FAQs – Frequently Asked Questions
Please Contact Us if you have a question that is not listed below, we will continue to update and promote this list as often as is required.
1.1 Are the Trust going to buy the County Ground?
It’s important to note (and we stressed this at our AGM many times) – the Trust is just a vehicle for the supporters to buy the stadium (THE SUPPORTERS to buy the stadium) – the fact we have secured matched funding and some other significant pledges from some of our more wealthy supporters should not matter – it’s not a loan and doesn’t give anyone any greater power than anyone else. We want every single supporter to own an EQUAL SHARE in the stadium, that’s how it works with community shares, regardless of how much you invest – it’s a truly democratic process that secures the stadium future.
1.2 How much are Community Shares going to cost for each supporter?
It’s likely that we’ll get many £50 pledges into our crowdfunder (if we get the nod to go ahead), and we also know we’ll get many more wealthier people stepping up. Look at other examples, you will see the bulk of the money comes from a relative few, but we want to include EVERYONE which is why we have taken on board feedback and floated a figure of £50 as a minimum share price.
1.3 Are voting rights proportional with the amount invested into Community Shares?
No – Community shares are one share, one vote no matter the amount invested and there is a maximum investment of £100k currently. We want to encourage as many fans as possible to participate and this structure encourages the many to be involved and express their views, which is why the Government has introduced it for Community Purpose vehicles like ours.
1.4 Why is it a good idea for the supporters to own the stadium?
- Every penny of revenue will be invested back into the club.
- Leaves the club to concentrate on climbing the leagues.
- Protects our Ground – issues at Coventry, Northampton, Oxford, Darlington and more.
- Every Town fan has the chance to own a share and a vote on future decisions.
Very simply, at the moment the football club pays rent to the council, and that money is spent on community services, bin collections or whatever. Under supporter ownership – that rent would effectively be taken in one hand, and subject to community shareholder agreement, could then given back with the other. That’s an immediate benefit.
In addition, under private ownership – the current owner (or indeed any future owner) could borrow substantial amounts from a lending body, using the County Ground as collateral. This would the club into debt and could lead to major issues down the road.
1.5 If the Trust purchase the land, do they intend to reduce the amount of rent the club pay per year? Could the rent payments depend on league status – e.g. £x in league 2, £y in league 1, £z in the championship?
This would be down to a vote – fans who purchase Community Shares would decide future policy. Remember, it’s one vote per community share, regardless of how much is invested by an individual – equal rights for all involved.
1.6 Who is going to manage all this? – you are volunteers and part-timers!
- If the Trust acquire the stadium we would allocate a portion of our funding toward a full-time stadium development team.
- That team would be professionally recruited and would be accountable to the board and supporters.
- Their roles would include the day-to-day administration around the stadium, but more importantly they would be dedicated to finding development opportunities that benefit the club as a whole.
1.7 Your plan is ambitious but I wish you all well, just remember to keep out of the local political arena regardless of party.
Unfortunately we do need to consider the political arena, as to get the deal through we will need support of the local councillors who are representing Swindon communities. As a Trust we do not have any political motives and all board members have their own preferences and views, but we will take advantage of any governmental backing that is available from our local MPs (whoever they are)
1.8. Could the Trust sell the ground in future?
The Trust will not own the ground and it would not be theirs to sell. The fans will own it via community shares, and will vote accordingly. Under our proposals there would be no need to sell it on, as supporters would be taking all profits from the stadium and passing them back into the club. It simply retains a level of control and safety for the future.
2. Swindon Borough Council
2.1 Are the council insisting the club be on board with any plans for the Trust to purchase the County Ground site?
- It is obviously preferable for all parties if the club are on-board with plans, but this does not prevent the deal from going ahead. We remain very open to working with the club.
2.2. I don’t like football! Why don’t the council just put it up for sale to the highest bidder?
- The Council would have the first option to buy it back at the price they sold it.
- We are taxpayers ourselves and from the local community.
