This is to inform you that we on behalf of SL Organisation Ltd. feel strongly to bring to light our side of the story for the sake of the Torquay United FC fans after having seen the following statement made by one of the board members in your esteemed daily this afternoon."I have heard all the stories about other groups, including Chinese investors and others from overseas, but none of them were prepared to put up the sort of money which we needed and would show they could take the club forward.’’We were one of the companies facilitating the takeover of Torquay FC and find the club a buyer. One of our clients based in Hong Kong of Chinese origin was extremely interested to buy Torquay FC. Our clients were more than happy to pay all the debts including that of the current director’s and that owed to any other third parties involved. Our clients further pledged to put in more money as required to make sure that the club could run professionally and can become a sustainable entity on its own moving forward. Our clients were interested to see the football club progress to higher divisions and were more than happy to make the necessary investments in order to achieve the feat.We had submitted a LOI along with the proof of funds to the club on 07/12/16. We requested the letter to be counter signed and returned back to us which happened only on 12/12/2016 stating that the board members were not present in the office to do it earlier. Thereafter, we arranged a conference call with representative from the current board, member of staff from the club along with our clients to discuss further on the process of takeover on Wednesday (14/12/2016) afternoon at 1.30pm. The call lasted for more than an hour where detailed from both sides regarding the takeover along with future plans were discussed at length. During the course of the call it was learnt that a debtor to the club who had lent necessary funds during it’s time of despair and was part of another football club was calling the shots and answered most of the questions related to the club. The representative of the current board encouraged and at times relied on this individual to answer most of the questions which our clients enquired. Our clients were asked to inject a considerable amount of cash before or by Friday (16/12/16) to prove that they were serious to buy Torquay FC. Although the board took 5 days to return a signed document back to our clients they gave our clients only one and half days to arrange significant fund transfer to prove if they were seriously considering buying TUFC. Our clients accommodated this call at 10pm Hong Kong time to ensure that the relevant personnel from the TUFC could attend the call. It is clearly obvious that our clients were extremely serious in acquiring TUFC and had plans to come over in early January 2017 to meet with the club personnel.At the end of the call it was decided that our clients would sign a MOU with Torquay FC and requested to pen down a simple Heads of Terms before they could inject the necessary funds. We were informed that the Heads of Terms will only be ready on Friday (16/12/2016) as the necessary personnel required to complete the letter was not available before then. We waited all day until in the evening when we found that the club has been sold to a different company. We understand that the other party was ready to inject cash immediately while we needed further time to complete the process of takeover and inject cash into the club. Therefore, we wish the club and the supporters a very best of luck with their future endeavours. We felt it was necessary for the fans to know the truth which is the sole purpose of this letter.
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I've clearly been in the US too long as I was about to say "THERE WERE NO BOARD MEMBERS AVAILABLE FOR 5 MONTHS? WTF!?"We had submitted a LOI along with the proof of funds to the club on 07/12/16. We requested the letter to be counter signed and returned back to us which happened only on 12/12/2016 stating that the board members were not present
TUFC – At the crossroads
This month, I have taken the editorial reins as Michael is somewhat indisposed at present (Get Well Soon Michael!)
A lot has happened in the world since last month, but the biggest event in the life of Torquay United Supporters took place on 20th December when the official announcement was made that Riviera Stadium Limited (a subsidiary of Gaming International) had purchased a controlling interest in Torquay United. The announcement heralded the end of a period of speculation over which way the gulls’ board would turn following their decision not to consider Community Ownership as an avenue to explore.
I think it is only right at this point to make one or two points very clear for those supporters who have formed an opinion on how TUST conducts itself. First and foremost, TUST is a body of people (our members). The TUST board consists of a small number of individuals who have agreed to take on the responsibility of attempting to represent the views of its’ members. We all have Torquay United in our hearts and the survival and prosperity of the club is our sole reason for being. It is the only reason I decided to get involved with TUST just over 12 months ago having started to become hugely concerned with what was happening to the club I had supported for the last 37 years. I wasn’t prepared to stand by and let my club die without at least trying to do something about it.
