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Bubba

The future of HTST

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Halifax Town Supporters’ Trust was formed in 2002 with the aim of bridging the gap between the club owners and the supporters of the club. Another primary aim was to play its part in securing the long-term future of the club.

In the early days, shrouded under the crisis of yet more financial problems at the club, the organisation got off to a flyer with membership of over 300. The Battle of the Giants fundraiser brought in a profit of over £10,000 which enabled the trust to join a consortium, led by David Cairns, to take the club out of administration and into a Creditors Voluntary Agreement.

In time the trust built up its shareholding in HTAFC in the way of donations and purchases and became the 2nd largest shareholder of the club. Unfortunately, this shareholding never equated to influence and whilst having a representative on the board of directors the trust was often kept in the dark on club issues.

Having narrowly missed out on a return back into the Football League financial trouble once again loomed and a consortium of unknown businessmen had been financially backing the club whilst attempting to conduct a takeover of HTAFC. This would only be possible should they acquire a minimum 75% shareholding of the club.

The trust, through its then Chair, Pam Burton, was in direct contact with then consortium and following a ballot of trust members it was agreed to sell its shareholding for £1 to help facilitate the takeover. The discussions had been held in good faith that the trust would be recognised for its support and retain a level of influence, with the aim of supporting the club, once the takeover had been completed.

In April 2008 the consortium placed the club back into administration in the hope of striking a deal with the creditors where they offered to repay all debts at 2.5% of what was owed. Unfortunately, the previous CVA had been deemed to have failed due to not being paid in full – despite a significant proportion being paid – which meant the clubs total debt was in excess of £2m.

The amount owed to HM Revenue & Customs had been miscalculated and was increased from £500k to £814k – a high enough proportion of the total debt that effectively gave them a veto over any agreement. They made it clear that they would accept nothing less than 100% of the amount owed. This level of debt was described by the Administrators as ‘insurmountable’ and any hope of a CVA and survival of HTAFC vanished.

HTST immediately jumped into action with a view to launching a new, supporter owned club. The consortium was undecided, and ‘un-probable’, about retaining their interest so the trust had no option but to prepare for worst case. Whilst it was a depressing time it was also an opportunity for a new beginning with no skeletons in the cupboard and a chance for true supporter ownership and involvement.

Communication with the consortium had ceased with the trust only receiving third hand snippets of information. A workable plan had been prepared and contact with the relevant authorities had been made to ensure senior football in Halifax continued.

The consortiums interest was apparently dependent on what division any new club would be placed in. This, however, was not good enough for the trust as waiting for the decision to be made would not leave time for the trust to submit the relevant applications should the consortium decide to walk away.

However, the Football Association would only accept one application for a new team representing the town. Both the trust and consortium had lodged a statement of intent though one party would have to withdraw their statement in order for the other to proceed.

Given the huge divisions between supporters – those wanting to back the consortium Plan A and those wanting a supporter owned club Plan B – the trust decided to ballot its members. Allow the consortium time to evaluate their own position, and risk missing out entering a team at the Unibond One North level, or request the consortium to withdraw their statement of intent.

97 out of 163 members voted to give the consortium the time they needed to decide whether to relaunch a new club or walk away. The trust felt this was a huge risk but the members had spoken.

Consequently, HTST withdrew the statement of intent and so began a hectic couple of weeks, culminating in an even more hectic couple of days!

On 12 June we were informed by the Northern Premier League that the only position available for a re-formed Halifax club was in their Division One North, but that the consortium had indicated to them that they were only interested in proceeding should a position be made available in the Premier Division.

The next morning, following discussion with the Northern Premier League management, it was agreed that the HTST would be allowed to re-submit a statement of intent – to be used only if the consortium decided to withdraw their interest. This was a massive concession by the Northern Premier League and we were very grateful for their help and understanding.

At 1.15pm the same day we were copied in to an email sent by the Northern Premier League to the consortium, in which the league required them to accept Division One North by 3.00pm or otherwise see their application rejected.

At about 4.20pm we received confirmation from the league that the consortium had accepted Division One North.

It was a difficult few days. From our point of view, we had to ensure that we didn’t suffer the same fate as Scarborough, who missed the Northern Premier League deadline and had to settle for a place in the Northern Counties East League (2 steps lower), while at the same time not jeopardise the consortium’s application. In the end it was the league who forced a conclusion, having already agreed to allow the HTST the chance to ‘step in’ should it be needed.

