A brief history of the Swansea City Supporters’ Trust.
A small group of Supporters initially met in Port Talbot, where it was decided that a Public Meeting would be called at the Brangwyn Hall on Saturday 8th July 2001, at which over 150 interested in the idea of a Supporters Trust attended.
A follow-up meeting was held on Sunday 22nd July at Manselton/Cwmbwrla Community Centre to agree a Constitution, arrange a bank account and form sub-groups from the 50 plus who attended. John Parkhouse chaired the meeting with Mike Kent taking the Minutes.
At this meeting it was reported that Ninth Floor had dismissed Neil McLure as Chairman. on 20th July 2001, this news was greeted with a certain amount of pleasure, bearing in mind the uncertainty surrounding the Club’s future, especially as it was announced that Ninth Floor had no intention of taking Swansea City back into their ownership
Further, Ninth Floor had finally cut its losses and sold the club for £1 to the former Commercial Manager Mike Lewis, but Lewis was saddled with a debt of £801,000 which was repayable to Ninth Floor. Lewis was struggling to run the club alone and set about looking for buyers.
The lines were now drawn and the meeting determined that we were all fully committed to saving our Club, to become part owners and invest in the Club whatever was right for the Supporters, and that a Supporters Trust could be trusted by the fan base.
Dave Boyle was present on behalf of Supporters Direct to outline why we should consider becoming an IPS, which is a not for profit organisation and which could run the Club if necessary. Working Groups were set up from those in attendance and the Working Party would comprise those who signed the Constitution – Richard Lillicrap, Michael Williams, Leigh Dineen and Nigel Hamer.
A further meeting was arranged for Sunday 5th August when arrangements would be made for the Official Launch of the Trust, which would take place at the Patti Pavilion on Bank Holiday Monday 27th August after the home game against Cheltenham.
The launch was extremely successful with over 600 signing up on the day to join what was now a constitutionally set up body ready for an involvement in our football club, in anticipation of the day arriving when Shares became available to purchase in the event of a change of ownership. Membership fees and the auction held raised over £3000. Backing for the Trust came from far and wide with John Toshack, John Hartson, Max Boyce, Gareth Edwards, Rhodri Morgan AM, Martin Caton MP, Kevin Johns, Eurig Wyn MEP, Steve Hamer, Mel Nurse and Mel Charles amongst many pledges of support.
A meeting was called in Bristol where MAGS members and London based fans met to discuss financial matters with past Club Chairman Steve Hamer, also present at this meeting were Phil Sumbler, Keith Haynes, Richard Lillicrap, Leigh Dineen, Tony Jenkins, Nigel Hamer and others. The meeting was designed to give a financial picture of a football Club’s affairs and how Supporters could become involved financially in ownership.
There were e-mails flying thick and fast from Llanelli to Moscow, Cardiff to Swansea, Gloucester to Kingston-Upon-Thames, between fans who were Accountants, Solicitors, Financial Advisers and Businessmen, all determined to ensure the survival of our Club. The Model Rules of the Swansea City Supporters’ Society Ltd were registered on 4 October 2001 and as the Supporters Trust was now a full constitutional body we became the nerve centre of information for the way forward.
The scenario that we had been anticipating arrived sooner than expected when, in October 2001, Mike Lewis sold the Club to Tony Petty, a Londoner based in Australia, again for £1, but crucially the debt of £801,000 was still due to Ninth Floor and became Petty’s responsibility. A hastily convened gathering of Swans fans, with Richard Lillicrap and Nigel Hamer representing the Trust, took place at Swansea Rugby Club, also present were Martin Morgan, David Bradshaw, Mel Nurse, Gareth Keen, Tony Davies and David Morgan. It was decided at that meeting that we would offer Tony Petty £10,000 to purchase the Club.
Tony Davies (Trust), who had previously met Petty, rang him with the offer, which was rejected out of hand. Following further discussions over the next few days it was eventually agreed to make an increased offer to Petty of £50,000, but this again was rejected and we were back to square one.
At the Trust’s first AGM in the Patti Pavilion in November 2001, Chairman John Parkhouse asked supporters to explore and research all appropriate avenues of inquiry with relevance to bringing them into the public domain in the battle against the current owner, and openly offered the newly formed Trust as a vehicle for transferring control of the Club to local people, in the promise that the future of the Club would be secured.
Further behind the scenes discussions took place, with Leigh Dineen, being more locally based, taking over from Richard Lillicrap in future meetings. It was evident that there was a reluctance by any one individual to move forward in taking the risk single handedly, which resulted in the Consortium being formed, and the Trust were charged with co-ordinating future meetings with potential investors. At this time we were aware that Ninth Floor were prepared to sell the £801,000 debt for £100,000, and with this in mind a hastily convened meeting was called at the Tudor Court Hotel, where Martin Morgan, George Edwards, Don Keefe, Gwilym Joseph and David Williams, along with Leigh Dineen and Nigel Hamer, met to discuss the possibility of raising the £100,000 to purchase the debt.
This debt purchase would have given the Consortium an asset to raise further funds to send Petty on a one way journey back to Australia. However, with time being the absolutely critical factor for the survival of our football club, there was inevitably much going on in the background, and the Group learnt that the Chairman of Ninth Floor, Alan Wix, had met with Mike Lewis and Mel Nurse and agreed on a sale of the debt to Nurse. The Trust then became fully involved in discussions with Mel Nurse’s Solicitor Tim Jones and Insolvency Practioner Gary Stones in helping to provide as much information as possible from various sources, not least the Football Association. Members of the Trust Board were very supportive of Mel Nurse in his Court case against Tony Petty, and many attended Court during the hearing.