The TUST board have a range of skills and qualities, but none of us would profess to be experts in what we do. We are merely a group of individuals who are willing to commit our own time and efforts for the cause.
It has been said in certain quarters that we are a “group of lefties” or a “group of troublemakers”. Nothing could be further than the truth. I am a great believer in “perception is reality”, which effectively means we have some work to do in order to convince certain people of the role we believe TUST plays, is playing or should play moving forward. However, I have come to the conclusion there are too many gulls supporters who sadly are either not truly aware of our current predicament or believe that sitting silently and hoping for the best is the right thing to do.
Sometimes a little information is dangerous, but over the last 12-18 months as a TUST board we have been made aware of many situations, issues, actions, information which is not for the public domain. We wholly believe in transparency, but have respected the wishes of those individuals who have wanted to share details with us. However, there comes a time when you have to take a stance. The release of information in respect of the January deadline for the repayment of liabilities to Gaming International was one of those instances where as a TUST board we thought long and hard over. This information was released to us prior to the signing of a confidentiality agreement and we were requested not to share this with the wider public. However, we were not bound by any confidentiality agreement which came subsequent to this.
We agreed to this and hence kept this information to ourselves, but given the manor with which the TUFC board dealt with us over the potential to explore Community Ownership (having gone to further additional time and expense of committing a full Independent Financial Review) it was felt we had a duty to release this information. It was not “out of spite” because we had been snubbed as some have described or an “act of petulance”, but out of sheer concern that we could not see where the club could possibly go in view of the timescales the TUFC board had given themselves. It was no secret that cash flow was tight and therefore the only alternative we could see was the club falling into administration or being passed across to GI who in David Phillips’ own words “were not the best of bedfellows”. Therefore, by releasing such information to the wider public domain we were hoping to galvanise support either for an alternative option to come forward or for supporters to look towards TUST if needs be.
The TUST board have never said that Community Ownership was the “best solution”. Indeed, we have no idea if it would even work, but we felt it was worthy of exploring on the basis you would have the whole community potentially pulling together with a common cause. It wouldn’t just be about raising huge sums of money; we are under no illusions that the average TUFC supporter will not have large amounts of disposable cash. It would be about what we could do as a community to collectively work together to build the club and take it forward. Why have a few people owning a club when you can have input from several thousand in one way or another? The commercial benefits alone potentially are huge with the correct infrastructure in place. That is not meant to be a “slant” against the previous board or current employees, but it is common knowledge that financial constraints have left the club hugely under-resourced in so many areas.
We saw Community Ownership as being perhaps the “last resort”. We truly believed that was where we were and as such we were willing to invest the energy and time in an attempt to save our club.
Once the 16th December was announced as “Takeover Deadline Day”, TUST came up with the idea of a “Pre-Share Issue” which could be used potentially as a last ditch attempt to either save the club from administration or should the worse happen it could evidence to the administrator that we had the potential to raise capital for a Community Share Issue in an effort to keep the club going. It was about trying to establish some form of credibility. Once again, we have been criticised over the publicity associated with the Pre-Share Issue. We deliberately kept this low-key on the basis we did not feel it was correct to be jeopardising any other potential bids for the club that may be on the horizon by making lots of noise over the Pre-Share Issue. However, this was set-up in order that we had a platform to work from should we really need to go to town on the publicity stakes. Various actions had been agreed so that we were ready to launch in a “big-way” if necessary. These still remain, but with the outcome from the 20th December announcement, we have decided to take time to reflect and have a TUST board meeting arranged for the 7th January to consider our next steps.
In the meantime, our cash reserves (including funds deposited) as at 29th December stand at £37,152 across our 2 accounts. In addition we have a further £9,500 of pledges on top of this figure and this is merely scratching the surface.
