Questions and Answers After Community Ownership Announcement
Following the announcement regarding community ownership on Wednesday 8th July, we have been asked a number of questions. We have aimed to answer as many of these as possible below. We have tried to group the hundreds of questions we have received into topics.
There will inevitably be more questions, so please do continue to ask these and we will continue to provide answers.
Topic – Cappielow and the Car Park
Not surprisingly, many of the questions from the announcement have been around the ownership of Cappielow and, to a lesser extent, the car park. Questions like the lease fee, can we purchase Cappielow, who will be responsible for maintenance and upgrade costs, how long will the lease run, will Golden Casket raise the rent to unmanageable levels, what if Golden Casket sell the land?
We will try to deal with all these issues together. The terms of the lease are still under negotiation. What has been agreed is the outline of the deal. The lease fee or annual rent will be minimal. It will NOT be a market value rent. It will be a repairing and insuring lease, which means that the club will be required to maintain the stadium to at least the same standard as it is at present. This does not preclude us from making improvements to the stadium. The lease will run for as long as MCT is the owner of Morton. The lease will preclude any significant increase in rent – it will continue to be a nominal rent for the duration.
Insofar as any purchase of Cappielow is concerned, there are numerous legal options that can be pursued in the lease. For example, there could be an option to buy after a certain number of years, or there could be a clause giving MCT first option to buy should Golden Casket ever decide to sell. We are not saying that these will be included, as the fine print is still being considered, but we can assure you that the future of the club at Cappielow will be protected. We will also publish the details of the lease after it is agreed.
What if Golden Casket went into liquidation, or through a change of ownership?
This is one of the issues we are aware of and will be writing something into the lease to safeguard the stadium. Once the lease is finalised, we will be able to give further details.
Maintenance and Upgrades of Cappielow
Another popular question was about maintenance and upgrades of the stadium. Who will pay for these? Can we afford them?
The current budget for the club contains a sum for annual maintenance. We anticipate that the club will be able to continue to pay this from the budget. As indicated above, the general maintenance of the ground will be the responsibility of MCT as club owners. The cost of upgrades is more difficult to explain. Depending on the nature of the upgrades, and the terms of the final lease, they may fall to be paid by the landlord, the tenant, or a combination of both. Once the lease terms are finalised, we will publish it. It will be a commercial lease which will be registered as normal, and will be available to view. If the club wishes to upgrade the stadium and the landlord does not agree to pay, the tenant can, if the landlord agrees, carry out and pay for the upgrades themselves.
We were also asked questions about how much we need to raise to make the club viable. There is no single answer to that question. We have identified a number of areas where savings can be made, but also recognise the need to raise income. It is not as simple as saying “we need to raise £100,000 per year”. If we raise £150,000, that means we can afford to sign more and better players than we could if we raised £75,000. There is no magic number here. The more money we raise, the better the club will be. Significantly, as MCT has no shareholders, all profits will be ploughed back into the club and not paid out as dividends.
We were asked whether members of MCT are shareholders and can you sell your shares. The answer is no. MCT has been set up as a company limited by guarantee. We do not have shareholders – we have members. As indicated in our terms and conditions, membership is not transferable.
Greenock Morton Budget
Are we confident that we can run Morton as a viable business – yes. We truly believe that this can be done. As indicated, we have seen the club accounts and are aware of the issues. We do not think that this is going to be easy. We will need the support, financial and otherwise, of large sections of the community. The more people who support us, the easier our jobs will be! We desperately want to see Morton succeed both on and off the pitch. The more help we get, the more likely it is that we will succeed.
Will the current MCT Directors remain in place?
We serve at the will of the members. Our first AGM is due, COVID permitting, in August. None of the current directors have indicated an intention to resign, and they are not required to resign this year. Some of them are required to resign next year, but can stand for re-election if they wish. We are a democratic organisation, and whether we remain in place after next year will be entirely dependent on your votes.
We have been asked about external sources of revenue. We are at very advanced stages of discussions with a number of people who have expressed an interest in supporting MCT and Morton. It would be unfair to name those parties at present, but we are confident that we will secure this funding to supplement the monthly contributions from members.
How many members do we need?
There is no magic number. Our membership has increased significantly over the last few days, and we are grateful to all members for their support. The more people who join, and the more money that they contribute, the more money that we can spend on players, ground repairs and upgrades, and other projects that we would like to develop.
Is this a done deal?
Effectively it is, although both parties have a “get out” arrangement in March. Nobody wants to see MCT fail in their stewardship of the club. If it becomes apparent that we are not ready by March, the deal may be delayed. None of us, including Golden Casket, want to rush into this and then fail.
How far can we go under community ownership?
That’s an impossible question to answer. We guess that the only answer would be “as far as the supporters are willing to take us”. The traditional football model in UK has been ownership by a wealthy benefactor. Unless you are playing in the English Premiership, there are few of these. When looking further afield, there are numerous clubs in continental Europe (many of them being very successful) who operate under a fan ownership scheme. There are also a number of successful community owned clubs closer to home in Scotland who we can learn from.
What if COVID is an issue for longer than anticipated?
