(Friday 18th February 2005)
Supporters Trust Wycombe Wanderers Supporters' Trust are set to claim a place on the Football Club Board as the deadline for the restricted share issue passed on Friday 18th February. The Trust were granted a place on the Board if they could deliver half of a 100,000 share subscription in the new company by the deadline date. Close to 20,000 of the required 50,000 has been raised in the relatively short existence the Trust has and an interest loan has provisionally been arranged to cover the shortfall. An official statement from the Trust is expected next week to confirm the arrangements and The Trust Board will now be looking to entice in new membership on the back of creating a higher profile for the organisation launched in August 2004 following the plc conversion.
The Trust is following objectives recomended by Supporters Direct where aims include encouraging the Football Club to take proper account of the interests of its supporters and to also allow supporter representation on the Football Club Board. Trust members will be able to propose and vote for this representative at a General Meeting to be arranged following confirmation of the shareholding.
Membership of the Supporters' Trust is open to all Wycombe supporters of 16 years of age or older. In order to push towards the 100,000 barrier as soon as possible it was agreed to set the annual membership fee at 60 and around 150 people have joined to date. However, it's understood that less than 100 of the orginal 500 members of the Football Club have opted to join to date. Trust Chairman Francis Glenister commented at the Fans Forum held on 20th January "The thing that surprised me personally was that given the passion that was expressed with the Club's conversion to a plc, that not more of the 500 came forward to join us to date. My plea would be for more of the 500 to join us." A possible reason for the lack of numbers to date could be a degree of confusion between the Supporters' Trust and the Founders' Trust. The latter was set-up specifically for the former 500 members of the Football Club with a view to protecting certain "key issues" relating to the heritage of the Football Club. They too get a place on the plc Board but this has been given without the shareholding requirement. However, membership of the Founders' Trust is restricted to current Season Ticket Holders of three or more consecutive years.
Representatives from both Trusts are aware of the possible confusion and are working closely together to develop a more structured way of representing the views of the supporters. Mr Glenister added "We are going to do some sort of joint membership drive and have people able to join both the Founders' Trust and the Supporters' Trust. The reason we are doing that is clearly the way we have the strongest Football Club is by having the most number of people involved and having their input, so it's not just about the money, it's about the involvement in the process as well."
The expected 50,000 input from the Supporters' Trust will take the new investment from the plc to what COTN understands to be close to the 600,000 mark. This is slightly higher than the minimum figure quoted in the Financial Promotion issued with the proposed changes back in the summer of 2004 but is still some way short of the 1.5m target required to make the suggested business plan realistic. The new investment figure has also been eaten into by a 100,000 plus legal fees associated with the change. Any further calls for additional investment will attract similar charges and the plc Board are understood to be reluctant to go down this route until they can prove they can take the Club into at least a break-even situation.
Meanwhile, Supporters' Trust Board member Andy Worboys emphasised that the fund raising and membership drive would continue after the deadline for the share purchase had passed, saying "If we achieve the loan to raise the 50,000 to get on the Board that doesn't mean we have to stop fund raising. There is another 50,000 to go and also a loan has to be repaid. It's an ongoing process and we've only been going since August/September, so it's a relatively short space of time." Other activities being carried out by the Supporters Trust include planning a junior section for those under the age of 16. Juniors can register their interest in the Trust to enable them to be informed of progress in this area. A 'Community Partners Scheme' is also set to be launched where local companies can actively show their support of Wycombe Wanderers via the Trust. Mr Worboys, who is also Chairman of the Official Wycombe Wanderers Supporters Association, added "We have got some quite good ideas coming up that we are floating around at the moment to raise more funds and get more people involved and I think over time it will gradually evolve into a strong organisation."

Postscript: On Sunday 20th February the Supporters' Trust officially announced the part purchase of 100,000 shares in the Wycombe Wanderers Football Club plc. In a press statement Francis Glenister, Chairman of Wycombe Wanderers Supporters Trust, commented "I am very pleased that we have been able to fund the share purchase required to gain additional supporter involvement at board level. We have come a very long way since our launch less than six months ago and raising the funds is the result of the combined efforts of many people. On behalf of the Supporters Trust and the fans that we represent, I say thank you to everyone involved. I hope that many more fans will join the Trust, including all who have delayed whilst waiting to see if we would be successful in achieving the goal of the required share purchase. We are focussed on taking the Trust forward including holding an AGM, electing a member to represent the Trust on the board of the PLC and meeting the next financial target of raising the 50,000 needed to complete the purchase of the shares outright."
Meanwhile Football Club Chairman, Ivor Beeks, said "We look forward to working with a member of the Wycombe Wanderers Supporters Trust as a Director of the plc Board. This is a significant step forward in the change of our constitution and the Supporters Trust is to be congratulated on raising the first half of the funds required. The Board welcome this development and fully support the initiative to encourage fans to contribute to the final stage required in twelve months time."
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