Campaign for openness on West Ham Olympic Stadium deal

QPR1st supports the campaign coalition of supporter trusts calling for the deal for West Ham to use the Olympic stadium to be made public.  As West Ham and the London Legacy Development Corporation are reported as  disagreeing over the meaning of the agreement this seems more important than ever.

After a Freedom of Information request the Information Commissioner said the deal should be made public but the London Legacy Development Corporation has appealed against that decision and a tribunal started to consider the issue yesterday. This began but was adjourned in the afternoon and will continue at a later date, yet to be confirmed. 

 A statement from the campaign coalition of supporter trusts is here:

 “We note no decision has been reached today in the London Legacy Development Corporation appeal against the Information Commissioner’s ICO ruling that the financial terms of the LLDC contract for the use of the Olympic Stadium by West Ham United should be published in full.

“We trust the Tribunal committee will reconvene the hearing at the earliest possible opportunity, and conclude a process which has now cost the taxpayer £21,000 in appeal costs accumulated by the LLDC alone.

 “During the two hour open session this morning, we heard nothing to persuade us that revealing the contract in full would, indeed, impact on the stadium operators’ ability to secure competitive arrangements with other potential users, which now forms the backbone of the LLDC argument. This is a marked change from the LLDC’s original argument that disclosure would mainly negatively impact on West Ham United itself.

 “We also note that no representative from stadium operators Vinci, anyone from E20 (the partnership between the LLDC and London Borough of Newham), and significantly, West Ham United or any other potential or existing user was represented at today’s session. This leads us to question the fundamental assertion from the LLDC that the disclosure of financial material could be commercially damaging.

“We remain determined to see full publication of the financial terms of the contract. This is about ensuring public money is used well and that it is not used to give one club a financial advantage over others.”

 A report from a journalist attending the hearing is here

http://www.theguardian.com/football/2016/jan/25/west-ham-face-possibility-of-groundsharing-at-olympic-stadium

Posted in Community, QPR1st

Government report says supporters should get a bigger say in their football clubs

QPR1st Supporters’ Trust has welcomed recommendations from a Government Expert Working Group to give football supporters a bigger say in their clubs.

The report says “Supporter engagement… means dialogue between a football club and its fans, ensuring that the views of the fans – the lifeblood of any football club – are listened to, and acted upon.”

The report’s launch yesterday at AFC Wimbledon, the League 2 club formed and owned by its supporters’ trust, was attended by Sports Minister Tracey Crouch and representatives of Supporters’ Direct, the Football Supporters’ Federation, the FA, Premier League and Football League.

We welcome the report’s recommendation that regular meetings should “give supporters visibility of the strategic direction of their football clubs, and regular opportunities to discuss the issues which matter to supporters… This will include a commitment to meeting a representative group of supporters at least twice a year to discuss strategic / major issues.”

QPR1st believes the club has made progress in recent months with the creation of the fans’ consultative committee and the chief executive’s willingness to speak at a fans forum.  In line with the report’s recommendation we think this should be taken further with on-going structured discussions with supporters on the club’s strategy for the future – not limited to operational issues.

We fully support the report when it says; “This structured dialogue can help facilitate a partnership approach between a club and its supporters, recognising that supporters care about the strategic direction of the club as well as operational issues and the match day experience.”

We also strongly support a recommendation that the FA should consider how best it engages with representative supporter groups within its decision-making structures.

The report noted that there was only one supporter representative on the current 123 person FA Council.

 

What they said about the report

At the report’s launch Sports Minister Tracey Crouch said;  “Supporters are the lifeblood of the clubs they support but over time there has been a growing disconnect between them and those that run their clubs. So it was right that government set up this group and brought the football authorities and supporters together to see what more can be done for clubs to engage with fans.

“The agreement to have meaningful dialogue between clubs and supporters on issues that matter to them, which can include strategic and ownership related issues, is a big step forward.