The trust received a great degree of criticism at the time and whilst the full facts were not known some of the criticism was fair. Without doubt some things could have been handled better though the same could be said of the consortium.

However, the intentions were always right in fulfilling the role of the trust in ensuring continuation of senior football in the town.

From this point HTST threw its full support behind the consortium. What had gone on was in the past; it was time to draw a line in the sand and everyone move forward together.

Unfortunately repeated promises of meetings never materialised and there was a feeling that the trust was purposely being forced out of the picture. Emails sent regarding fundraising ideas and community initiatives were either not replied to or dismissed. We were not asking for permission; just support.

In time interest waned; the trust was impotent and unable to play any part other than be a critic of the club. Something which did not reflect why the organisation was formed in the first place. Some might argue that the club owners had deliberately pushed the trust into a dark corner.

Given the healthy bank balance that exists the present Society Board has kept the trust alive albeit in a dormant state thinking that the money may one day come in useful.

Whilst being limited in its activities the trust did successfully apply for the Shay Stadium to be designated an Asset of Community Value at a time when there was significant interest from a local businessman in buying it from the Council. An application was once again successfully made by the trust earlier this month when the previous granting of the ACV expired.

We have however come to the time when a firm decision needs to be made over the future of the trust. If it is to continue then new people need to come forward and take the reins. If not, then the present Society Board will begin the process of closing the organisation.

Whilst no relationship has ever been formed with the football club owners, contact has been made with them regarding the funds the trust currently holds. The money, as per the constitution, can be distributed to:

i) a sporting charity or sporting charities operating in the Area; and/or

ii) one or more societies established for the benefit of the community operating in the Area; and/or

iii) one or more societies established for the benefit of the community

We feel that as the money raised was given in good faith, for the betterment of Halifax Town, and it should still find its way to the football club. We have stipulated however that we don’t want it to end up in the ‘black hole of football finances’ and would prefer it go to either some sort of project or an item of equipment - something that has a tangible benefit.

The board of directors are currently considering the options. However, there is still time for others to come forward should there be a desire to bring the trust back into an active state on behalf of the club supporters.

Any interested parties in taking the trust forward should get in touch via email in the first instance - halifaxtownst@gmail.com. Should nobody come forward by 15th November the process to wind up the organisation will begin.

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I think the problem is that those of us left involved, no longer want to be involved. It is pretty straight forward - the trust has a future if people come forward. If not, it gets closed down. If people dont want the money to go to the club, then come forward and take over.

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And before the vitriol and abuse flies my way, answer me this, what happens if this BoD suddenly decided to leave? Time for a Plan B? Nobody to run the rule over the potential new owners (Tony Abbott perhaps?), no-one will have any say in anything that happens. There are no other shareholders, no other organisations party to the Shay rental agreement, the supporters aren't even represented by the Supporters' Club, who simply exist to hand over a cheque for £10k every year - which, incidentally, is MUCH MORE THAN THE BoD PUT INTO THE CLUB EVERY YEAR yet, curiously, aren't given shares or even a seat on the Board. They're probably completely ignored until that magical day when it's time to cash in.

Just now, Bubba said:

I think the problem is that those of us left involved, no longer want to be involved. It is pretty straight forward - the trust has a future if people come forward. If not, it gets closed down. If people dont want the money to go to the club, then come forward and take over.

I'll be very disappointed in the lot of you if the Trust's money ends up being handed over to this BoD.

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Just now, Bubba said:

I think the problem is that those of us left involved, no longer want to be involved. It is pretty straight forward - the trust has a future if people come forward. If not, it gets closed down. If people dont want the money to go to the club, then come forward and take over.

Real shame that people like yourself,with all the excellent and often un-noticed work and support you have done for the club no longer want to be involved or attend games.Reading the opening post though and the utter disdain shown by the 'consortium' it's no surprise....

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9 minutes ago, Hoddie said:

I'll be very disappointed in the lot of you if the Trust's money ends up being handed over to this BoD.

Sobeit. We have discussed what to do with the money. Give it to some sort of community organisation or give it to the club. Regardless of your personal feelings towards the club owners, money was give to the trust assuming that it would in some way or form end up benefitting FCHT. To direct the money elsewhere doesnt sit right with us.

