Minutes of the Annual General Meeting 2014
Held in 'Arry's Bar, The Den on 16 April 2014
Introduction and welcome by MSC chairman
Acceptance of the minutes of the last AGM of 24 April 2013
Summary of the MSC year and the committee’s achievements by MSC Chairman
Very good year for Lions Live, well done and thank you to those involved for producing the MSC’s showpiece communication. Main thanks to George but also to the other contributers: Ted, Graeme, Sam Brown, Joe Amphlett, Jamie, James, Laura and Stan. Thanks to all, it’s been very good and successful and it’s a great advert for the supporters’ club.
Matchday programme this season has, in my opinion, been much better, as is our space in it. We were asked to supply more substance and that’s exactly what’s been provided, so thanks to Laura. It’s a horrible job, having to churn out this content every couple of weeks. Ian tried to offload this for years and finally did, so thanks.
Website has been pretty good. We’ve managed to get stories on there and keep the content moving. Well done to James for being the go between between the committee and Jon Watts and Truetype Web Solutions, based in Greece, who host, manage and maintain the site.
Bob thanked Ayse for managing the email account, George for the phone and Dave for the post.
The home shirt: this time last year we discussed the shirt that nobody liked. This season we have had a better shirt, with some meaning – linked to the twenty year anniversary of the move to the new Den – and we had a small choice of shirt designs, allowing for a fan vote. The winner was the plainest of the plain. Hopefully it will be successful in terms of sales. I’m led to believe we have front of shirt, back of shirt and shorts sponsors in place for next season. If these agreements are unconditional on our league status, this is very good news. As the sponsors are in place, there should be no delays regarding shirt availability for next season, due to printing, but don’t quote me on that.
Price of season tickets: this has been a difficult one. We’ve had three years with no price movement. The club now have the biggest payroll ever, our most expensive manager and the Financial Fair Play criteria, so the club was in a difficult position. They initially proposed a substantial increase. After a few days’ negotiation we came to an agreement of an average 4% rise. While supporters are never happy to see an increase, especially given our league position and the ecomonic environment, we came to a form of agreement on the prices. I’m not sure if this has been considered a success or not; the 4% increase was thought outrageous by some and reasonable by others, but it is what it is and most people in this room have probably already bought their season ticket for next season.
Away coaches have always been an issue but since the ticket office took over the organisation, there have been no issues. A coach has been provided for each away game, except Charlton and QPR, where there is no demand.
Police liaison: we talked a year ago that some police forces sometimes try to talk to visiting clubs’ supporters ahead of the game. This happened a few times last season and it was treated with much caution. It’s only happened once this season, and we’ve had no significant away issues this year. We will continue to talk to the police if they approach us. I’m not sure if it’s a good or bad initiative.
The usual bugbears of catering, the ticket office, and the Leeds away fixture. Catering is not brilliant, but less issues have been brought to our attention. We receive very few complaints in respect of the ticket office. I think they do a very good job. Last week the web and phone lines couldn’t cope with demand for QPR tickets. This has been the only incident this season, but is still disappointing. As usual, See Tickets were blamed for the problem, so I’m not sure what the way forward is, except to prepare as much as possible to ensure that the systems can cope.
Leeds away: I don’t know what to say. This is not something about which we have genuine bargaining power. I do think club do their best but the issue was trickier this year given the ownership turmoil at Leeds, so there was no change to the matchday routine. We think there were about 300 Millwall fans there this year, which is more than last year.
Attracting new committee members: we never seem to have been much good at this. We’d always like to find more people that would like to join. However, this year, we had a few people come forward and happily we have two that have come as far as this AGM to stand for election. Well done Kevin and Jamie. This means the first election for quite a few years, and it’s good that there are people wanting to serve on the committee. Why don’t people want to do it? Perhaps the fact that you give up your time to carry out a number of responsibilities, even though you’ll receive no payment or thanks. So finally, thanks to whole committee. We do have our rows, but we do try to be constructive and progressive. So thanks to all.