On the 7th January as a TUST board we will discuss where we go from here and following our meeting we will seek your views and opinions in a democratic way. We are committed to working with our new owners and to do whatever we need to do in order to ensure the survival and future of Torquay United is truly at the top of their agenda. So far, the limited communication provided through the press has sounded positive, but words need to be followed by action.
However, we aim to continue to be the “critical friend” of the Torquay United board as we believe this is what our members want us to be. Whoever technically holds the “ownership rights” of our club in my opinion holds these rights on behalf of each and every one of those gulls supporters who so passionately support our great club. The club is greater than one or two individuals or temporary custodians and come what may we must not let our club die.
On a final note, I think it would not be right to end this year without a special word for Kevin Nicholson. I have huge admiration for the way that Kevin and his staff have conducted themselves over the last 12 months or so. The working conditions at Plainmoor cannot be at all easy and with so much uncertainty hanging over the club it would not have been a surprise if there had been some “restlessness” in the background, but somehow Kevin has kept a lid on it and continues to conduct himself in a professional and positive manner.
The atmosphere in the ground on Boxing Day was fantastic and was surely an example of just what a fantastic club Torquay United is. As much as anything, I hope 2017 brings greater fortune and success for Kevin and his team who deserve to be dealt a better set of cards by Gaming International…..
Happy New Year to you all
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Agreed, good to get the statement out now the initial emotions have died down somewhat.Rjc70 wrote:Thank you for the update. As ever, a very sensible approach.
Dear Member ...
A meeting to discuss disposal of Plainmoor will take place in Meadfoot Room,Torquay Town Hall,at 10-00am on 18th January.
Agenda will be available on Council website a week before meeting.
Written statements on agenda items to be discussed need to be sent 11 working days before meeting and sent to firstname.lastname@example.org [edited thanks to torregull]
Public can outline a question verbally at meeting for up to five minutes-ned to notify above in advance.
Members of this committee are: -
Councillor Nicole Amil
Councillor Robert Excell
Councillor Richard Haddock
Councillor Mark King -Councillor Terry Manning
Councillor Derek Mills
Councillor Julien Parrott
Mayor Gordon Oliver
Your TUST Board is meeting on Saturday to discuss these developments.
Minutes will be issued.
Dear Member ...
Further to my message of the 9th I now include below the list of issues we have been asked to present to Gaming International at our meeting on the 20th January.
Kind Regards ...
Improve GI’s understanding of TUST’s role, objectives, evolving strategy in response to recent changes at the club and relationship/difference to TUFC Supporters Club.
Clarification of GI’s interest in owning the club. It is acknowledged that football clubs can be a “money pit” for investors. With that in mind, owners normally fall into one of two camps. The first would be somebody with an emotional attachment to the club or area who wishes to invest for benevolent reasons. The second, would be that the owner can realise some form of commercial benefit. As far as TUST are aware GI would not fall into the first camp and therefore as a corporate organisation with a responsibility to its shareholders, it is expected that Riveira Stadium Limited/Gaming International would be investing in order to generate a profit (which is understandable). Just where do GI perceive this profit to come from? TUST may be happy to support GI’s proposals if they result in a ‘win-win’ position for all concerned, but there needs to be clarity and transparency over this in order to dispel any myths that may exist.
In pursuance of the motives indicated above, what degree of capital investment (if any) is likely to be made into the club?
Following the takeover, what is the scale of underlying debt which GI believes has to be addressed and within what timescale?
What will the capital structure of the club (i.e. Torquay United Association Football Club Ltd / Plainmoor Limited) look like moving forward?
GI’s short, medium and long term goals for the club and for Plainmoor
Clarification of GI’s previous involvement with other sports clubs/sports facilities and a summary of GI’s successes and failures.
Clarification of GI’s view of the current lease arrangements with the Council and existing covenants.
