WFC Chairman Defends Supporters Share Option Scheme

WFC Chairman Defends Supporters Share Option Scheme

Published at 2:36pm 9th October 2013.

Weymouth Football Club must remain at the heart of the community - says Chairman Nigel Biddlecombe in a statement on the club's website.

Weymouth Football Club must remain at the heart of the community - says Chairman Nigel Biddlecombe in a statement on the club's website.

He's proposing that supporters are allowed to buy as many shares as they like - but no one will be able to get a 75% controlling stake in the club.

He says in the last two years the Club's Trustees have barely sold any shares and have conceded they've done nothing to promote football in Dorset.

Supporters can vote on the proposals at a meeting this Sunday (13 October) at the Bob Lucas Stadium at 11am.

Here's Nigel Biddlecombe's statement in full:

Statement by Nigel Biddlecombe

Wednesday 9th October 2013
The most important thing which I want to say to all true supporters of WFC is that the Board is determined to keep our club as a Community club. I am proud to say that I have put my heart soul and money into the club that I love, and that isn't going to change. I am confident that the changes the Board has proposed will lead to much greater involvement in the community in every way.

There is absolutely no 'U turn' by me on the principle that WFC MUST remain a club at the heart of the community.

Everyone knows the disaster we inherited, but in the last 18 months I am proud to say that the Board has turned the club around. We have steadied the ship and now we want to embrace the community more than WFC has ever done in its history. I ask all true supporters to trust the Board, and to be part of a WFC that is forward looking, and not constantly looking backwards. We want more involvement from supporters, not less. Come along to the meeting and however you vote, buy some shares in the club and become a stakeholder in the future of WFC. This Board wants to engage with the wider community of Weymouth in a much more pro-active way.

For many years we were a laughing stock in the community. We were on the front page of the papers rather than the back. It has been a hard slog to turn that around, but we have made great strides. We need investment from the community and our supporters, so that we can invest more in the community of Weymouth. We want to engage much more closely with the youth of the town; the schools and Colleges; local businesses and organisations so that we become a real community club, not one on paper only. We want to improve the facilities at the club and seek to create more income streams. We want to do all of this within our means.

It was me who back in 2012 took control of the majority shareholding. I could have done anything. I gave those shares to trustees, so no one can challenge my credibility in seeking to make WFC a community club. At the time we all thought that the most important thing was to stop anyone being able to do what the likes of previous Chairmen had done. I am proud to say that cannot happen now even if the variation in the trust deed is passed, because the club does not have 75% of its shares to sell.

The Trust tasked the Trustees to do only three things; to sell the shares, to raise funds for the club and to promote football, in Dorset. I am more disappointed than anyone that in almost 2 years, the trustees have barely sold any shares. Over 90% of the shares that have been sold by the club since that date have been purchased by Directors. The Trustees even conceded at the weekend that they had also done absolutely nothing to promote football in Dorset. I would like to thank the Trustees for their efforts but do not understand why some of them have chosen to post claims on the Forum which are so inaccurate and misleading. That is not the way to run a community club. It is back to the bad old days.

The Board respects the right of all supporters to have a voice in this debate. We have proposed that everyone who attends the EGM has an equal vote. The works against the Board as the Directors who hold literally thousands of shares while some supporters may only hold a few. Unbelievably, I have received an email from one of the trustees saying that some trustees won't agree to that, because some of them hold more than 1 share, and they have even threatened legal proceedings. Why is that not posted on the Forum? Why don't the Trustees trust the club's supporters? I don't like mentioning individuals, but I must add that Mr Roy Childs, who is a trustee, has conducted himself in an exemplary manner during this process.

This proposal is about giving WFC the chance to continue to move forward in a positive way, now that we have protected the club from the fear of a 75% shareholder. It is about WFC being able to deliver better coaching facilities for the players at the club but also the youth in the community - the future of WFC. We want to invest in the youth section which was treated so badly in the dark days, and quite rightly lost trust in the Club. We have had to focus in the last 18 months in steadying the ship but now is the time to be engage the community even more. It is about trying to build working relationships with schools and Colleges to move forward community projects. We need investment to do that and in protecting the club 2 years ago we did not perhaps realise how the limit on shares would restrict us in generating investment.

It is sad that a couple of Trustees have tried to suggest that the Board kept supporters in the dark. Everyone understands that when you are negotiating with potential investors you don't put it all over the papers and websites. The Investors even offered to meet the trustees but the trustees refused. That was not posted on the Forum. Why? All the Directors have met the potential investor and all of them have given their support to the proposal. The investor is not a Curtis or a Rolls but a substantial PLC which is seeking in part to invest as part of its own corporate social responsibility.

If the limit is removed, we still want supporters to buy shares. The proposal means that supporters can actually buy as many shares as are they want, but no one can buy 75%, so they can't take control as has been done before. Supporters will have the chance to have a greater say in the club, not less! It is the shareholder's choice.
I urge as many supporters as possible to come along and listen to the facts and truth not myths and conspiracy theories that are posted on a website or discussed in pubs around the town. Come along, and be part of the community that is and always will be WFC.

Nigel Biddlecombe

Weymouth FC