Ian thanked Bob and the audience responded.
Presentation of annual report and accounts by MSC Treasurer
The other (landscape) statement is the MSC’s own account held totally within our control, and for which a ten month statement is provided.
Ian talked through the entries and the background to the receipts and payments made through both accounts.
Ian mentioned to the meeting that the committee is always open to ideas on how to spend the money to benefit the supporters and, ideally as an added advantage, to also benefit the club. If anybody has any ideas, they were asked to bring them forward. Any ideas will be considered further at future committee meetings.
Ian thanked Tony and Rachel of the Coach & Horses for their continued sponsorship of the man of the match awards, together with the player of the season sponsorship.
Peter White & Co were thanked for their website sponsorship. The meeting was given details of the number of views the MSC website receives and anybody interested in advertising on the site was asked to contact the MSC for further information.
As expenses did not exceed income, Ian confirmed that there will be an increase in the surplus.
A question was asked as to why the accounts are not published? Bob confirmed that they should be published and they will be made available online. It was confirmed that the accounts were published but the practice had lapsed. The club has recently improved the time it takes them to provide Ian with the information he requires, so this will help. The year end is 31 May and Ian agreed it would be reasonable to expect the accounts to be available by around mid June.
Bob thanked Ian for his hard work in managing the accounts, bar the publishing issues, which will shortly be resolved.
Summary of the last year by current Fan Director Peter Garston
It’s been a pretty quiet year regarding issues to be resolved. In the previous year, there were a number of issues. From a football point of view, at last season end, we had Kenny Jackett leave. Each season end, there is a two day strategy meeting. At the last, the chairman, John Berylson stood up and said that he was going to increase investment, as he realised that it was necessary. After that Kenny stood up and said he felt he couldn’t take club any further forward and tendered his resignation. Everybody was surprised and asked him to take some time to think about it. There’s no doubt that the off the field issues, such as Wembley, Sordell and the racism issues influenced his decision and Kenny did not change his mind.
This brought about the new manager search, which is not as easy as it might appear: availability is a difficulty, as is finance, among other things. Peter is sure that, at the time, the Lomas appointment was a good decision, and the route taken to reach the decision was a good one. Obviously Lomas struggled. Pete’s personal view is the great difference between the two men was pivotal. Kenny was very quiet and would raise issues with players privately, whereas Lomas would fire with both barrels in front of anyone. There was a point relatively early on where he might have been sacked but we then hit a good run. However, the Watford Boxing day game was his last. A lot of money had been invested in the squad by Lomas and when we went, there was just one option. Warnock only wanted short term deal, so Holloway was the only choice. Obviously, we didn’t think we’d be where we are now (league position wise) with him in charge. Pete believes that a number of players’ attitudes contributed to the problems and Holloway says there are too many senior pros at the club.
The recent training game has received a lot of publicity and this was where Alan Dunne made a speech to the players, which seems to have made a real difference and results and performances have vastly improved. There are a number of players who will not stay if we go down and the board has invested even more money to bring in players that Holloway has wanted.
Other items: bannings – these are much fewer. It’s a shame I spend so much time on these, when the vast majority of fans are no trouble and would never be involved in banning issues. We have behavioural orders that can be signed. I try my hardest on anything I’m asked to be involved in and that includes working on banning issues.
Regeneration – the club is presently in discussions with Renewal. Petition number stands at 6,500 and we have until June to get to 8,000 if we need to (to trigger further council debate on the subject). Council can ultimately compulsorily purchase the leases on the three plots of land. If we cannot buy them, we have a legal team working to get the best deal for the club.
The election for the FotB role has opened my eyes as to where I may have failed. I am always available 100% by email and I will always try my hardest to answer quickly. I will not spend a great amount of time on the messageboards as it can be of little value.