Clarification of whether there is a need for freehold ownership of Plainmoor by GI, anticipated timing of an acquisition and implications for the club and its future security and sustainability.
If relocation of the club is part of GI plans, how would implementation take place to ensure sustainability of the club? For TUST support there has to be a guarantee of a comparable home for TUFC with similar or better T&Cs than they currently enjoy, before the freehold is released for sale.
If there is a relocation of the stadium, how would it be funded and what would be the burden on the club?
How will stakeholders, such as TUST, be engaged in the development of GI’s plans?
How will GI develop a positive relationship with local businesses and the local community to re-establish the ‘lost’ link with the local area, primarily to generate more revenue for the club?
If GI ‘review’ the fan base age profile it will quickly become apparent that their customer base is generally ageing! How will GI reinvigorate support from young people to ensure the club’s longer term survival?
What is GI’s view on the role of community ownership, or at least community involvement, in a football club?
CLUB MANAGEMENT ISSUES
GI do not appear to have much experience of running a football club. Are GI confident they have provided sufficient off-field management and administrative resource to ensure that the club prospers, and what will be the general nature/scale of that back-up?
If GI intend to manage ‘remotely’ who will be responsible locally and what will their relationship be to GI?
What plans have GI got to appoint a reputable and experienced Chairperson supported by a local board of directors and what will be the mechanism, or qualifying criteria, by which the board is appointed?
What plans have GI got to appoint a qualified and experienced CEO supported by suitably qualified back office staff to ensure:
there are sufficient resources to maintain the day to day operational requirements of running the Club.
increases in the amount of commercial income raised and develop new income streams
delivery of what is anticipated to be a challenging 5 Year Plan
the development of an improved communications strategy to address current criticisms (communication with fans has been a major problem for the previous Board and since the takeover there has been little communication with fans by GI, which has created a vacuum where speculation and rumour is now rife. How will GI address this in the short term?)
engage more effectively with stakeholders and the wider community
What ideas has GI got to introduce new income streams at (a) Plainmoor and (b) a new stadium?
Clarify alleged involvement of Peter Masters in the takeover process and is there any risk of future sanctions for the club from the National League?
FOOTBALL RELATED ISSUES
Do GI have any ambitions for the football side of the club, bearing in mind that the majority of fans crave a return to the Football League, supported by a plan to retain league status?
Do GI have any ambitions regarding re-establishing a youth academy?
Dear Member ...
I must start with an apology for the time taken to publish these notes.
The meeting did not conclude until approximately 6:15pm and the notes were produced the following day. It is normal practice to extend the courtesy of allowing those at the meeting a chance to preview and comment on notes before circulation, which has caused a delay in publication.
Please find the notes below.
TUST meeting with Torbay Council – 17th January 2017
The meeting was arranged with key Council officers (Kevin Mowat, Liam Montgomery, and Samantha Goodwin) to enable TUST (Michael Goulbourne, Robin Causley and Alan Robinson) to explain potential concerns about the future of Torquay United and to understand the Council’s intentions for Plainmoor, given the current level of speculation.
Key points from the meeting
The Council has not met GI since the takeover and has not received any specific proposals about either Plainmoor or other potential relocation sites. The Council has met previous club owners and other third parties (including GI earlier last year). Most have suggested that acquiring the freehold of Plainmoor would be key to securing future investment in the club and there had also been general discussions about relocating the club. In both cases the discussions had been very general and the Council explained it would only wish to deal with the actual owners of the club as their tenants.
The Council has no plans to sell the freehold of Plainmoor to raise money, but in principle would be prepared to sell to the club, if a compelling case was submitted which was in the best interests of the community and the club.
If the freehold was sold the Council would wish to impose a range of ‘controls’ over the site designed to ensure that Plainmoor remained as a home to Torquay United (but enabling an appropriate replacement home to be provided if an acceptable proposal came forward).