- We will match the valuation and work hard to improve the area for the good of the whole Town.
2.3. Is the value to the town of a properly run, stable, communicative and well supported club realistically reflected in the current negotiations with the Supporters Trust?
The Council recognise our value as a Community group and have been very supportive. We respect their need to get best value for the local taxpayer, and discussions are proceeding well.
2.4. A question for the Council in negotiations for the County Ground is how much they would appreciate the ground under Trust ownership hosting fundraising concerts as we did when Elton John performed a few years ago. This should also serve the Council’s interests in providing arts and cultural services to residents without the budget resources for this provision which is being cut by virtually all councils.
This is definitely something that could benefit the wider community and we would be interested in pursuing ideas such as this in the future.
3. Swindon Town Football Club
3.1 What about the Club, what do they think of all this?
- Our door is always open, we are owner neutral.
- Our sole interest is in safeguarding the long-term future of not just the County Ground, but also of the Football Club.
- We would be delighted to work with the club on the County Ground, at the moment it pays rent directly to the Council and is responsible for repairing the stadium.
- Due diligence suggests over £1m of investment to bring it up to standard.
3.2 If Swindon Town were to buy the ground, will it be a club asset?
Swindon Town Football Company Limited is 100% owned by Seebeck 87 LTD, which is owned 100% by Swinton Reds 20 LTD, which is owned by Lee Power.
It would be a challenge to legally ensure that one of those companies cannot pass/sell the County Ground as an asset to another one of those companies.
3.3 What if Lee Power wants to sell to a billionaire?
- We’d all love to see some amazing investment in the club, but for every example of a good takeover, there are multiple instances of bad takeovers.
- We would never stand in the way of progress. That might mean a new lease where all profits from the stadium are directed back into the club.
- Ultimately we have no interest in taking any money out of the football club.
- We are an extension of Swindon Town, every penny we raise goes directly or indirectly toward the football club’s future.
- Supporters owning the stadium simply means that we have a say in the key points that happen in the years to come.
3.4 Why not join forces with the club and work together? 50/50 ownership each?
- We would support 50/50 ownership with the club as long as it is the club and not any individual owner. This can be arranged through a carefully worded legal agreement, and we would want a board of elected fans appointed to ensure long-term security.
- Joint ownership simply means that 50% of the income from the stadium is guaranteed to the club for use in any way they wish.
- As stated previously, even as sole owners of the property our focus would always be on reinvestment into the stadium or football club.
- To avoid deadlock there will need to be some form of independent arbitration, agreed by both sides, to settle any disputes.
3.5 Will there be any clauses in place to stop the club moving to another site? / If the club did want to move to another site and the Trust couldn’t stop them, what would happen to the Trust owned land?
We believe Section 4 of the official EFL rules protects us from any alternative site moves and we are working with various parties to confirm this position: http://www.efl.com/global/section4.aspx
13.4 Ground sharing will only be approved at the discretion of the Board.
13.6 Each Club shall register its ground with The League and no Club shall remove to another ground (whether on a temporary or a permanent basis) without first obtaining the written consent of the Board, such consent not to be unreasonably withheld and the Board shall be entitled, if granting consent, to impose such conditions as it deems appropriate in all the circumstances.
13.7 In considering whether to give any consent to a permanent relocation, the Board shall have regard to all the circumstances of the case (including, but not limited to the factors set out in this Regulation 13.7) and shall not grant consent unless it is reasonably satisfied that such consent:
13.7.1 would be consistent with the objects of The League as set out in the Memorandum of Association;
13.7.2 would be appropriate having in mind the relationship (if any) between the locality with which by its name or otherwise the applicant Club is traditionally associated and that in which such Club proposes to establish its ground;
13.7.3 would not to any material extent adversely affect such Club’s Officials, players, supporters, shareholders, sponsors and others having an interest in its activities;
13.7.4 would not have a material adverse effect on visiting Clubs;
13.7.5 would not to any material extent adversely affect Clubs having their registered grounds in the immediate vicinity of the proposed location; and
13.7.6 would enhance the reputation of The League and promote the game of association football generally.