I need to be more vocal. I’m planning to hold surgeries if they’re wanted but I’ve tried this in the past and there was little demand; I’ll speak to the local press more, and will spend time before games at the Blue Bus to make myself available to anybody that might want to speak to me.
Graeme asked how damaging relegation will be if it happens. Pete advised that all the players have reductions in their salary written into their contratct in the event of relegation; the percentage will be between 25-50%, dependent on individual deals. Relegation would be damaging but we’ve looked into it and the club will not go under if we go down. It’ll be discussed at the end of season strategy meeting. If it happens we will have the highest paid manager in League One, but we will lose our highest earning players; Morison is on loan, so that’s clear cut. We hope Holloway will be able to use money wisely, he thinks we have players on too high salaries, given all the circumstances.
Graeme also referred back to the crowd trouble at Wembley. We know this was damaging and we have to improve fan behaviour. Do we need a campaign? Pete said that there was a lot of fighting off camera at last weekend’s FA Cup semi final between Arsenal v Wigan, but it was not reported. It’s the big one off games that cause the problems; it’s been trouble free at Millwall this season, save a few minor incidents such as swearing and stewarding issues.
It was suggested that we might be able to get that message out in the local press.
Peter also mentioned that he may issue monthly FotB reports, rather than the current bimonthly reports, but this will depend on time availability and volume of content.
It was noted by the meeting that the election had highlighted the need to review the FotB job description and role. I was suggested that there has been a lack of clarity regarding the relationship between the FotB and the MSC committee.
Bob advised that the job description was always an outline. In 2006, it was a new role so much was going to be defined by how the winner went about the job. Pete did that. Now may not be the time for the committee to say if that was the best way to go about it.
One thing we’ve learned from the election is that there is a lack of clarity, and depending on who wins, we’ll see how this evolves. Paul Turner has, in particular, identified this as a point of frustration. He’s heard Bob and Pete’s views. If that’s a tactic to upset the status quo or a real lack of clarity, I don’t know. I’ve said if he wins, we’ll sit down and work that out.
Yes, maybe we do need to be more prescriptive in the job description.
It was asked if the committee will be more open with the fan base. Bob answered that yes, and I don’t think we do anything where we’re not. There is a subplot to this matter where the club chairman could pull the role at any time. I don’t’ think he will; it wouldn’t be popular, but it’s an element in that equation. We do need the relationship and know that the FotB will fit into that environment; he can’t go in all guns blazing.
The question was repeated: I just want some clarity. It’s not clear to me what the accountability is from the FotB to the committee.
Pete answered that originally it was very reactive and maybe I was too reactive to everything, but the role has evolved. The problem we have now, regardless of the election winner, is that the drama and vile exchanges on the unofficial websites and messageboards are not being missed by the board. They may not read them themselves but they are told, and it’s done the position no good. Pete said, I guarantee you that if I’m reelected, they will cut back on what I know and they will pull down the shutters regardless. They fear they might in time have a FotB from that group of people. There has been a lot of criticism of me and how I do the role through this election, but just about everything that’s been raised as an issue has already been brought forward by the committee or the FotB, for example, cheaper away tickets, having the FotB on the holding company board. If they pull the shutters down, the only losers will be the fans. People are very worried about what comes back from the board, but what’s important is what is taken to the board.
Ian commented that the committee allows the FotB to let the role evolve, and there are no concerns. Ted reminded everybody that the FotB gives a monthly report to the committee. He mentioned that he stood for the role originally and nobody knew how it would evolve. Peter has always communicated with the committee. It’s important to clarify and remind the fans that the FotB role comes from and is an extension of the MSC committee.
It was asked why committee meeting minutes are not published. There are confidentiality issues but it was suggested that an edited version could be released. This will be considered by the committee. Bob commented that this used to happen. However, minute taking is already a hard task and preparing a second, edited version would be harder again. However, one thing we’re not good at is informing fans what we do and anything that helps get that message out has got to be a good thing.