Supporters Direct chair Brian Burgess said; “This report has the potential to mark the start of a new era of structured meaningful dialogue between clubs and Trusts, supported by changes which will lead to more opportunities for supporter ownership. Implemented correctly it can be a welcome step forward in a long-term process of reform, helping to reconnect clubs with their communities.”

Kevin Miles, chief executive of the Football Supporters Federation, said; “A report, endorsed by the football authorities, that requires clubs to listen to supporters on strategic issues including finance, governance and ownership, has to be a step in the right direction.

“All too often, crucial club decisions have been taken over the heads of fans, with the real financial and strategic position of clubs shrouded in mystery.

“Fans aren’t only concerned with facilities and team performance; we also care deeply about the ownership, governance and strategic direction of the clubs we support.”

 

Further information

Other recommendations made by the Expert Working Group include:

– In the event of a club becoming insolvent, administrators would be required to meet with Supporters Trusts, with a credible Trust given an opportunity to bid for the club

– Supporters Direct and the Football Supporters Federation to develop a database of suitable professional experts who are football fans who would be willing to provide pro-bono advice to supporters’ bids

– The football authorities agreed to keep the Owners and Directors Test under constant review and will take into account any feedback received from the supporter organisations through structured dialogue to ensure it achieves its intended purpose at all times.

– Any planned substantial changes to club colours or crests to be discussed with fans as part of the structured engagement.

–  The FA to assess how to best engage with representative supporter groups within its decision making structures as part of its current review process

See more at: http://www.supporters-direct.org/news-article/more-opportunities-for-supporter-ownership-involvement-and-engagement-in-football

Posted in Boardroom, Community

Don Howe R.I.P

QPR1st were saddened to learn of the death of Don Howe today at the age of 80.

Although Don will be remembered most by the general footballing world for his time at Arsenal as a player and manager and with England as a coach, QPR supporters will fondly remember his time with us. Although relatively brief this was a period when he laid the foundations for one of the best teams the club has had, bringing in quality players and earning some memorable victories before being replaced by Gerry Francis in 1991.

Our condolences go to his family.

Posted in Community, QPR1st

Season Ticket Prices 2016-2017

QPR1st Supporters’ Trust welcomes the club’s announcement this week of “earlybird” prices for next year’s season tickets.

We think the club decision to open season ticket sales to existing season ticket holders in December, with a price that is fixed whichever league we are in next year is a step in the right direction in terms of recognising the importance of current supporters.

This is good news and comes alongside some improvements in communication with supporters, including the survey on the crest and through the supporters consultation committee, and what sounded like a thorough process for appointing our new manager. These are positive signs that suggest our club may be emerging from a long period of poor and erratic management.

We have not yet been told the full story on ticket prices. The club has not announced the general sale price of season tickets but has said these will be at least 30 per cent higher.  This will be a substantial rise. We hope it will not put season tickets out of the reach of the ordinary fan.  We also hope that the full pricing structure is fair to those supporters who cannot for whatever reason buy season tickets but rely on tickets for individual matches. By keeping ticket prices at an affordable level we can further build sustainable support for QPR across west London and beyond.

We look forward to working further with the club in 2016 to ensure supporters views and concerns are listened to, and that the club shares its plans for the future with the most important people – supporters.

Supporters can vote for the new crest until 31 December here  http://www.qpr.co.uk/news/article/qpr-crest-voting-deadline-extended-2856015.aspx

Posted in Community, QPR1st

West Ham Olympic Stadium LDDC update

The London Assembly has unanimously voted for the rental agreement between the London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC) and West Ham United to be published in full.

 The Olympic Stadium Coalition, a coalition of 14 supporters trusts – including QPR1st – has been meeting London Assembly members and MPs to push for the details of West Ham United’s deal for the Olympic Stadium to be made public.

QPR1st supports this because there is concern that the stadium deal may give West Ham an unfair financial advantage over other clubs. Only full publication of the deal will reveal whether the deal is fair in terms of football – and to the taxpayer who is footing the bill for rebuilding, maintenance, staffing and much of the costs of the stadium that would normally be met by the football club.

