On Wednesday 2nd September, MCT were pleased to host a Q&A session with non-members, giving them the opportunity to pose their questions to the Directors.
We have pulled together a summary of the evening which can be viewed below
Who will scout for new players?
We don’t anticipate there being any significant changes to the way the club operates on the playing side of things. Owners should not be telling managers who to sign or play.
Who will negotiate contracts for new players?
Again, we don’t anticipate there being any changes in this. We will be community owned. This is not the same as community run. MCT will not have day-to-day involvement with the playing side of the club – that is a matter for the manager and coaching staff.
How will you raise extra cash to make the club more stable?
We have studied the approach taken by several other clubs in relation to sponsorship and fundraising. It appears that the club is currently relying on a very small number of companies to fund the club. We are engaged with many local and national companies to seek additional revenues. Other clubs are very imaginative about fundraising – we hope to be the same.
Are MCT making decisions now about club infrastructure?
We do have an input into decisions at present, through our board representation, when decisions are made at Morton board level. We will become more closely consulted on longer term decisions (eg the future of the youth academy) in the coming weeks and months.
How do we protect Cappielow if golden casket no longer exists?
There are legal options available to us, and we are currently discussing these options with our solicitors (one of the top commercial firms in Britain) and negotiating the position with GC.
Who is responsible for capital expenditure in Cappielow?
We anticipate that the lease will be structured to make MCT responsible for maintenance, and the landlord responsible for capital improvements.
What are your plans for playing and coaching staff budgets, will they be increased or decreased?
We hope to be in a position to increase the playing budget. There is strength in numbers, and the more members and patrons we secure, the higher the playing budget will be.
How many positions will be on the board and what roles will they hold?
That has yet to be decided, but the ideal board size would be between 5 and 8 members. The actual make up of the board, and the professional requirements of board members, is being developed. We expect that the board will have individuals with the right skill set to help to develop the sustainability of the club for the future.
What are the long terms plans for a training facility?
If funding can be secured, we would obviously love to have a bespoke training facility. In the interim, we will continue to use local facilities to meet our needs.
Are stadium upgrades in your plans?
Yes. We will be carrying out a full survey of the stadium and looking to make whatever upgrades we can afford. We want the match day experience to be the best it can be within our budget. We may even buy a new table for the salt and sauce stand in the cowshed!
What payment options are available?
You can pay monthly by direct debit through GoCardless, with a minimum payment of £10 per month, or you can pay a one off payment (minimum £240). We also have members who pay quarterly, annually or in many other ways. Tell us what would suit your budget and we will try to accommodate it.
Will we have access to club accounts and budgets?
Members of MCT will effectively be shareholders in Morton (not individual shareholders but as part of the company that owns the club). With that in mind, the annual accounts will be presented to the general meetings of MCT and Morton. The annual budgets will not be shared, as they are commercially sensitive. We would not want it known, for example, that we have budgeted to pay £1000 per week for a new striker, as our opponents would then know that they have to offer £1050 per week to get a player that we want.
If someone offers to buy Morton will MCT sell the club?
We would consider any offer that we thought would be in the best long-term interests of the club and the community. Any proposed sale would have to be approved by the MCT membership. As we indicated at our members webinar, a possible third-party purchase was in negotiation and we did not believe that would have been in the best interests of the club. If the same situation should arise again, and we believed that the proposed purchaser was better able to serve as the custodian of Morton going forward, then we would consider that as an option. We have a duty to act in the best interests of the club and its shareholders at all times.
Do you have a plan?
I’m not sure what is meant by this question. We have several plans. We have a plan to maximise the income to MCT by increasing membership, attracting patron members and securing more commercial members. We have a plan to reduce the costs at the club by ensuring that it works more efficiently. We have a plan to maximise commercial revenue for the club through sponsorship by local businesses. We want to see the club at the heart of the Inverclyde community, providing a key service to the area, and provide facilities for the local people. We have a plan to develop young talent through the academy and in to the first team. Our plans are being fine-tuned by the wider MCT team and will be presented to Golden Casket in March. Thereafter, we will be able to share some of the terms of the final agreement, the leases and the final agreement.
When will the business plan be available?
The aim is around March, that’s when everything will come together. We’ll have a full business plan in place that can be sent to Golden Casket, MCT members and the wider public. We want to be ahead of that though. We’re starting to engage with the club now, we’re shadowing them so that we can have a first draft of a business plan towards the end of this calendar year. That’s not guaranteed but we’d hope to have that in place so we can start to test it and see if it makes sense and whether it’s going to work.
What total amount of annual financial contributions are required to ensure a takeover next season and operate safely and competitively over the coming years?