Bob reminded the meeting that Pete has already indicated that has role has been damaged by behaviour around the election. However, one thing that will strengthen the power of the role is plenty of votes. More votes = a better mandate. Everybody was reminded that online voting had opened that day and paper voting is available before the game on Monday. There’s a main article in tomorrow’s Southwark News and a mention in the Wharf.
A member of the audience suggested that the board could be held partly to blame for some of the recent problems due to the Wembley ticket allocation. Pete reminded the meeting that tickets were put on open sale, but that some arrests were of season ticket holders/members. It could be said that the late kick off allowed people to drink all day. Then a small incident led to things kicking off. Another issue was that the match was stewarded by lesser qualified stewards, which didn’t help when things turned bad.
Pete repeated that the damage has been the circus on the websites; it’s tempered the board’s view. The role wouldn’t be here now, if the FotB had been from that community. I’m the only fan director, which is different to where clubs are owned by supporters.
In response to a question, Pete confirmed that yes, he has a vote on the football board, one of eight. Pete also mentioned that, originally the football board meetings were separate to holdings board meetings and he would be required to leave at the break. Now the meetings follow consecutively and it was the chairman’s decision to allow Pete’s attendance.
With regard to away tickets, allocation is decided by a safety advisory group. They speak to the clubs, consider all the issues and have final say. Similarly, the use of South Bermondsey station post game and the departure of away fans, is a police decision.
Ted commented that where we have been fortunate with Peter is that he never did anything wrong in the boardroom to cause problems for the committee. If he didn’t act properly, he would have been of no use to the MSC, but that hasn’t been the case.
Pete mentioned that there have been two major issues in his time as FotB. One was the Sierra Leone game, to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the abolition of slavery; this created an incredible amount of pressure on the club and Peter had a serious row with Heather Rabbatts. However, out of that was born Dockers’ Day, to celebrate the club’s history. The other was the Marvin Sordell incident.
Election of members of the committee
This year the six are Stan, Dave, George and Ted, who attended all meetings. Graeme and Laura missed only one.
The other seven positions will now need to be elected. In alphabetical order, these are Bob, James, Jim, Jason (absent due to work commitments), Ian and Ayse. They will be joined by the two new candidates: Kevin Allen and Jamie Howlett.
What will happen is each meeting attendee will have a voting slip listing the eight names and must cast a maximum of seven votes. The voting is confidential and anonymous. Each candidate was asked to say a few words in support of their application.
Kevin: I’m 63 years old, and a supporter for 55 years. My reason for applying is selfish: Millwall is my club and want to do the best for it.
Bob: currently chairman. I’ve been on the committee since 2005, I think, and chairman since 2007 and it’s an honour.
James: on the committee since 2011, I look after the MSC website, messageboard messages in the MSC name, I created and maintain the Twitter account. I also help with Lions Live, answering the phones on the live show and producing the Player of the Month videos. I also manage the various votes, including the current FotB election.
Jamie Howlett: I’m standing because I help on Lions Live, even though I’m not a committee member, and I think it’s right that I get involved. I think I have good communication skills and can help get the messages about the committee’s work out and can help with international supporters’ groups.
Jim: I joined the committee in about 2010. I write, representing the committee for CBL magazine, 1,000 words every six weeks, which takes about eight hours; there’s a tradition of representation in the London Marathon, and in 2013 both Ian and I ran the marathon and the Great North Run. I have also put my name forward to the Climb Snowdon challenge.
Jason: Bob advised the meeting that Jason is a relatively younger member of the committee, he used to be a catering watchdog, working on a report giving a comparison with other clubs. Ayse had been sent a statement from Jason that she read out.
