LOFT held its Annual General Meeting on Monday 4 December 2017, with the Regeneration Fund understandably being the main point of discussion.
Since two of the three possible 'disaster scenarios' in the Regeneration Fund mandate (administration or liquidation of the club) clearly haven't happened and are not predicted to under the new club ownership, and given that the third possible use (to increase supporter ownership of the club through share purchase) is not currently available, LOFT's Board concluded prior to the AGM that the fund's mandated uses cannot currently be met.
Board member Adam Michaelson set out the legal position at the meeting, and has helpfully summarised as follows:
"In accordance with the mandate that the appeal supplied us with, we have been in negotiation with the new owners of the club for several months regarding the possible purchase of shares. The position is that the club are not prepared to sell us shares at this time. I do not intend to speculate as to any number of reasons that that might be (the owners have chosen not to disclose what reasons they might have, other than to suggest that, in view of the enormous mess that they still have to clean up from the previous incumbent, it is not something they want to be bothered with at this time).
"As the LOFT board, it is our view that, whilst it is one of our stated aims to increase our ownership position in the club, and in fact the fund was set up for this purpose, it would be churlish to try and 'fight' the new owners or to try and 'insist' on acquisition, from people who have, in effect, come to the rescue of the club and the community that surrounds it, and in so doing, have spent several million pounds of their own money.
"With that in mind, we therefore have 2 options. Either:
a) hold on to the money in the event that we may need it for its intended purpose in the future, or
b) return any requested donations of £100 or more, as per the original promise in the appeal document and use the remaining funds on other 'good causes' surrounding the club and its community.
"There are legal problems with each option.
"For a) there are what's called the 'Perpetuity laws' which limit the amount of time that the money can be held in trust in this way. In practice, this is set at 120 years. It may sound like a long time but the problem is that for us to hold on to the money until a time that it might be needed does not offer closure before the end of that period. As such, we could be in breach of the trust by holding on to it in this way.
"For b) the money was collected for a specific purpose of increasing supporter ownership of the club. If it is used for something different it could also put us in breach of trust.
"For the record, Breach of Trust is a serious legal matter that can be criminal in some cases and also can leave the board personally liable.
"As such, the board are taking legal advice on the following matters:
"The cost of the legal advice is around £2,000. It will be ready within a few weeks.”
Following a lengthy discussion with those members at the meeting, the unanimous decision of the meeting was to vote against the resolution to offer refunds to those who donated larger amounts. The effect of this isn't to say there can never be refunds offered, rather that for now the position is to maintain the fund balance as it is until that legal advice has been procured.
"The purpose of the resolution was to frame a discussion over where we are at regarding the use of the fund and to report to members as to the current state of play in this matter, as we as your board considered it unreasonable that members should have to wait any longer for news in this matter.
"Given the circumstances under which the resolution was voted on, once we receive the legal advice, we expect to have a Special General Meeting before the end of March to offer members the choice of how to move forward with the fund, based on the advice we receive."
Other AGM business
Prior to the Regeneration Fund discussion, the meeting received Doug's Chair's Report for the past year and Peter’s Treasurer’s Report on the accounts to May 2017. A question was received from the floor on the breakdown in board members' expenses paid – as promised, these are as follows:
Membership costs and postage - £1,063
Collection buckets - £485
Printing/leaflets/programmes - £370
Safety vests - £416
SurveyMonkey licence - £228
Mobile PA system - £183
Sundry travel etc - £123
Printing/banner costs relating to protest march - £663
Total - £3,531
There was also a question around amounts collected for the Regeneration Fund from fans of other clubs – again as promised, this is as follows:
"Excluding cheques which were handled separately, a total of £37,770 was raised through bucket collections. Of this, £19,085 can be directly ascribed to fans of other clubs, as this was donated by home fans at Orient away matches (Cambridge, Luton, Accrington Stanley, Crewe and Blackpool) and at neutral matches (Spurs/Bournemouth, and the Play-Off Finals). However, a proportion of the remaining amount would also have been donated by fans of other clubs, from the home matches against Grimsby, Doncaster, Wycombe and Colchester – it is of course impossible to quantify exactly how much.
"There will of course also be donations from other clubs' fans among the many cheques, bank transfers, PayPal and GoFundme payments received – again, impossible to identify these with any accuracy, but overall we think about a third of the total fund being from non-Orient fans is a reasonable estimate."
Three of LOFT's board had stood down before the AGM at the end of their 3-year term; Doug Harper, Peter Osborne and Adam Michaelson. All three stood for re-election, also standing for election was Noreen Telfer. This was an 'uncontested election' as there were fewer candidates (4) than board positions available (5), all four were therefore elected on a show of hands.
Q&A with Danny Macklin
After the formal AGM agenda had been completed, we were pleased to welcome our guest Danny Macklin, who had joined Leyton Orient in the past few weeks as its permanent CEO.
Danny set out his role is to grow the non-football side of the club, key to which is an 8-point strategy he's drawn up which includes:
• Increasing the value season ticket holders receive
• Focusing on families, making sure that different age ranges are appropriately targeted (i.e. 4-year-olds and 14-year-olds clearly need different activities)
• Looking to encourage local 1st and 2nd generation non-indigenous residents to feel welcome at Leyton Orient
• Their prime audience is based around a '3-stop-strategy' (a radius of 3-stops up and down the Central Line)
• Having a programme of activities designed to maximise use of the assets we have and market the club
Danny noted that there will be a fans' survey coming out from the club in the near future, which will be an opportunity for fans to give their views and ideas - supporter engagement is a key priority.
O's fans will also be glad to hear that addressing the much-complained about ticketing system is his number one project!
Those present at the meeting asked a variety of questions of Danny, with matters such as safety in the ground, a suitable atmosphere for families, catering and potential uses of facilities among the subjects covered.
Our thanks to Danny for giving up his evening to come along and engage openly with supporters.
Waltham Forest FC
Doug rounded things off by reading out an appeal to O's fans from Waltham Forest FC:
"Waltham Forest is London's second oldest football club, we are celebrating 150 years in 2018.
"At the moment we are in the Essex Senior League getting an attendance of between 40-60 for most matches. This is down from the 1951-2 Amateur Cup Final when we lost to Walthamstow Avenue. There was an attendance of 100,000 inside Wembley with 20,000 shut outside. Apparently, Leyton and Walthamstow were ghost towns that day.
"To the present: our Chairman, who was bringing funds in, died two months ago - the funds dried up. We now need about £7k to finish the season and give us time to bring in a new Chairman who will put the club on a sound financial footing that will allow us to sustain itself in the future. A short term injection will give us a long term future.
"By the way, we built Brisbane Rd (then called Osborne Rd) in 1902!
"To donate please go to https://www.walthamforest-fc.co.uk/2017/11/06/save-our-club/ "
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