The 15th OxVox AGM – SOCIETY REGISTRATION No. IP29368R
[ A downloadable pdf version of these notes may be found at
Date: Thursday 25th May 2017.
Held at The Masons Arms, Headington, Oxford.
Start: 7.30pm. Finish. 9.30pm
68 full voting members were in attendance at the AGM. In addition, 7 OxVox Committee members were attendance.
The meeting opened with Jem Faulkner (JF) welcoming members to the meeting and explaining to those present the order of business for the meeting.
Finance / Annual Accounts
Independent Examination of the Accounts – vote
Committee Membership – new members
Summary / AOB and Any Questions
The annual performance report and annual accounts were issued to all members present. JF told members that they could follow most of the AGM by referring to the performance report, but that items relating to – EFL Trophy, Club ownership and an update on the Kassam stadium situation, would be given at the end of the meeting and each subject would be opened up for questions and debate.
JF took the meeting through the objectives that had been set for last year, and highlighted the areas that had been successful and not so successful.
Community work, membership growth, member communication, Committee development and work with other fan groups were all seen as successful.
The objective of gaining meaningful fan representation on the Board of OUFC had not been achieved, but this is an area that is still desirable.
Work on a better stadium situation for OUFC and the community was still ongoing.
3. Finance/Annual Accounts
The financial accounts were issued to all members at the meeting in hard copy format.
The Accounts had been independently examined by Nicola Bateman FCCA. The accounts had been deemed as an accurate representation of the financial activities of The Trust over the period 1 st October 2015 to the 30th September 2016.
JF reported that the Trust was satisfied with the financial performance of the Trust and that the year had seen revenue of £3,447, which represented a surplus of £713.
Cash in the bank stood at £12,212 at the time of the accounts, up by £1,661 from the previous year.
Nicola Bateman (NB) – auditor was on hand to answer any questions. There were no questions on the accounts from those members present. Members approved the Accounts. JF confirmed that the Accounts will be emailed directly to all members by the end of next week.
4. Independent Examination of the Accounts
It was agreed by members (by way of a vote) that The Trust would continue to have the Accounts verified by an independent examiner. JF commented that revenues were strong versus the previous year due to significant monies coming in from membership growth/fees. JF highlighted the key revenue spends for the year and also those that had been incurred since the year end.
5. Committee Membership
It was noted that Terry Winter (Treasurer) would be standing down this year due to work commitments. TW will however continue to support the treasury function, but not sit on the Committee. This was agreed by those members present.
JF welcomed 2 new committee members – Ali Wolfe and Jemma Hayward.
JF confirmed that Kate Longworth (head of community at OUFC) would be joining the committee as a co-opted member and that Stewart Donald will also be remaining in a co-opted position.
The new Committee will meet in June to agree roles and responsibilities.
6. Performance Report
JF talked the members present through the Trust’s activities over the last year and the Performance Report was issued to all members in hard copy format. It was agreed that the report would be emailed directly to members within the next week.
JF stated that The Trust would consult with members to identify specific activities and priorities for the year ahead. This will be implemented following the formation of the new Trust Committee at the next Committee meeting. Members’ ideas and proposals will be built into the plans agreed. Key activity and updates were discussed as follows (further information is contained in the performance report attached).
Membership has grown to 900 from 582 last year (+318). The OxVox Committee are delighted with the membership growth. The target had been 750. OxVox now sits in the top 15 Supporters Trusts in the country where a fee is paid for membership.
JF talked about the Trust’s stance last year, which was that fans should make their own choices about attending the matches. OxVox did not advocate a boycott.
OxVox was surprised that the format is to be repeated this season and are liaising with Supporters Trusts across the country, to see if some form of action/protest is desirable. The key issue being – is this the ‘thin end of the wedge’ and potentially a further precursor to B teams (or equivalent) from Premiership/Championship clubs being formally included in the Football League structure.
A lively debate followed. A large majority of those present supported a boycott or action against the EFL Trophy. It was agreed by those present that OxVox would ballot the full membership to gauge opinion. The ballot would take place by early July and results published to all members and OUFC.
The meeting discussed current speculation about the potential for a change of ownership at OUFC.
JF stated that the Trust does believe there are discussions taking place, but that the club ownership is a matter for Darryl Eales and any potential purchaser. OxVox are however keeping close to any developments and are in regular contact with Darryl Eales and other interested parties.
The Trust believes that if there is to be any change, then it is desirable that it happens before the new season, enabling the team manager to develop his squad effectively as well as to provide certainty to the club employees and fans.
OxVox remains supportive of Darryl Eales and fully recognises the significant contribution and positive change he has brought to OUFC and the wider community.
The Kassam Stadium
JF took the meeting through the aims and status of talks regarding the objective of creating a more equitable and potentially community ownership stadium arrangement for OUFC.
JF said that the Trust had publicly stated that it would bring members up to date by the end of May and the AGM was the ideal opportunity to do this.
JF stated that whilst there had been speculation around club ownership over recent months, the committee, in conjunction with Firoz Kassam and OCC, had decided to ‘pause’ formal talks and any public statements. This is because it was felt a potential new purchaser of OUFC might be able to put together a better deal than that which OxVox had been working on. Also, it is thought it could complicate club ownership discussions. Therefore the responsible thing to do is, for now, to step back (but keep private communication in place with all key stakeholders).