Ian: I’m a season ticket holder in the Cold Blow Lane stand, I’m 36 years old and the longest serving committee member at around 15 years. I’ve been treasurer for much of that time, and wrote the programme notes for about ten years. I still organise the MoM award with Dave Hart, which allows us to spend time with supporters on an individual basis and canvass opinions. I write an article each week for the Wharf newspaper and have done so for 7-8 years. I have also been the MSC football team manager for about 15 years and have carried out other jobs through the years. I support events for the Finlay Cooper charity, which helps raise opinion of Millwall supporters. I help organise MSC events, quiz nights, votes, etc. The committee is a team and I think I’m an important member of that team and worthy of one of the seven places.
An attendee of the meeting suggested that the committee roles should be elected by the MSC membership. James commented that he has been a member of many voluntary organisations and they follow the procedure used by the MSC where the roles are agreed at the first committee meeting post AGM. Bob said that there are different ways to manage this and any change would require a review of the constitution.
The attendee said that one of the criticisms of the committee is that it is a closed shop, and this view is strengthened with the committee selecting the roles from within itself. One way to change that is to change the procedure.
Bob observed that it’s clear that the majority of the committee is open for election each year. Ian asked if we would really want somebody holding an important role on the committee without being a committee member? People should be doing it for the right reasons, not just for the position.
As previously discussed, if people are that keen and feel that strongly, let them come along and put themselves forward for the committee.
Anybody that joins the committee will come along with particular skills and there will be a role to suit them. We should work towards alleviating the perception of a closed shop, but a reason for being on the committee should be to represent the supporters and not because you’re looking at one of the high profile positions.
Dave mentioned that he’s involved in a non profit making housing cooperative with a management committee and at the AGM, people put their names forward and at the first committee meeting, roles are voted in. James reiterated that this is generally the procedure for voluntary/non profit making organisations.
Bob concluded this discussion by stating that ‘we are where we are’. These are the arrangements currently used by the MSC and the vote for committee membership will now take place.
Introduction of the new committee
Bob thanked Ted and offered Jim his commiserations. He confirmed that the roles will be decided at the next committee meeting, scheduled for 12 May.
Discussion of aims and objectives of the committee for the coming year
The review of the framework will include the need for the FotB candidates to have been a committee member for a period of time, at the time of the election. At the next election, should we insist that candidates have served on the committee? Why should that be? So the potential candidates understand supporter representation, know the committee, and have had the opportunity to be known to the board and/or the club’s senior administrators. That way, they would already be some distance along the road to (a) being known by the supporters and (b) building the trust of the board, which is a key element of being a FotB. I think it’s a good idea. MSC have two years to think about it; are there other views?
Pete said that, as the FotB reports back to the committee, the prospective candidates would have gained knowledge and understanding of the role and the subjects discussed at board level.
James suggested that, potentially, if the committee knew of potential candidates well enough in advance, those candidates could shadow the existing FotB.
There was a concern from the meeting that there would be enough time for dissenting views to be heard. Bob stressed that the only commitment at the moment is for the committee to discuss the idea. Anything further would need to be endorsed by the new committee and the club would have to be comfortable with any changes.
It was clarified that this is not a change to the constitution but to the rules as to eligibility for standing as FotB. The proposal would need to be voted at the next AGM. Bob felt sure it would go down well with the club and couldn’t see why it shouldn’t be thought of as a good thing by the fans.
It was asked if club directors come to committee meetings and it was clarified that committee members attend monthly meetings with the club, so potential FotBs would be able to attend those. Bob said that we don’t want to put people off applying, but this would be a good thing. Being on the committee shows a good amount of commitment. The club board sees that, and this helps build trust.
The committee must advertise what it does better. Yes, Bob agreed, there’s lots we need to do better. There’s now a good opportunity with the club’s challenge to find ten initiatives.
Again, the question was put as to if there would be consultation with the membership. Bob was clear that this would happen ‘We don’t have a monopoly on good ideas, and we need to draw them in.’
There being no further business, the chairman called the meeting to an end at 9.05pm with thanks to those attending and participating. Come on you Lions!
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