13.8 The Club must disclose, as soon as practicable, plans and details of any proposed future move to a new stadium.
13.11 Without prejudice to the provisions of Regulation 13.6, a Club shall forthwith notify The League of any proposed change in its circumstances relating to the occupation of its ground. By way of example, and without limitation, a proposed change may include a sale of any freehold interest (with or without subsequent leaseback) or any surrender or variation of a lease or licence.
3.6 Have the trust had any discussions with the club about the ground purchase since the Trust’s press release – or are all discussions currently just between the Trust and the Council?
We are in continued discussion with the Council and with Supporters Direct, and as current freeholder the Council have been in discussion with the Club. We hope to bring all parties together as the deal comes to a conclusion.
3.7 Could the Trust via the advertiser and Wiltshire Radio ask Mr Power what he will accept for the Football Club?
Our focus is on the long-term security of Swindon Town and right now it’s clear that Lee Power is not looking to sell the club. We see securing the stadium as the best way of ensuring long term stability for the football club. We can achieve a lot through owning the County Ground and we can make a significant impact in the wider football world by taking this important step.
3.8 On a more optimistic side – what would happen If STFC were lucky enough to have a new owner who grows the club to the extent that the County Ground is not big enough and wants to move the club to a purpose built ground, what happens to the Trust and the County Ground then?
We are interested in the long-term future of STFC and we feel that buying the County Ground helps ensure that future. If we were lucky enough to have a new owner who wants to invest significant amounts whilst also ensuring the long-term legacy of STFC and engagement with the Trust and the fans then we would look at their proposals and consult with the community shareholder fans who would vote on how we take things forward.
3.9 In view of the current situation at the club, would it not be a better idea to devote the time and money that the above proposal will take into visiting, courting, persuading and enabling a wealthy Chinese or Arab Billionaire to take over the club?
As above, we are all about sustaining STFC for the long term and ensuring its legacy if there were owners who shared our views and were legally willing to enable this then we would look to work with them and put any proposal to our members.
4. The Stadium
4.1 If the Trust own the land, do the Trust also own the Stadium (i.e. the stands / pitch etc) or just the land that the stadium sits on?
We commissioned a report on the existing lease terms, and the property covers three parcels of land together with the buildings and structures, namely The County Ground Football Ground and the ticket and sales offices. Any stands and buildings that were constructed after 1988 would have required the Landlord’s consent and usually this is documented by way of a licence to alter.
This document is not a public document (i.e. not registered at the Land Registry). The professional understanding and opinion always would be that any building or structure that is built on a Landlord’s land would be retained by the Landlord.
4.2 If you were successful with buying the county ground, what are you buying? The land? does it include the cricket ground and pavilion the extension too but not the actual stadium or just the land the stadium sits on?
As above, we would be buying the land and the stadium buildings, the adjacent land facing out onto the Magic Roundabout, and the car park. The Cricket ground and athletics track is not included.
4.3 Asset of Community Value (ACV) – what does that mean here?
- The Council must give the Trust written notice of the proposed sale and then we have 6 weeks to register our interest, and a 6-month period “Full Moratorium” to confirm our own bid.
- Of course, they already know of our interest and our offer.
- Realistically it means we have 6 months to complete our fundraising and lodge our bid along with other interested parties. It can’t just be sold next week or next month.
- Six months works fine for us – it gives the people first option and aligns with the 2011 Localism act brought in “to empower local communities”
- We want every supporter to get involved! We have £50k set aside for a promotional campaign, and that alone will significantly raise the profile of Swindon – attracting positive interest in the Town.
4.4 How will key decisions be made about the stadium and things like rent?
All of this will be part of a wider discussion with the stadium Community Shareholders, who will each have an equal vote on how the money is reinvested back into the club. That might mean a rent reduction, it might mean a rent increase, it might mean the club keep it all over and above a base rent.