Fundamentally, it is the Trust’s belief that the stadium being under separate (but secure) ownership from the football club is desirable, as this would protect the club/fans in the future, should any future owner decide to leverage/sell the stadium in a way which could damage the club’s future prospects, or indeed threaten the very future of the club.
It is paramount however, that any different stadium ownership, or new lease arrangement should always seek to benefit and not disadvantage the football club.
OxVox met with Darryl Eales, Greig Box Turnbull and Bob Price (Leader of OCC) last summer to discuss the best way forward with regard to securing a better stadium deal for OUFC.
It was agreed by all those present that OxVox would approach Firoz Kassam to see if a community purchase of the stadium might be possible, as at this point it was now fully recognised that Darryl Eales had not been able to secure his own deal.
In order to clarify the Trust’s thinking, research was carried out to look at the current stadium, with particular attention being given to a) its future development potential and b) the desirability of its current location in the longer term.
Given that it was believed there was not a readily available and viable alternative site to enable a re-location, the trust resolved to press on with a plan for community ownership and/or a different and more equitable stadium solution for OUFC in the current location.
Discussions with OCC clarified that the proposed future development of the surrounding area would see a huge increase in the numbers of local residents. The Trust has also worked with a world leading stadium design company and concluded that indeed the stadium could realistically be developed to significantly increase capacity and could also maximise the current under-utilised facilities, particularly the large empty areas behind the East stand and also through a development of the West stand. Our advisors are of the opinion that with the exception of a new West Stand, the rest of the proposed development would be very cost effective compared to a new build.
Following several meetings and numerous communications with Firoz Kassam and also further meetings with Darryl Eales and OCC, OxVox were delighted to be able to jointly and publicly with Firoz Kassam communicate that FK was willing to look at ownership of the stadium being moved to the community. This news was given to members directly and through the Oxford Mail in October 2016.
Numerous meetings and discussions continued and it was agreed that OxVox would look to agree the overall deal in principle. Once all the details of the deal were in place and agreed by all parties, the deal/opportunity would be presented to the wider community. There would then be a community company formed that would be put in place to agree, conduct and finalise the transaction.
Partners in the new company could include OxVox as well as other community groups, plus properly resourced and experienced individuals and of course OUFC itself. OCC were keen to see community shares created that meant as wide a group of local people as possible could be involved in owning/running the stadium and therefore have a strong stake in its future success.
Finance for the stadium, if it were an outright purchase, would come from long term loans and it was discussed with OCC how a secured loan from capital funds could be made available. This would be an attractive proposition for OCC as it would be seen as an investment with a good long term return and therefore be a benefit to tax payers, not a drain on resources/funds. JF confirmed that the purchase price discussed with FK would be considerably less than the £12m figure that is often mentioned in various media, subject to certain planning conditions being met.
It was also made clear by Stewart Donald (publicly) that he would support the stadium bid and that funds could be made available to help the process.
Loans would be serviced by ‘rent’ charged to OUFC for use of the stadium and be over a long enough period to make repayments realistic and ensure that charges to the football club would not exceed current fees charged by Firoz Kassam.
Although of course the loan/debt would need to be serviced and therefore a rent paid by OUFC, the key change and benefit to OUFC would be that the club would gain a greater degree of freedom to operate the stadium, and revenues that the club currently do not enjoy would become available to the club, such as catering, conferencing and any other activities: this could put OUFC in a much more favourable financial situation. The club would also, subject to funding and in conjunction with the new stadium company, be able to develop the facility to its full potential.
In addition to an outright purchase, there are however other options that have been discussed with Firoz Kassam. For example, a full renegotiation of the current licence could be conducted, to enable the club to maximise revenues and develop the stadium, while continuing to pay a rent/lease to Firoz Kassam.
It is known that Darryl Eales would be happy if a commercially sensible solution such as this was agreed. It would also be the most likely plan for any potential new owner coming to OUFC – as it remains the case that Firoz Kassam is highly unlikely to sell the stadium to one individual. The Trust believes that a renegotiated lease (with favourable terms for OUFC) is the most likely plan to achieve success, but would equally not discount entirely the possibility of an outright purchase.
JF summed up the stadium discussions and asked those present to comment and give their views. A lively debate followed, and a large majority of the room were completely in favour of the committee continuing its positive talks with FK, regardless of the current ownership speculation.
JF said that the easiest thing for the Trust to do was to do nothing and step away, but that while there was a possibility of achieving a stadium resolution, that the committee feel it is right to continue and keep talking to the key stakeholders, which obviously includes Firoz Kassam.
It was resolved by all those present that OxVox would ballot all members to gain their views on the best next course of action and to, (a) either secure a mandate to continue discussions with Firoz Kassam, or (b) to move away from formal stadium discussions with Firoz Kassam.
The ballot questions and resolutions will be put together over the coming weeks and be conducted by the end of June 2017.
JF summarised the meeting’s key elements and thanked everyone for attending and contributing to the 15 th OxVox AGM.
The meeting ended at 9.30pm