The Trust arranged a further meeting at Clyne Golf Club, with Martin Morgan, George Edwards, Don Keefe, David Williams, Nigel Hamer and Leigh Dineen present, with a new addition to the meeting being local businessman Huw Jenkins.
A follow-up meeting was held at the Oaktree Park Hotel where Martin Burgess, who had recently been removed from office by Petty, became a member of the working party. At this time Gareth Keen and his advisors had re-joined the group, with the meeting attended by Tim Jones, Mel Nurse, David Morgan, and Nigel Hamer and Leigh Dineen representing the Trust, and two other local businessmen, who subsequently withdrew their involvement.
Brian Katzen had previously indicated an interest but as nothing further had been heard from him, it was decided that we would move forward without him. However, Martin Burgess was sure that Katzen wished to be involved and contacted him the following day, and he confirmed his interest. At one of these meetings Gareth Keen decided that he would prefer to donate £10,000 to the Supporters Trust in lieu of his involvement, a gesture that was greatly appreciated by the Trust representatives present.
Petty was in discussions with a consortium, but the Trust were concerned that it was not locally based and once again urged Petty to transfer his entire shareholding into local ownership via the Supporters Trust, which was fast becoming the main thrust of attempts to rid the Club of Petty.
A rally attended by almost 2000 fans marched from Castle Square to the Vetch Field prior to a game, and a further crisis meeting with over 1000 fans present was held in the Patti Pavilion, where a heroes’ welcome was given to Nick Cusack and fourteen of his team mates along with Trust President Alan Curtis. With television crews in attendance, MC Kevin Johns and the other speakers urged supporters to back the Trust in its attempts to wrest control from Petty.
Mel Nurse had now become the figurehead and the man determined to take Petty on in Court to save his and the fans football Club, and the Supporters Trust were at his side at every twist and turn, unfortunately as the result of a very weak Barrister, Mel Nurse lost the case. However, the fans and the Supporters Trust were more determined than ever to oust Petty.
In January 2002, a package and draft Consortium agreement was put together with the aid of Swans fan and Solicitor Steve Penny, who had offered his services free in the campaign to oust Tony Petty, and he, along with Tim Jones, Mel Nurse and David Morgan, travelled to a meeting in Cardiff to meet Petty. Thankfully, the offer of £20,000 to buy out Petty was accepted and a further meeting was called in the Sea Haven Hotel on 6th February to discuss the Consortium Agreement, which would become a signed agreement for the formation of Swansea City Football 2001 Limited.
The document was produced and was signed by the Trust representatives at that meeting, Leigh Dineen and Nigel Hamer. Also present were Martin Burgess, who had become more involved during the Court case and had brought Brian Katzen to the table, Steve Penny, Mel Nurse, David Morgan and two others who had expressed an interest in becoming involved but decided it wasn’t for them financially.
Other investors who had not been a party to all of the meetings but had agreed to become financially involved were OTH Limited (Martin Morgan), Redi Plastics Limited (Huw Jenkins), Five Thirty Ltd (Brian Katzen), and Swansea Jacks Ltd (John van Zweden and David Morgan) – these, together with Mel Nurse, Robert Davies and Olliedom Ltd (Dineen family) comprise the shareholders in the “new” Swansea City FC.
The Trust were allowed additional time to obtain their £50,000 investment as the other consortium members were Corporate bodies, there was also agreement that the Trust could have a Director for their investment and also be allowed to invest a further £50,000, which would entitle them to a further seat on the newly formed Board of Directors. The Trust Board agreed that Leigh Dineen would become the Supporter Director, and would form part of a Management team, along with other investors, to run the Club as a Committee.
The Supporters Trust were paramount in ensuring that the Consortium became a reality, something which is not universally appreciated by fans and investors alike. The Club Board and Shareholders, apart from Leigh Dineen who became our Supporter Director, who took the Swans into the Premier League, were not involved at the outset but became involved as the months progressed. We are firmly of the belief that as long as there is a Swansea City Football Club there will be a Supporters Trust, a body that will strive to retain an active involvement in the Club long after other original Shareholders.
As we all remember, things had been going well for the Swans until recent years but the financial pressures of the Premier League, the sale of the club in 2016, and a series of poor management and transfer decisions by the club’s hierarchy in recent times has seen a change in the landscape of the club. This continues to present the Trust with significant challenges many of which are ongoing and all too familiar to our members.
We are however as determined as ever to do our utmost to ensure the Trust does all whatever it can to safeguard the future of professional football in Swansea.
And so, as we head towards our 20th year as a Trust, we need more than ever a strong Trust membership as we face up to the challenges ahead so please seriously consider joining or re-joining the Swans Trust!
If you are interested in learning more about the history of the trust and the work we have done over the last 12 years then we recommend that you purchase a copy of “From Graveyard to Ambition: The Official History of the Swansea City Supporters Trust”, which gives an in-depth account of the amazing rise of the trust and the crucial role it still plays to this day for Swansea City football club.
Swansea City Supporters’ Trust