As many of you will be aware, over the last few months we have had a large proportion of our membership due for renewal, and we are incredibly grateful to all of you that have not only responded by continuing your membership, but have also sent us valuable feedback. The response to the renewal process has been fantastic, but we do need to remind people that not everyone has set up automatic renewal and many of you will need to manually renew. Based on your feedback we are looking again at the entire Membership process and charges and we are looking to simplify things by the time of the AGM.
One of the things a lot of those who have provided feedback have asked for is a summary of what we have done over the last 6 months or so, and an idea of our strategy for the next six months.
Rather than reply to people individually we have put together a summary that we hope covers all bases. If people want any further clarification, please do not hesitate to contact us via the usual channels (Facebook, Twitter, Email) or stop one of us for a chat at a Pools game.
December– When it was announced the club was for sale we sought approval from members to commence fundraising. We received approval in early January but elected to defer our fundraising until the initial Rachel Cartwright appeal and the Save Pools Day campaign had been completed, having urged our members to support these to give a potential buyer some additional time to get a deal in place.
January – We attended a meeting with Mr Singh, Jeff Stelling and Craig Hignett to discuss forming a consortium to buy the club. We worked hard to sell the club to Mr Singh and appealed to other investors to come on board. We also made contact with John Blackledge who was selling the club.
February – We commissioned Supporters Direct to review the clubs books and produce a recommendation on whether we should invest. It was a condition of potential investors being given access to the clubs books that they had to sign a Non- Disclosure agreement.
We also held formal meetings with the Leader of Hartlepool Borough Council and the Towns Member of Parliament. We stressed to them via ongoing dialogue it was our firm belief that liquidation of the club should be avoided at all costs if possible and urged them to do whatever they could to ensure the sale of the club to Mr Singh and his consortium went ahead, as we felt they were the only potential buyer in the frame that seemed to have the best interest of the club at heart. Indeed as time went on we became convinced that they were the only investor that were seriously interested in buying the club.
March – We confirmed to members that we were in discussions with the Consortium headed by Mr Singh. We also held an Open Meeting at the Corporation Club where guest speakers included our new Director of Football Craig Hignett.
Feb- March – We released a series of statements seeking to clarify the position at the club for members and to cut through a lot of the misinformation that was circulating. Throughout this period we were in constant communication with both the consortium headed by Mr Singh and John Blackledge. We also had a series of meetings with potential investors the majority of whom were complete timewasters.
April – We launched our monthly HUST lottery having secured a licence for this from the council. Our goal was to raise money for the Trust and any causes we support and to provide a lottery run in Hartlepool for fans of HUFC.
May – We held an initial face to face meeting with our new CEO as part of what we hope will be an ongoing dialogue with those running the club.
July– We held another of our regular Meet The Trust Board events in the Corner Flag. Our thanks once again to all those who attended and gave us valuable feedback.
We feel it is imperative for members to continue supporting HUST. Our objectives moving forward are:
Invest in the club and seek representation at Board Level. Mr Singh made it clear at the recent Fans Forum that they have sufficient funding in place for Year 1 and 2 but would probably be looking to secure further investment in Year 3. We want to be in a strong financial position at that point to enable us to step in if requested.
Provide a safety net. We know it is important for members based on the feedback you have given us that we continue to build our funds so that we will always be there in the worst case scenario to ensure the survival of football at Victoria Park. We know how quickly the financial situation can change at lower league clubs and we cannot rest on our laurels despite the takeover by people who clearly have the best interests of the club at heart. Our motto remains “Hope for the best but prepare for the worst.”
Monitor the financial situation at the club. While we are broadly supportive of the new owners we know our members want us to remain independent and to continue holding the club to account in relation to the finances. The Trust Board attended the recent Fans Forum for instance and took the opportunity to ask direct questions of the owners in relation to the clubs accounting. There were some areas where we would like more disclosure and/or clarification around finances, and on behalf of our members will continue to seek answers from the club.
We are also trying to condense the Financial Report completed by Supporters Direct into an abridged easy to digest summary for publication to members in the run up to the AGM. Please note this is subject to us receiving consent to publish from the football club due to some of the content being covered by the Non-Disclosure Agreement we signed with them. To those who state we should not have signed the NDA the simple fact is that had we not done so, we would not have had access to the books, and there would be no report.
Be active in the Community. As a Community Benefit Society it is vital we continue to support local community organisations especially those of a sporting bent. We have already held Foodbank collections at the ground in conjunction with North East Athletic and will continue to do so. We also introduced that organisation to the football club and they have been doing work around the ground on a voluntary basis.
We have assisted in fundraising for Horden Community Welfare and also held a joint fundraiser with Pools Football in the Community which resulted in us handing over a cheque for over £1000 to Keith Nobbs. We have been active lately raising funds for transport costs for HUFC Academy, we have also reached out to HUFC Ladies to see if there are ways we can assist them. We have stressed to the football club that it is vital that they too are more visible in the community, something we feel has been sorely lacking in recent seasons. To that end we were very encouraged by the recent Open Day at the Vic, and the Fans Forum the same evening.
Forge closer links with other HUFC Supporter Groups . We believe it is vital for all Pools fan to unite behind the club. While we appreciate the various groups have different objectives and need to keep their own identities there are ways in which we can work together. Ultimately we all want the same thing, a successful football club back in the Football League where we belong, and for that to be achieved by owners acting responsibly and in a manner that is sustainable. That will be best achieved by all of us pulling together.
In addition to the above we will be building towards the AGM on 6 December at the College of Further Education. As per our constitution at least 4 serving Board Members will be required to stand down and seek re-election along with anyone from the Membership that wants to join the Board. We actively encourage anyone interested to throw their hat into the ring or to contact us to find out more about what is involved. It is vital we have new faces each year who bring with them new skills and a fresh outlook. We have been very fortunate over the last 12 months to have had one new full member of the Board and two Co-Opted Members but are always looking for more.