That’s a how long is a piece of string question. Currently we’re going to be bringing in around £120-150,000 a year through memberships, we’re looking at bringing in some patrons who will fund over a period of three years, which will bring in, hopefully, around £100,000. That, plus the extra sponsorship and commercial income will be enough. I would imagine that MCT should be able to come in around about the £200,000 figure. The more money we can put in, the better quality players we can put on the park, the more we can do the work that needs to be done at Cappielow. You could put in £10million and it would probably never be enough. Numbers count, the more people contributing, the more money we have. All that money goes to the club. You pay your £10 a month, that goes to the club.
What happens to money that is raised from a sale of the club?
We have two distinct organisations, we have MCT and we have Greenock Morton Football Club. They are separate legal entities, even after the takeover they will remain separate legal entities. After the takeover, if a Morton player is sold, the sale proceeds go into the club as they have done forever. What then happens to that money is a matter for the club directors to decide. In the past, that money could have been taken out of the club by the previous owners. That cannot happen under MCT’s ownership. MCT is a company that is setup by limited guarantee, it’s a non-profit making organisation. The company MCT Ltd and the directors of it cannot, by law, profit from their involvement in this venture. The money will be used to improve the club, whether that’s to improve the stadium, or, for example, to fund or part-fund a training facility, or to sign and pay better players, that’s entirely a matter for the directors at the time.
Selling the club is a matter for the MCT members to decide. MCT will have an asset of 90% shareholding in the club. If the club is sold to a third party it is then up to the members of MCT in a one vote per member basis to decide what happens to the money. If those members decide that they want to give the sale proceeds to me, that’s up to them. Realistically I don’t think that’ll be the decision of the membership. That’s entirely a matter for the members to decide.
I understand that when the Supporters Trust was wound up the share were distributed among each individual member or shareholder or whatever the term was that they used. That’s an option that may well be the case with MCT. It may well be that the £20million that we secure for selling Morton is divided among the 690 members. It’s not our decision to make.
How democratic do you envision this to be? Is it one member, one vote?
It is. We’ll be having an AGM at the end of September. We decided to delay it in the hope of having it in person but that’s not going to be possible so we’re going to have an AGM over Zoom. It doesn’t matter whether it’s the minimum of £10 per month or thousands of pounds. Patrons will be contributing £25,000+ per year into MCT, everybody gets one vote.
If the plan is for MCT to own 90% of the club, who owns the remaining 10%?
At the moment, the other 10% is owned by individual fans. The biggest section of that, I think it was 4.6% that was owned by the Supporters Trust, has been distributed amongst their members. The rest of the shares are owned in small batches. One of the things that will be happening, depending on clarification from Golden Casket as to exactly how many shares they hold, if we get above 90% then we will be writing to the other shareholders to give them the opportunity to sell us their shares at market value. Before you get too excited, market value is not as high as you might think it is I’m afraid. The value of a share in a company that is losing a quarter of a million pounds a year is pennies.
What are the key lessons we can learn from other clubs who have already pursued the fan ownership model?
From the very beginning we’ve gone out and looked for lessons from other clubs who are on the journey. Some of whom have secured full community ownership, some of whom are on the road. The body in Scotland that pulls that together, Supporters Direct Scotland, of which MCT is a member, have enabled us to engage with all the other member clubs. Clubs like St Mirren, Hearts, Clyde, Stirling Albion, Motherwell and Bohemian in Ireland as well.
The thing is, there’s things that some of the other clubs have said that they are learning from MCT which is really nice. One of the biggest things I take from that is that it’s brilliant to get into a room of like-minded people who, in a way, confirm that you’re not completely nuts. There are no one-size fits all either, that’s one of the key lessons. The Foundation of Hearts have been superb and very forthcoming in their advice and support. What we’re trying to do is take the best from what they’ve done and try to fit that into the context that we’re in. We do not want to be reinventing the wheel so it’s brilliant that all of the other clubs we’ve engaged with have been so forthcoming and helpful.
Can fans volunteer to help with everyday tasks to keep costs down?
Yeah, we’re aiming for that. One of the groups we’d mentioned earlier is a volunteer group and this kind of thing is their aim. At this time of the season, a lot of basic stuff needs to be done around about the ground to get it back up and running for when we can all come back again. We’ve said we’ll lend a hand so we’re working to do that in conjunction with another couple of groups out there. We’re going to come in and paint the crash barriers, things like that. Our team there also includes a health and safety professional, so we do everything properly, putting risk assessments and method statements in place. So, we are looking to start working with the club more on volunteering but that’s just one arm of it. We want to look at other ideas like even the matchday experience. It’s great when we win but the ground is not always the most welcoming place. Some other clubs do things well and as we’ve said we’ve been talking to them. The volunteering team is looking more long-term as well and linking in with not just other areas of the club but also with groups in Inverclyde as well, so the presence of Morton grows in and around the community.
