Since we started our series of articles entitled “Where do we go from here?” earlier in the year, it is unlikely that the title has ever been more appropriate than it is today.
It has been a hectic course of events over the last week. Much has happened since we beat Chelsea to reach the magic 40 points that seemingly ensures our football club’s continued presence at football’s top table for another season. Now attention is much more focused on the boardroom table.
A lot has been said and written in the media, on the internet forums, and on the radio phone-ins. Now is the time to pause, take stock, and look at what needs to happen next in the saga of Swansea City’s ownership position.
What has the Trust been doing this week?
It is important that the Trust keeps its members, and indeed all supporters, as up to date as possible with events. Inevitably, there will be some things we can’t talk about for reasons of confidentiality but we are endeavouring to keep fans as abreast of the situation as possible.
As many of you will know, we arranged online Q&A sessions using social media and published a detailed Q&A statement on the Trust website for the benefit of those fans who were unable to join the live sessions. We also arranged a well-attended Fans Forum at the Liberty last Thursday.
The trust has a sub-group consisting of Trust Board Members and advisors to consider the ongoing position. This group continues to assess the proposed transaction, the buyers and the Trust’s legal options, which you would expect.
We are also in constant discussions with the existing shareholders and the proposed buyers. We are aware of the various media reports suggesting changes that might be made to the proposed structure of the deal, but as things stand the only formal offer is the one discussed last week.
What is the focus of the Trust in the coming weeks?
We talked last week of our disappointment as an organisation at the situation that had arisen. But now it is time to move on.
The Trust is looking to work constructively with all the various parties in order to achieve a solution that is best for the football club.
At the Fans Forum last Thursday night, we talked about how a protracted period of uncertainty in the boardroom is not in the best interests of the Club. This season has been one of the most testing, both on and off the pitch, since we became shareholders in 2002. Club leadership must be united and the future ownership structure of the club determined before the end of the season to enable the club to be as effective as possible in the transfer market over the summer.
So, how do we achieve this?
We have to work with the other shareholders, and the other shareholders have to work with us, to reach an agreement that works for all parties and, most importantly, the football club.
It is our job, as custodians of a significant stake in the Club, to ensure we protect the interests of our Members whilst moving discussions towards a conclusion.
Our Chairman, Phil Sumbler, talked passionately on Thursday night about the importance of a strong Supporters Trust. Our football club, uniquely in the Premier League, provides a strong ‘voice in the boardroom’ on behalf of all supporters, and we should not give it up lightly. This was fundamental to the beliefs of the early part of 2002 when we first obtained our shareholding. It was important then that we built a club run “by the fans, for the fans” and it is just as important that we adhere to those principles now and ongoing.
As the second largest shareholder, our views should not be ignored. Our stake provides us with an opportunity to provide fan input into how the deal will be structured, with our primary focus being that whatever happens is in the best interests of our football club.
What does this mean for the Trust?
As things stand, there has been no offer made for the 21% stake of the Supporters Trust and, during our discussions with the interested buyers, their commitment to working with the Supporters Trust has been expressed on many occasions.
As part of any discussions regarding the future ownership structure, we will seek to ensure the interests of the Fans and the Trust are protected. We have talked to the potential new owners about various matters, including concerns over future dilution of our shareholding, future governance over important decision-making in the club and strengthening our voice at Board level. We need to collectively ensure the lessons from this episode are learned – and enshrine those lessons learned into any future shareholders’ agreement.
As we stated in our previous article, but it is worth reiterating, the Trust would consider selling some or all of its stake in the football club if it could be demonstrated that the Trust doing so would be in the club’s and supporters’ long term best interest. The situation regarding the future ownership structure remains fluid, and there are few details of what any proposed future investment by the consortium into the football club might be.
Therefore, it remains difficult to conclude what our view on any deal would be with any degree of certainty. However, at this stage, the proposed new owners are continuing to negotiate directly with each of the other shareholders and we do not have full visibility of the outcome of those discussions.
Whatever the future ownership structure of the football club, there will always be a Supporters Trust to work with and represent our members to the best of our abilities. This is vital, whether that results in the Trust maintaining our existing shareholding, a part, or none at all. Of course, any decisions in that regard would only be made after full consultation with our Members.
Do the Trust feel this will be resolved quickly and in the interests of the Club and Fans?
As we have seen since 2002, the shareholders are largely made up of Swans fans who have an excellent track record in making decisions in the best interests of the football club. We sincerely hope these interests are kept at the forefront of everyone’s minds at this time.
We do believe that there is the willingness on all sides to ensure any deal is resolved quickly and we are committed to playing our part in reaching a positive conclusion as soon as possible.
You can keep up to date with further statements and announcements on this website or on social media by following the Swans Trust on Twitter, Liking the Swans Trust Facebook page or joining the Swans Trust Facebook group.