Assembly members made a direct reference to the ‘considerable public interest’ in the issue.

The stadium coalition coalition has offered its thanks to Conservative, Green, Labour and Liberal Democrat members of the Assembly, all of whom have refused to allow this issue to disappear off the agenda. It has asked them to continue to press London Mayor Boris Johnson to back with actions his stated view that the terms of the deal should be published.

The Information Commissioner has said the LDDC must publish the deal after its secrecy was challenged under the freedom of information Act. The Mayor, as the person who oversees the LLDC he has the power to force them to cease challenging that verdict and to publish.

 The Assembly agreed:

“This Assembly notes the considerable public interest in the Concession Agreement between the London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC) and West Ham United FC for their rental of the Olympic Stadium.

 “This Assembly believes the LLDC was wrong to redact the released document, and was wrong to appeal the Information Commissioner’s ruling that the document should be published in full.

 “This Assembly therefore calls on the LLDC to drop its appeal against the Information Commissioner’s ruling and to publish the Concession Agreement in full.”

 More information on the Assembly vote is here:  https://www.london.gov.uk/press-releases/assembly/assembly-blows-the-full-time-whistle.

Posted in Community, QPR1st

Hasselbaink Statement

QPR1st Supporters’ Trust welcomes Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink to the club.

 We hope he has a long and successful time with us as manager.

We are pleased that the club does not seem to have simply thrown money at an issue – but have appointed a man who has done well in lower leagues and may well be ready to take a step up.

If he is able to motivate talent, and to build and organise a team he will do well here.  And in the year when the club is remembering that special team of 1975/6, it would be great if he can move forward to develop a team that plays competitively and with flair too.  We hope the club will give him the opportunity to develop existing talent and, in time, to bring in new young players to build an exciting team to take us forward.

We look forward to more information on the team management roles at the club. Chris Ramsey was senior coach whereas Hasselbaink is manager, with Les Ferdinand as director of football.  We would like to know which responsibilities go with which job.

We would also like to sincerely thank Neil Warnock and Kevin Blackwell for stepping in and bringing a new level of organisation to the team on the pitch.

Posted in Community, QPR1st

Football Governance (Supporters Participation) Bill Published

MP Clive Efford’s ‘Football Governance (Supporters’ Participation) Bill’ that would give football supporters a new right to buy shares in their clubs and to elect representatives to boards is published today.

The bill is also listed for its Second Reading in the House of Commons today (4th December).  Andy Slaughter, MP for Hammersmith, whose constituency includes Loftus Road, is one of the 12 signatories to the bill.

Clive Efford MP says’ “It’s time that fans are heard in the boardrooms of football clubs.  Too many decisions are made without fans even being consulted.  My bill will not give fans a controlling share but it will ensure they have a place at the table and will be able to put their views across.”

The bill would not give fans a controlling stake, but it would allow them to have a voice in the boardroom and where they have the means, to take a stake in their club.

Fans with an appropriately constituted group ensuring openness and transparency, would have the right to buy up to 10 percent of the shares available for purchase when there is a change of ownership, which is when 30 percent or more of the shares on offer.  The group would also be able to elect two members or up to 25 percent, whichever is the greater, of their club’s board.

Football clubs are attached to the communities in which they based like no other forms of business.  Fans do not choose their clubs after comparing prices or being influenced by clever marketing, it is an emotional attachment that lasts a lifetime.  Fans are the people that remain after club owners have moved on and they remain loyal through good times and bad.  With few exceptions it is the communities around the clubs that provide the bulk of the fans that pack the grounds and make our football so exciting and attractive to watch.  If the grounds were empty the TV companies would not be interested in paying large sums of money to televise games and the money coming into football from TV rights would dry up.

 Yet time and time again we see fans being overlooked on issues that directly affect them: naming rights; sponsorship; cost of tickets – particularly for away fans; changing club colours; and costs of merchandise. These are all examples of disputes that have occurred between fans and club directors.  It is time that fans had a voice.