That is one of the reasons for the option to defer the takeover for 12 months. We live in uncertain times
Morton in the Community
This is a separate company, but it runs with close ties to the club. The future links with the Community program will be part of our agreement. We will be a community owned club, and we wish to maintain strong links to the community. We do not envisage any huge changes to the relationship with this program and if anything, we will look to strengthen this.
Should we look at a business club to generate income?
This is a good idea – thanks to the member who asked – and is something we will consider.
Will David MacKinnon remain as CEO?
We hope to be sitting down with all key employees of Morton in the near future to discuss their roles going forward. As we said in the webinar, we will be fan owned but not necessarily fan run. We will need the assistance of an experienced chief executive to manage the day-to-day business of the club.
Is relying on large personal donations sustainable?
We believe it can be. Those who are interested are Morton supporters. It is a better financial model, we believe, to ask 6 people to pay £25k each, plus individual member contributions, rather than one person to pay £250k. If you rely on one person to pay £250k, and they fail or decide not to pay, the club is in serious trouble. We will also be planning to take advantage of efficiencies that can be implemented at the club, as well as looking to generate more income commercially.
What about the Youth Academy?
We see the academy as both another strong tie to the community, and a great resource for producing talent for the first team. There is no doubt that good young players who are acedamy graduates get stronger support from the fans as “he’s one of our own”. We would like to see the academy continue to thrive, but again this will depend on the post-COVID financial position.
If a lottery winner wants to buy the club, what happens?
MCT would require to hold a general meeting to discuss this offer before accepting it. The money would then be distributed to members on an equitable basis, as decided by that meeting
Who makes the decision on viability in March?
That decision will be taken by Golden Casket and MCT together.
What have we learned from other clubs?
I’m not sure that we have enough space on our website to answer that question, we have had an incredible amount of support and advice from so many other clubs that are either wholly or partly fan owned. Say it quietly, but one of the most helpful groups has been the St Mirren Independent Supporters Association. From the launch of MCT, these groups have offered their advice about funding, structure, liaison with the club, marketing, supporter liaison etc. We genuinely could fill a book with the advice given, and everyone at MCT is very grateful for that help.
Supporters Trust Members
We have been asked why supporters trust shares have to be transferred to MCT. This is not what we said at the webinar. If former trust members, or indeed any existing shareholder in Morton, wish to donate their shares to MCT they can do this by contacting Morton. There is no obligation for them to do so. We will be seeking to contact individual shareholders in Morton after the takeover is completed.
Is there a planning restriction on Cappielow?
We understand that Cappielow is zoned by the council as a sports facility. Any change of use would require re-zoning. We are not aware of any request or desire to re-zone the land.
Will the Rae family still be involved in Morton?
We have not made any decisions about the future board membership, and have not spoken to current board members about their interest in remaining with the club. The Rae family has 20 years of experience of running Morton and that experience would be invaluable to us. The same applies to other board members. There will certainly be changes, but we cannot say, at this stage, what those will be. The other side to this question, of course, is “Do the Rae family still want to be involved with Morton?” We will be asking that question soon.
Morton Club Together – Moving Morton Forward
Community Investment Proposal
Executive summary: The current challenge and proposed solution
Greenock Morton Football Club – founded in 1874 and one of the oldest professional clubs in the world – faces challenges as it looks to adopt a sustainable business model.
The vision of Morton Club Together is to “Move Morton Forward” by:
o Tackling the current financial challenge by delivering new investment over two years, starting as soon as possible
o Sustaining and positioning Morton to reap the benefits of its recent investment in local community and football projects, and moving Morton towards on-going profitability – a winning, thriving Morton on and off the field
o Enabling new investors in Greenock Morton FC for as little as £10 a month. These new investors will immediately form the second largest shareholding group in Greenock Morton FC and will have a genuine impact and influence, delivered democratically through Morton Club Together
o Uniting, galvanising and channelling the energy and capabilities of lovers of Morton, Inverclyde, community action, the development of young people, and sport as a power for change. Morton Club Together believes that there are hundreds, if not thousands, of people around the world who will want to support this vision
o Working actively and independently, in partnership with the current Morton Board, to drive Morton forward and deliver the Morton Club Together vision
o Having at least one seat on the Morton FC Board to represent the views, wishes and capabilities of all MCT pledgers/investors. Adding value and improving Greenock Morton FC from the inside.
The first step was to deliver a pledging process over an 8 week period, starting on 26 April 2019. This gauged the appetite of potential investors who can securely, safely and anonymously pledge the amount they would like to invest in Greenock Morton FC Ltd. This will quickly demonstrate the chances of achieving the vision of Morton Club Together
While they would, in principle, be welcome by Morton Club Together, we are not aware of any other significant investment propositions currently being developed to address the immediate threat to Morton’s future. If there were any alternative major new investment proposals, MCT believes that an element of community ownership should be retained by Greenock Morton Football Club, to at least the 15% level initially being proposed by Morton Club Together. We see this as a healthy and critical factor in the delivery of the Morton Way and a sustainable and successful Morton
The pledging process was quickly followed by delivering the investment process itself, to starting in August 2019. This will ensure that new monies are immediately available to achieve positive outcomes on and off the field of play, and to ensure that momentum being built is channelled into positive results as soon as possible
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