5. Future Developments
5.1 How do the Trust propose to develop and improve the stadium and surrounding area?
- Immediate action on external area with supporter engraved paving.
- In future, we’ll add statues of former players.
- Over six months of discussions with a developer regarding a new £15 million Town End with confirmed financial backing.
- We’ve had positive discussions with the Goddard Estate, regarding the covenant on the land.
- Opportunities for community grants to help create a sporting hub for Swindon.
- Very open to discussions that benefit the whole Town.
5.2 What is this new Town end all about – what is it and why does it cost so much?
The new Town End would be a unique one, first in the UK, a showcase for other stadiums, more than seats and a roof. The company behind this have been down to see the County Ground and meet us, they are well respected and Independently funded, and they have Swindon as first choice. Can’t say much more as we have signed an NDA, but as Town fans we are very excited about the prospect, and hope it comes off regardless of the outcome.
It’s much more expensive than a usual stand because it would be the first of it’s kind in the UK, and would be multi-purpose. The developer would own and operate for the payback period – suggested as 10 years, based on their business plan. The football club would continue to receive the ticket revenue for the matches played during this time.
At the end of this period ownership would revert back to the stadium owner (Trust or Council or Club) and the developer would maintain a minority stake in future income generated.
This would be a massive investment into our Town, and could bring some great publicity too. We must however dig into the detail, and at the moment we cannot, as we do not yet own the stadium.
Keep in mind that this is PHASE 2 work, ownership of the stadium needs to be concluded one way or another, and further due diligence is definitely required. The devil is in the detail.
It’s very much on the back burner at the moment, needs a lot more looking into and we need the stadium ownership to be resolved, one way or another. Even after that, getting these things introduced into Swindon won’t be easy, there are planning hurdles and Councillor approvals etc to consider, but it’s definitely got potential. We are nowhere near that stage at the moment. If we don’t own the stadium, we will never get there.
We have released the basic information about the stand to let fellow supporters know, but it mustn’t confuse the overall discussion about who should own the County Ground – this is the only proposal on the Council table at the moment.
5.3 Why should I give you my money and how do I know these developments will go ahead?
Nobody is asking you for money at this stage. If we ever get there, we will have a crowdfunding proposition that encourages donations, and if you want to back it and own a share and a say in the stadium future – then you back it, if that doesn’t interest you, then you don’t.
Both the Trust and the Club could produce fantastic graphical images of what might be coming in the future – but there will be no guarantees of delivery. There can be promises or proposals, but not guarantees. If the supporters have ownership of the stadium, and development is managed by a board of fan elected representatives and a delivery team, then you at least know that something will happen, because if it doesn’t – then others can be elected to take charge.
More importantly, you also know that the stadium is in safe hands for the future, and that supporters interests will always be top priority. No other arrangement can provide this.
5.4 Would it be possible to look at building a hotel on the land behind a new Town End so that the new meetings / function rooms can be incorporated into executive boxes overlooking the pitch?
This is one of many ideas we are working through with Supporters Direct as part or possible commercial ventures that would provide an income in years to come. We are very aware and respectful of the covenant from the Goddard estate and fully engage with them before progressing any ideas, which ultimately would be for the benefit of the Club and pursuit of football in Swindon.
5.5 What is the long term vision? Clearly something needs to be done with the bank which could mean a fundamental stadium re-design by redeveloping the town end this cannot happen.
We have plans to develop the stadium which are already underway and are keen to work with the Club to bring our plans together, develop a joint long term vision, funding plans and work with development partners so we have timescales for a stadium fit for STFC’s aspirations in the 21st Century. Regarding the Stratton Bank, again this is something that can be invested in – community share holders might decide it’s a priority and put all revenue toward developing that.
