares do not exist.
However, at the last board meeting after the Macclesfield game, the board proposed to convert loans into equity in order to create a better balance sheet. Those loans will be converted to equity, and that point the shares will exist.
The shares don’t yet exist, and the whole point of the consultation is that it runs alongside the conversion process. No agreement is needed or required for the shares to be issued in Ilyas’ name. The loan was recorded as being convertible and therefore the chairman says its up to him when it becomes shares.
SO WHAT ABOUT THE CURRENT SHAREHOLDERS?
Ilyas does not know if former chairman Eric Whalley or current managing director Dave O’Neill have the current 51 per cent stake in the club and says it isn’t clear to him what money has swapped hands and what agreements have been reached between the pair.
Eric, though, is still registed at Companies House as the owner of those shares.
But, with the new share issue, all current shares will be diluted and whoever did own the 51 per cent will, with the new 200,000 shares, now own about 15 or 20 per cent.
Ilyas stressed that the 51 per cent ownership was no longer important anyway as, 18 months ago, when the £308,000 tax debt was paid off, the creditors owned the club and the biggest single creditor was Ilyas Khan.
RELATIONS WITH THOSE CURRENTLY CONNECTED WITH THE CLUB
Ilyas is hoping it all stays on a friendly basis as the club is bigger than any individual.
Eric has been around the club more in recent weeks and is now travelling on the team coach again, which manager John Coleman has agreed to.
Ilyas pointed out that Eric did bring Accrington into the Football League and that he wants to work together with the current people involved at the club and give them their chance to stay involved with ASFC.
Ilyas said, to him, chief executive Rob Heys is in charge of the day-to-day running of the club since the board meeting following the Macclesfield game. There is still a role for Dave O'Neill though as a director just not in the day-to-day running of Stanley although he is at the club at the moment. Ilyas though is hoping that, in the future, there will be a new management structure running ASFC.
Already there have been applications from people at Nottingham Forest and Blackpool and other football clubs for the Managing Director role. However, Ilyas does not want to appoint someone yet as it should be an appointment made on the vote of the Community Trust as he sees that as the way forward for the club.
GOVERNANCE OF THE CLUB
Ilyas admitted that, in the past, mistakes have been made. They have not been made maliciously but nevertheless have been made.
He didn't want to single out individuals but said that there has to be changes so that the club can run itself and not lose money every month.
ASFC is benefiting from increased television money and other payments from the Premier League at the moment but he believes the club can be self-sufficient.
Ilyas doesn’t want to be in charge as he says he is not qualified to run the club on a day-to -day basis and doesn’t have the time. He also doesn’t think the person who has the cheque book should be the one who makes the decisions.
It works for some clubs but Ilyas doesn't want this to happen at Accrington Stanley.
SO HOW CAN THEY TAKE THE CLUB FORWARD?
The idea is to get a structure in place that works – and Ilyas sees this as a Community Trust.
This has now been started by this meeting with Ilyas going to ask people for their ideas and suggestions by next week. He will outline how he thinks the Community Trust could be run and then wait for feedback.
There is a timeline of getting ideas together by Christmas and then getting a working model in place and taking it to the current people at the club by February where it can be discussed.
Ilyas wants Eric Whalley, Dave O'Neill and Rob Heys to still have a chance to have a say in the running of the club and have a chance to consider the Community Trust idea.
However, at the club, there needs to be professional management - people paid to do their job and address the issues at the club - and it's suggested these will be voted in by the Community Trust.
The Community Trust will be similar to other clubs, including large organisations such as Real Madrid and Barcelona where people vote on, for example, the chairman. Obviously these have 200,000 involved rather than 2,000 fans signed up but it will work on a similar basis.
It is at the very early stages but there needs to be a document set up which outlines the structure of the Community Trust ie. who the members are, who the directors are, how are they appointed etc – and, once it’s set up, they can help to deal with the practical matters of the football club.
HOW CAN THE CLUB BE FINANCIALLY SECURE?
Ilyas has paid experts to look at other football clubs and knows that, for ASFC to be financially stable, they need to get another around 5-800 fans through the gate every matchday.
This, Ilyas believes, can be done by moving away from the Crown Ground and also through club sponsorship deals – this needs to be boosted by around 30 per cent and that is assuming the club already has a stadium sponsorship.
Ilyas thinks a new ground and a new start will attract people back to Accrington Stanley and get the club back involved with the community.
THE NEW STADIUM
Ilyas will fully finance this. A possible site might be in the vicinity of the Hyndburn Sports Centre in Church but no approach has been made as the idea is still in its formative stage.
Ilyas hopes to be able to speak with Hyndburn Council when his plans are credible. He is willing to fully develop this, pay for it and give it to the Community Trust.
The stadium is where Ilyas’ passion lies – he wants to be fully involved in the building of this and leave the running of the club to the Community Trust.
WHAT WILL HAPPEN UNTIL THE END OF FEBRUARY WHEN THE NEW COMMUNITY TRUST SHOULD HOPEFULLY BE READY?
Ilyas said he will continue to fund the club. He wants to build bridges with the community and sponsors and try and patch things up.
There may be more Newcastle and Fulham money-spinning cup games which pay off past debts but they are not solutions and the club needs to run itself.
WHAT DOES THE FUTURE HOLD?
This new Community Trust run-club will take time but it’s hoped there will be a big push now and there will be, in the near future, the share ownership sorted out, tranparency and the chance to give John Coleman the means and resources to take the club on.