The text of the bill is here: http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/bills/cbill/2015-2016/0050/15050.pdf

Posted in Boardroom, Community, QPR1st

Olympic stadium deal a poor deal?

The Olympic Stadium Coalition, a coalition of 14 supporters trusts – including QPR1st – are continuing to push for the details of West Ham United’s deal for the Olympic Stadium to be made fully public.

QPR1st supports this because there is concern that the stadium deal may give West Ham an unfair financial advantage over other clubs, and that it’s a poor deal for the taxpayer who is spending and will continue to spend millions on the stadium. Our concerns could be wrong – but only full publication will reveal whether the deal is fair. Here is the latest update on the campaign.

The Olympic Stadium Coalition has assessed the most recent releases of the contract between the LLDC and West Ham United.

Although the London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC) was ordered to release in full the financial terms of the deal between itself and West Ham United for the hire of the Olympic Stadium on September 15th 2015, they are currently releasing limited information in dribs and drabs.

They have so far released three further versions of the agreement, all with continued substantial redactions.

Although the LLDC is exercising a right to appeal against the decision of the Information Commissioner (ICO), we continue to contend that the LLDC is simply dragging its feet, and using procedural delays to attempt to ‘time out’ the campaign.

Representing as we do fourteen supporters’ organisations, thousands of members of the public, and with the support of MPs, London AMs and other civil society organisations, we will continue to make the same demands for transparency as we made when we set out on this campaign, because we believe that a fair deal for the taxpayer, is a fair deal for football.

This is what we don’t yet know:
How much the stadium costs to hire
The amount (the ‘Basic Usage Fee), that West Ham United will be paying to use the stadium. We also don’t know the amount by which this fee is reduced in the event of relegation
Why does it matter?
This matters because it is one of the principal ways that the taxpayer will get money back through this deal
How much the stadium maintenance will cost, and who will pay for it
What provision the LLDC has made to fund both ongoing repairs, and the upgrade of facilities which can be demanded by West Ham United, and whether there are any upper-limits on costs.
Why does it matter?
It matters because currently, we know that the taxpayer will be paying for changes required by West Ham United for the purposes of playing football, and not necessarily for the other uses of the stadium. Also who’s to say that after a period of years the stadium won’t need a major upgrade? All this will come at the taxpayers’ expense, whilst every other club has to meet their own costs.
How much each party will earn from stadium naming rights
We do not know what revenue West Ham derive from money paid into a separate ‘Naming Rights Account’, established under the agreement. This will be made up from revenue from the main Stadium sponsor, plus all other ‘lower level’ sponsorships.
Why does this matter?
This matters because it is another of principal ways that the taxpayer will get money back through this deal. It also matters because the potential is there, because it’s the Olympic Stadium and hosts other events during the year, for the naming rights to be greater. With most clubs this sort of information can be gleaned from an entry in their accounts, yet in the case of a publicly owned stadium we aren’t able to know.
What happens to the stadium in the event of financial difficulties at stadium company E20
What happens if E20 becomes insolvent? In such an event West Ham can terminate the agreement. It would appear that the way would be open for West Ham to acquire the Stadium from the Administrator.
Why does this matter?
This matters because at the moment, our reading of the deal says that if the stadium owner, E20, stops being able to trade and needs to be restructured, rescued or wound-up, West Ham United have the right to purchase the stadium – a public asset. Because the responsibility of the administrator during this process is to get the best value for those to whom the company owes money (creditors), the right decision might not be made about a public asset that the taxpayer paid for.
What happens if West Ham United is sold by its current owners
The benefit, if any, that E20 will receive if West Ham United is sold by its shareholders. At the moment all we know is that West Ham United simply have to inform E20 of any change, and confirm that the new owner agrees to take over the rental contract. We believe that this is one of the most important questions for the taxpayer.
Why does this matter?
This matters because part of the value of West Ham United is in the assets it owns – including the stadium it occupies. We think it wrong if the Olympic Stadium ends up being a way of the existing owners to make a tidy profit on the sale of the club in these circumstances, without having properly contributed to its building or upkeep, and without paying over some of that profit.
How much West Ham United earns from matchday catering
How much West Ham earn from matchday catering. It also doesn’t actually demonstrate that West Ham keep 100% of hospitality revenue, even though this exact information was confirmed in the LLDC’s private submission to the European Commission.
Why does this matter?
This matters because other clubs have to provide and manage their own catering outlets (or pay to outsource it), and in this case West Ham United will not have to do this – in a publicly owned stadium.
How many jobs are being ‘created’
TUPE refers to the protection of employees’ rights when the organisation or service they work for transfers to a new employer. As a result claims about job creation made by Karren Brady, which relate directly to the numbers of employees of West Ham United who will retain their jobs under TUPE, cannot be verified.
Why does this matter?
We believe there is no reason to withhold this information. If a publicly built and owned stadium is creating jobs, we should know how many jobs it’s creating.
How much office space is being provided to West Ham United and on what terms
How much retail and office space is given to West Ham. However a separate FOI request to the LLDC has yielded details of the amount of space allocated, and confirmed that the space is allocated on a 24x 365 basis.
Why does this matter?
The issue is the value of this space, and whether it is paid for as part of the usage fee, and if not whether the rental is at actual market rate, or some kind of peppercorn rate.