After the takeover, what is the position of the current shareholders of the club given that the club and the ground will be different entities?
The existing shareholders will retain their shares in Greenock Morton, if anything their shares will be worth slightly more than they are at the moment because the debt that I think is on Morton’s books of somewhere between £2million and £2.5million the value of Cappielow comes nowhere near that figure. So, you’re writing off that debt from one side of the balance sheet and you’re losing an asset, the stadium, which is probably worth around £300-350,000 there or thereabouts, from the other. So, the actual value of the company will increase slightly because of that transaction.
The 90% mark is key in terms of company law. If we own 90% or over, then we have the right to buy everybody else’s shares at market value. Whether we would choose to exercise that right, we have yet to decide. I certainly wouldn’t want to discourage individual shareholders in Morton. I think individual shareholders position will remain unchanged. They will still be invited to the Morton AGM as shareholders in Morton. If anything, their shares will perhaps be worth slightly more in real terms than they are just now. I appreciate the book value of Cappielow is some ridiculous figure in the books just now but that’s going back to our former owner who had a few ridiculous ideas for the future of Greenock Morton.
Will the present board members stay on once the takeover is complete?
We have spoken to the existing board members. We hope that some of them will stay on. Some of them have expressed the view that they do not wish to stay on. They wish there to be a clean break and we understand that. The reason we want perhaps some of the existing board members to stay on is because we feel there’s a need for some sort of continuity. If you take, for example, Crawford Rae. I think he’s been on the board for 20 years, anybody with 20 years’ experience that’s experience we’d want to tap into, whether they would remain on the board or just be available for consultation. There is benefit in retaining some of the existing directors in the short term to ease over the transition period.
How do you plan to engage with fans and increase MCT member contributions between now and March?
As we’ve done since day one, we’re an open book. We want to engage with members, fans, non-members, we’re happy to talk to whoever wants to engage with us. We’ve built a decent presence across social media channels, so we’ll keep engaging with people on those. We have got an email database with all of our members that we’re in regular contact with. They receive our announcements ahead of time, for example, even if they weren’t on our recent webinar, they got a five/ten-minute head start on the news compared to non-members and the media.
In terms of people not being fully ready to join because they maybe haven’t got the full picture yet, as we get the full picture and as details become clearer, we’ll share what we can. We’ll let people know exactly what we can. There might be some things from a legal perspective we can’t say but once the lease for Cappielow is agreed, for example, we’ll be happy to share what details we can to give people as full a picture as we possibly can.
Are there any plans for the continuation of the use of the streaming technology for international fans and ones that cannot make matches?
My understanding of this is that it’s all to do with broadcasting deals with TV in the UK and also the governing football bodies that for international fans, yes, the last update we heard is that streaming is probably something that can continue for international fans. Anyone that’s a UK resident once we’re back to fans back at games won’t be able to get the live streaming. That’s our understanding of what will happen once the season kicks off.
Will we avoid any spending on Cappielow until the legal contract is finalized?
No funds will go towards anything to do with work on Cappielow. Once we take over and become owners of the club then that’s a different kettle of fish. Until that’s all signed sealed and delivered any money is going into the first team budget and that’s where it’ll continue to go.
The position now is that our articles of association that set up MCT are quite specific in that we can only contribute money to the first team budget. One of the things that we will be asking at our AGM will be to amend those articles to allow us to spend the MCT money in a wider manner. That is in anticipation of us taking over the club in June. Clearly, our next AGM would not be until August or September of 2021 by which time we will have had ownership of the club for three months or thereabouts and we would need to be able to spend the MCT money on other things within the club at that time but prior to the takeover we will not be contributing money to anything other than the first team budget.
Given the relatively low value of the stadium would MCT consider making an offer for it? Is there any prospect of MCT at some point buying the stadium from Golden Casket?
These are things that we’re exploring at the moment. Would we consider buying it now? No, because we don’t have the cash available and the important thing just now is to stabilise the cash flow within the club to make sure it’s sustainable and we don’t end up going back 20-odd years to being virtually bankrupt.
We would certainly not rule out the possibility of purchasing the stadium in the future. There are options that can be written into any commercial lease, and I don’t want you to think that these are guaranteed to be in the lease that we’re negotiating with Golden Casket because we haven’t signed that yet and it can still be changed at any stage. There are things that can be written into a commercial lease that would give, for example, a tenant the right to buy property after five years or ten years or whatever the period might be. It could give the tenant the first option to buy the property, so if a landlord was of a mind to sell the property at any stage then they have to give the tenant the first refusal at a market value to buy that. It is something that we’re exploring with Golden Casket.