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33 minutes ago, Bubba said:

The amount owed to HM Revenue & Customs had been miscalculated and was increased from £500k to £814k – a high enough proportion of the total debt that effectively gave them a veto over any agreement. They made it clear that they would accept nothing less than 100% of the amount owed. This level of debt was described by the Administrators as ‘insurmountable’ and any hope of a CVA and survival of HTAFC vanished.

Yet again, this wasn't a miscalculation, it was simply the result of not finalising the original CVA before seeking a second one - the original debt to HMRC, frozen in time at the point of the CVA being agreed, became 'un-frozen' and HMRC could lump on many years' worth of interest and penalties in line with the law, an amount which, taken together with the balance of the debt originally owed to HMRC that was bundled into the CVA, and that had subsequently accrued since that CVA, gave them the crucial veto over the second CVA. A costly side-effect of not spending the ~£45k to clear the original CVA, but it's a matter of debate whether this was an innocent mistake or a deliberate act of sabotage to open up ownership of Halifax Town without the hassle of having to deal with shareholders and loans owed to former directors. Crazy thing is that the old club ended up paying more than 30% of its debt, and 30% of £314,000 is much more than £45,000. Unless my maths are wrong.

5 minutes ago, Bubba said:

Sobeit. We have discussed what to do with the money. Give it to some sort of community organisation or give it to the club. Regardless of your personal feelings towards the club owners, money was give to the trust assuming that it would in some way or form end up benefitting FCHT. To direct the money elsewhere doesnt sit right with us.

Money was given to the Trust to be used in line with its constitution. Is the Trust's board currently legal? Does the Trust have power to disburse funds? Would the board members become personally liable to the Trust for money disbursed illegally?

Edit to say: Members - in the main - only paid membership monies rather than giving donations, and although they did so in the hope it would somehow help Halifax Town, I'm pretty sure most didn't simply want it handed over unless it was absolutely necessary. This was supposedly the key difference between the Supporters' Club and the Trust - money was to held 'in trust' until such time as it was needed to secure the club's future.

Edited by Hoddie

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14 minutes ago, Hoddie said:

Yet again, this wasn't a miscalculation, it was simply the result of not finalising the original CVA before seeking a second one - the original debt to HMRC, frozen in time at the point of the CVA being agreed, became 'un-frozen' and HMRC could lump on many years' worth of interest and penalties in line with the law, an amount which, taken together with the balance of the debt originally owed to HMRC that was bundled into the CVA, and that had subsequently accrued since that CVA, gave them the crucial veto over the second CVA. A costly side-effect of not spending the ~£45k to clear the original CVA, but it's a matter of debate whether this was an innocent mistake or a deliberate act of sabotage to open up ownership of Halifax Town without the hassle of having to deal with shareholders and loans owed to former directors. Crazy thing is that the old club ended up paying more than 30% of its debt, and 30% of £314,000 is much more than £45,000. Unless my maths are wrong.

Money was given to the Trust to be used in line with its constitution. Is the Trust's board currently legal? Does the Trust have power to disburse funds? Would the board members become personally liable to the Trust for money disbursed illegally?

Edit to say: Members - in the main - only paid membership monies rather than giving donations, and although they did so in the hope it would somehow help Halifax Town, I'm pretty sure most didn't simply want it handed over unless it was absolutely necessary. This was supposedly the key difference between the Supporters' Club and the Trust - money was to held 'in trust' until such time as it was needed to secure the club's future.

So, we need people to come forward then. The opportunity is there on the table.

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6 minutes ago, Bubba said:

So, we need people to come forward then. The opportunity is there on the table.

Town fans are all talk and no trousers. That still doesn't mean you should hand the cash over to the club. You wanted the role, you can't wash your hands of it now it's boring or inconvenient.

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1 minute ago, Hoddie said:

You wanted the role, you can't wash your hands of it now it's boring or inconvenient.

Dont be ridiculous. If a shop has no customers, it closes. There is no interest in the trust so it makes sense to close it down. Though obviously you still have interest so feel free to put your name down to be involved, unless of course its not convenient.

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Just now, Bubba said:

Dont be ridiculous. If a shop has no customers, it closes. There is no interest in the trust so it makes sense to close it down. Though obviously you still have interest so feel free to put your name down to be involved, unless of course its not convenient.