TUST remains very concerned that under the Council’s constitution the decision to sell is solely the Mayor’s, provided the market value for Plainmoor is offered (if the offer is less than market value than the proposal must be considered by a group of Councillors). However Council officers anticipate that the Mayor is likely to forgo his sole decision making powers to enable a committee to make the decision at a public meeting, in view of the level of public interest and the importance to the area of maintaining a successful senior tier club.
Any future plans to relocate the club to another site will be subject to public consultation.
The meeting was helpful if inconclusive. TUST took some confidence that the Council appears to understand supporters concerns, wishes to retain the club and does not see selling Plainmoor as simply a money making opportunity.
Council officers to advise key councillors of the meeting with TUST and the points raised
TUST to monitor the Council’s list of key decisions to check when and if a report is published in due course about the future of Plainmoor. If proposals emerge that do not appear to be in the best in the interests of the club then TUST will call on members to make their feelings known to the Council before a decision is made
TUST to consider how to persuade the Mayor to ensure any potential future decision on Plainmoor is made in a public meeting with an opportunity for key stakeholders to offer their views prior to a decision being made.
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It has now been over 14 weeks since our Club was sold to Gaming International yet despite many promises to engage and involve supporters during this very difficult period in the Club's history, nothing has been forthcoming.
I will not list all of the things we were told, but notably:
There would be meetings with fans and other stakeholders to engage in discussions about a 5 year business plan.
There would be a Fans Forum within weeks of GI taking over.
Local people would be invited to join the Board.
Funds would be made available to the Manager to strengthen the team.
The match day experience at Plainmoor would be improved to attract and retain supporters.
GI have not delivered against any of these promises and therefore it is not surprising that the Club continues in a downward spiral both on and off the playing surface.
From the outset there have been genuine fears about GI's real interests in purchasing the freehold of Plainmoor, and many fans will be aware that GI have held discussions in private with Torbay Council on this subject. TUST and many individual supporters have raised their concerns with local councillors and there is now a growing army of resistance against the Council selling the freehold to GI without adequate safeguards built into any agreement that will protect the long term interests of Torquay United.
The mayor will be making a public decision about the disposal of the Plainmoor freehold at a meeting planned for the 26th April.
Our current precarious league position coupled with the failure this week to strengthen the team to help the fight against relegation only serves to reinforce the view that GI are indifferent to the club’s predicament and instead are only interested in the land the club has played on for over 100 years. Clarke Osborne and Chris Rich have failed to honour promises made to TUST and the absence of any information or actions to contradict and dispel some of these fears is cause for concern, worry and anger about the way in which the Club is being run.
The importance of the meeting on the 26th April cannot be emphasised enough as the outcome will go a long way in determining whether the freehold of Plainmoor is to be sold to GI or not. Whatever the decision we should have a clearer picture as to whether GI are in it for the long haul or whether they might walk away. TUST cannot predict the outcome of that meeting but is working hard to identify possible ways to protect the future of the Club if the nightmare scenario is realised.
If we are to believe that the existing covenants and proposed additional restrictive conditions will safeguard Plainmoor from the developers then we must ask the question why are GI so fixated on owning the freehold of a piece of land that seemingly has no commercial value?
Mr Osborne, you do not need to own Plainmoor. If you genuinely want to build a new stadium then build it first.
Whilst some supporters will be comforted by the sound bites emanating from Plainmoor the reality is we are potentially facing our darkest hour both on and off the pitch.
The nightmare scenario is the club going into administration, but as long as Plainmoor is secured by public ownership we will always have a home for a professional football club.
Supporters need to be concerned.
Please click on the following link and see what happens when the developers takeover.
If you are concerned about the future of your club I urge ALL supporters to make their feelings know to their local councillor. You can contact your local councillor by following the link below;
http://www.torbay.gov.uk/DemocraticServ ... aspx?bcr=1
Kind Regards ...
Without these FACTs you can not ACT!
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