5.6 What if the club have a much better vision for the future than the Trust?
The club might have their own vision for the stadium, but if these plans don’t ever come to fruition, there will be no way of addressing the matter and there will be no accountability. Once the stadium is sold to a third party – it’s gone forever…………except in our case, where it won’t be – supporters will be in total control, and in a position to work together and bring about positive change. Supporters owning the stadium ensures it’s safety for the future. If at any point it’s not going how people want it to go – there will be a democratic process to elect new people to run the show, and new leaders will be brought in to take the stadium forwards. The shareholding fans will be in control, always.
5.7 Will you work with the club on developments?
We would be willing to work with ANY developers (including the current club ownership and investors) and subject to community shareholders agreement, could ensure that revenues generated from any stadium development are ploughed directly back into the club.
6.1 If I as an individual were to put £x amount up to be used for the purchase of the land, will the individual see a return in their investment or is it just a donation?
See the Fans Meeting Guide notes – Community shares do not increase in value, however there is the possibility of a dividend if the board/supporters agree. We would look to secure a reasonable return for sizeable loans from high-net worth individuals.
6.2 How can the Trust afford to do this?
- Non-disclosure agreements in place but over £1 million pledged as matched funding.
- We are asking the Council for a six-month window to exercise those options and also to involve as many supporters as possible in a Community Share offering.
- We want every supporter to own a little piece of the stadium!
6.3 Are there any alternative funding options available and/or being considered?
Our Fans Meeting Guide guide from the 2017 AGM explains the various options we have available. There are many different possibilities: private donations or investment, loans, capital and revenue grants, bonds, briconomics (fans purchasing bricks in a commemorative wall or floor) among others.
6.4 Will the club still have to pay rent?
Yes, the club will pay rent, and we will reinvest that rent back into Swindon Town FC. At the moment that money goes to the Council, in our proposed world it will simply go back into the STFC. The income will be reinvested back into the club in one form or another, and it will happen from day one, assuming we haven’t had to rely on any loans to get this over the line. How it gets reinvested will not be a Trust board decision, it will be the decision of X thousand community shareholders.
6.5 What if the current or future owner refuses to pay the rent?
- The Trust always maintain a positive approach for the people of Swindon and would operate in exactly the same way as the Council in terms of rent payments and take court action if necessary.
- In extraordinary circumstances, we would again put this to a shareholder vote.
- The Trust operate on a fully transparent basis and would be stand firm on any threatening actions, if there were any attempts to move the club outside of the area, we would be forced to engage with the necessary authorities and win.
- Swindon Town Football Club will always be here regardless of individuals and under our stadium ownership will always have a home, in the County Ground.
6.6 My concern is that OK we buy the stadium, what if we’re playing non-league football in 18 months. The club would still play in a stadium regardless of league, so could the Trust charge the club a % of yearly income plus take into account out goings as rent to ensure club can afford it?
As per the previous question, any change to the current lease terms would be down to a vote – fans who purchase Community Shares along with other benefactors would decide future policy.
6.7 Where will the rent being paid by the club go? Upkeep of the stadium, stadium improvements, payments back to individuals who have contributed to the purchase etc?
Any loans that we have taken out would need to be repaid first. Following repayment then future improvements to the stadium would be down to a shareholder vote – again, fans who purchase Community Shares and benefactors would decide future policy.
6.8 If the purchase could be financed (at a cost of £2m+) how would the required investment in this updating be financed? I suppose the real question is does the Trust have the capacity to raise two such large sums in a short timescale?
As per the 2017 Fans Meeting Guide, we are looking at multiple avenues of funding, and there are many grant applications to consider that would support not only the initial funding bid, but also subsequent community projects that might be external or internal stadium related improvements. We’ve not set a timeline for post-purchase improvements as yet, the first step is to secure the stadium, everything else will follow in due course, in a controlled manner.
6.9 I think it would be helpful to explain what the back-up plan is in relation to the Red Army Fund. When speaking to people who are sometimes sceptical about the Trust actually coming to an agreement with regards to buying the County Ground, they often ask what the fund is to be used for if the purchase doesn’t go through.
