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GTST - The Future!

Date: 15/11/2002

On Monday 18th November at the Cleethorpes Memorial Hall at 7.30pm, The Steering Committee of the Grimsby Town Supporters Trust are holding a public meeting to present to the supporters the trust concept and to seek a remit to go forward and form a working party to create the Grimsby Town trust.

All Grimsby Town fans and supporters who have an interest in the future of Grimsby Town should do all they can to attend this meeting.

GTST present here the second article relating to what trusts have achieved at other clubs and what the future could be for our club.

What Supporters Trusts Can Achieve - Part 2

Most people will probably only know of Supporters Trusts in one particular context - of taking over and running the club that they are affiliated to. Lincoln and Chesterfield are probably the most high profile of these - a lesser-known example is Plymouth Argyle.

The Plymouth Trust was first set-up in 1996, with the modest objective of taking over the running of the highly undervalued youth setup at Argyle. Circumstances led to the Supporters Trust playing a pivotal role in what was to become a groundbreaking change in the board setup at Argyle. It wasn't an overnight transformation, but the result of hard work and dedication by the Trust on behalf of the fans.

Fast forward to 2002, and the fans have representation on the board, a youth setup that is the envy of many clubs and a football team that is tasting success for the first time in a long time. Plymouth Argyle is a club on the up - and the fans are largely responsible for the change in the clubs fortunes.

This article, the second in the series, provides a real life case study of what an established Trust have achieved at their club. If the below inspires you in any way at all, please attend the public meeting on Monday 18th November, Cleethorpes Memorial Hall, 7.30pm.

This article first appeared in the June 2002 edition of the Supporters Direct Newsletter

One Foot on the Board and Five Fans Take Charge
By Keith Whitfield

Plymouth Argyle Supporters' Training and Development Trust

Some of you might have noticed a few changes at one of football's far outposts - Plymouth Argyle. For one thing, that club with "potential" but little else actually won something. OK, it was only the Nationwide Division Three championship, but you've got to start somewhere and, more than that, they scored a division points record into the bargain.

That's not all that's changed. The board changed too. Out went Dan McCauley after years of acrimonious relations with the Argyle fans and in came five men who were undoubtedly green-blood Argyle fans first and wannabe directors a well distant second. First among these equals was Paul Stapleton, previously treasurer and founding member of the Plymouth Argyle Supporters' Training and Development Trust. PAST&DT was set up in 1996 with the main aim of taking over the under-16 youth policy and other parts of the youth programme that the club had deemed not viable. From having to find enough cash to fund those aspects of the youth programme that the club wanted to discard, Paul had to deal with all the other issues that affect the club's well being.

But this was not the case of a Supporters' Trust taking over the running of the club a la Lincoln or Chesterfield. This was a very Plymouth coup. We do things differently down in the far South West. Our team wears green shirts. We are proud of being uniquely called Argyle, and of the mysterious origins of that name. Similarly, our supporters' take-over of the board was unique - in its very own way.

Following trenchant criticisms of his managerial style (of lack thereof) at shareholders' meetings and in the local press, Dan McCauley invited two of his fiercest critics, Paul Stapleton and Ken Jones, onto the Board of Directors. Paul and Ken accepted the invitation but continued in their roles as leading lights in the Supporters' Trust and both took a keen interest in the emergence of Supporters Direct. However, an attempt led by members of the trust to put together a broad based consortium to buy McCauley out failed miserably.

News of "outside interests" wanting to buy the club prompted a further attempt at putting together a fan's consortium. This centred on a small group with enough spare cash to purchase McCauley's controlling interest and eventually to pay off the debt owed by the club to his company.

The new board included Argyle's best-known supporter, Michael Foot. Plymouth-born, he has been a loyal supporter of the Greens since 1921, no doubt taking particular delight in the string of fine left-wingers that the club has produced. On hearing of the proposed consortium from new vice-chairman, Peter Jones, he immediately asked to be included, saying that he didn't want to miss this opportunity.

So Plymouth Argyle entered the 2001/2 season with a new board and a new chairman and vice-chairman. Unfortunately, at first, the results on the pitch did not change for the better. Following two home defeats and an away scoreless draw, the team quickly went two down at Rushden and Diamonds. Paul Stapleton began to question his sanity. But just before half-time a revival started that lasted all the way to the championship. For good measure, it was led by the Plymouth-born striker Mickey Evans.

Off the pitch, the new board have set about changing the facilities, habits and attitudes of a club that was beginning to get used to being in the footballing basement. In doing this they have had three main assets to help them. The first was three-quarters of a new stadium, financed by the local council, the Football Foundation and a soft loan from the previous chairman. The second was a charismatic manager who had learnt his trade in the upper echelons of Scottish football, Paul Sturrock. The third was a set of fans, eager for success, and prepared to back the new board to the hilt.

So Plymouth Argyle have ended the 2001/2 season as champions of their league, with a Board of Directors who are all life-long supporters and a Supporters' Trust that is thriving and keen to help the club maintain its steady supply of young talent. This may not be typical Supporters Direct stuff, but we like to be different in the far South West.

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