What have you done recently to get customers? And it is inconvenient for me, so it would be unwise to get involved again.

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Just now, Hoddie said:

What have you done recently to get customers? And it is inconvenient for me, so it would be unwise to get involved again.

Nothing. We have no interest to hence the appeal for others to come forward.

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Just a thought. Can it be merged with / taken over by the Supporters Club (if they wish)? At least then it would still be held at arms-length from the "black hole".

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Just now, AndyStafford said:

Just a thought. Can it be merged with / taken over by the Supporters Club (if they wish)? At least then it would still be held at arms-length from the "black hole".

Wouldn't that worsen the situation ? Don't the board take the supporters club money as and when THEY want ?

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1 minute ago, AndyStafford said:

Just a thought. Can it be merged with / taken over by the Supporters Club (if they wish)? At least then it would still be held at arms-length from the "black hole".

In my opinion, possibly, but it would probably be a waste of time for all when, as eddies mate says, the money will just end up going to the club anyway. We at least are wanting something specific for the money to be used for - and are of course open to suggestions.

One quick idea we had was potentially for a quality scoreboard - which wouldnt necessarily be owned by the club - but could be used by the club (and Fax) for additional revenue streams on a matchday (adverts of local businesses, advertising upcoming events/matches, supporters birthday messages, etc).

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1 minute ago, eddies mate said:

Wouldn't that worsen the situation ? Don't the board take the supporters club money as and when THEY want ?

That would be a matter of trust (no pun intended). Caveats could be placed on the eventual destination of the funds. In previous years it could be, say, the youth team but that may be pointless at the moment. I don't have a stake in this so just thinking out loud.

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It's a difficult one as the supporters trust will clearly never have a visible role whilst the current board are in power and some members or former members of the supporters trust are happy to lick the arse of the current board . Do you envisage the supporters trust ever having a viable or recognised role during our lifetime ?

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Just now, Bubba said:

 

One quick idea we had was potentially for a quality scoreboard - which wouldnt necessarily be owned by the club - but could be used by the club (and Fax) for additional revenue streams on a matchday (adverts of local businesses, advertising upcoming events/matches, supporters birthday messages, etc).

Would be a brilliant idea IMO....sure the rugby would appreciate something without cost too.....;)

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1 minute ago, Wilder Bollox said:

It's a difficult one as the supporters trust will clearly never have a visible role whilst the current board are in power and some members or former members of the supporters trust are happy to lick the arse of the current board . Do you envisage the supporters trust ever having a viable or recognised role during our lifetime ?

It doesnt necessarily have to have any relationship with the board of directors - look at Blackpool where the trust and owners publically dispise each other. It is just that those currently involved with the trust have no desire to remain involved and believing there to be no interest from the wider support base see no reason to keep it 'alive'. Though as I keep saying it is available should anyone come forward.

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wouldn't it be better for the trust to remain open given the ages of the board of directors we currently have? surely within a few years they will be wanting to be out to pasture? where does the club then stand if nobody shows any interest in taking over the club and no trust alive and kicking to pick up the pieces.

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25 minutes ago, crowtherjcbravo said:

wouldn't it be better for the trust to remain open given the ages of the board of directors we currently have? surely within a few years they will be wanting to be out to pasture? where does the club then stand if nobody shows any interest in taking over the club and no trust alive and kicking to pick up the pieces.

Which is why the current trust are making you this offer 

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I have no problems with the directors and feel we could easily have worse people in charge, however I find myself agreeing with Hoddie a bit on this one.

Even in a dormant state, we need a fall back for if the current owners walk away, get into financial difficulties or die. I don't say that wishing for any of those things to happen to any of the current owners however we must have a plan that covers ALL possibilities, however unlikely or un-nice to think about. 

I have no doubt that the current board have the best intentions for the club and are doing what they think is the best for it, however as we have seen at other clubs, best intentions aren't always enough to keep clubs safe. If we are being uber critical it could be pointed out that under this current regime (which again I will make clear I fully support) we have already lost one club. 

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Really sad what happened back in 2008 and I do feel for all the hard work that these guys put in for the benefit for our club,seems when the Bod got their plaything that was the end of story and they did not care about the trust or the people who run it so its good that Bubba and Hoddie have put out what happened because some of the new fans will see  the Bod in a different light.

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