The Red Army Fund is not the fundraising vehicle for the Stadium itself, it’s purely for the campaign to get a final purchase price and the associated community share offer established. In that respect it’s not associated with whether the purchase goes through.
The fund enables us to run the campaign in the first place, the costs associated with establishing a Community Share Offer and doing the associated due diligence run into the thousands, which we hope to recover through grants but at the moment all we have is the fund.
Please also remember that contributions are Monthly and therefore we are not awash with spare cash. When the Community Share offer is launched (target is September) we will ask contributors if they want to continue funding our future activities, if not we will ask them to cancel their regular contribution and instead purchase Community Shares.
If anything is left in the fund at the end of this initial campaign, we will either ask Red Army Fund members to vote, or keep the money in the bank and put it towards the next set of projects.
6.10 First of all I would like to state that I think your proposal to buy the County Ground is a good one and in principle I am for the idea. Unfortunately I cannot find it in me to make a financial donation or monthly contribution because of the following reservations. My first concern and most worrying is, what on earth happens if Swindon Town becomes an even smaller club than it is now? By this I mean what happens if the club goes down to the National League or even further? What happens if the club is ‘wound up’ and has to start life again at the bottom of the football pyramid? In either case the club will be unable to pay a rent on the County Ground and the Trust will go bust.
Our overall reason for being is to ensure that Swindon Town has a safe and secure future and as explained in our Fans Meeting Guide, we are building an organisation that is ready for anything in the future. Although rental income would form an important part of our future business model, it would not be the only source as we are looking to develop new commercial and community focused initiatives on the surrounding land. If the Club is relegated to the National League or even further, and even if the Club is ‘wound up’, we would be excellently placed to begin a comeback. The Trust will never go bust, the purchase will be funded by the fans and other investors, the only risk would be associated if we took out loans or bonds to help finance the deal – in which case investors would be advised of the appropriate risks during payback years.
6.11 What about the ongoing overhead of the running the stadium. Some figures would be helpful.
We have studied dilapidation reports and understand the urgent works that are required, we also understand the ongoing overheads needed to run the stadium. If successful, we will be looking to hire a small team of professionals to run the stadium for us and support the Club’s maintenance team from our position as landlords.
6.12 If the costs of running the ground exceed revenue how would this be apportioned across shareholders?
The intention is to carry on the lease agreement as it stands today, in that the tenant (the Club) are responsible for maintenance and upkeep (running costs) of the stadium. This has always been the case and will continue under our ownership. The main difference would be that any rent paid to us would find it’s way back into the club, and that might include helping with any required repair costs. As things stand the Council do not have to do this. If the stadium somehow created a financial burden of some kind, no losses pass on to shareholders other than the risk of their original investment.
6.13 Where is your business plan?
We cannot factor in anything other than stadium rental costs at the moment and not any proposed developments which are all second phase / future projects – they in themselves will have a business plan. The Community Share offer when launched will confirm that all shareholders will be equal and these shareholders will agree the initial business plan going forward.
If we own the stadium, the Trust will also employ a team to seek out further business opportunities and to work toward a 7 day a week income, which will then also be reinvested back into Swindon Town FC. As stated, we have already attracted one potential major investor for a new Town end, and have had many other interesting conversations, we’re confident others will follow. Each will have their own business case and might well include corporate hospitality, and such like.
6.14 Why can’t you tell us who is providing the matched funding?
NDAs are in place – It is what it is, but when the time is right and when the relevant parties are comfortable, the information will be released. Apologies, we fully appreciate that lots of people are not happy about this and would really like assurances, all we can say is there are very good reasons for not disclosing details at the moment. The party in question has written a letter to the Council and it is therefore up to them to assess and consider as part of their internal discussions. This matched funding partner is committed to Swindon Town but wants no further part in the stadium, or any income from the stadium after this donation.