Posted in All News

QPR Board – have the lessons been learnt or are all decisions short-term?

QPR1st supporters’ trust hopes the sacking of head coach Chris Ramsey and the reported new ambition for promotion does not mark a return to short-term, incoherent decision-making at the club.

Supporters were told the club was aiming for stability and a period of rebuilding. Now we are advised that, because we did not sell three players as had been expected, the target is now to be promotion contenders.

Club co-chairman Tony Fernandes has repeatedly said that lessons have been learnt by the board. Yet the most important lesson is that short-term decision-making does not work. Since 2011 we have had four managers, a succession of over-paid poorly performing players, ballooning debts and two relegations from the Premier League. The stated aim of gaining stability and rebuilding in the Championship lasted less than 12 weeks into the season.

We hope the club will have a considered process for appointing a new head coach/manager – conducted without tweets giving a commentary that appears to undermine the professionalism of the process.

The club needs someone with some experience and who is able to develop, with the Director of Football, a clear, achievable and financially sound plan for developing the team in the coming years

But, his work will be impossible if the leadership of the club itself fundamentally changes its priorities with the regularity of a weathervane.

We would like to hear from the club a realistic plan for development.

We wish Chris Ramsey well for the future; he had a difficult job to do as chief coach of a club facing relegation, and changing priorities. And, of course, we wish Neil Warnock well on the pitch in the next few months.

Posted in All News

RIP Brian Lomax

It was with sadness that we learnt today of the death of Brian Lomax a founding father of the Supporters Trust Movement. Brian provided significant support and assistance to QPR1st during its formation and particularly in its early years and some will remember him speaking at the Hammersmith town hall meeting in April 2002.

Supporters Direct have issued the following:

We are deeply saddened to hear that Brian Lomax OBE has passed away this morning.

Brian was the inspiration behind the Supporters’ Trust movement through his work at Northampton Town in the early 1990’s, becoming the first supporter elected director of a football club after the supporters and community rallied round to save the club in 1992.

This pioneering approach led to the Football Task Force report in 1999 recommending the widespread establishment of Supporters’ Trusts to replicate this work. Brian was instrumental in the formation of Supporters Direct for this purpose and was appointed our first Managing Director. He would later become Chair of the organisation.

In both positions and throughout SD’s existence, Brian’s skills, experience and warmth have been at the heart of our movement, and in him, we had our truly inspirational founding father.

His role in changing the way football is run was recognised with an OBE for services to the game in the same year as he stepped down as Chair, 2009.

Despite all these accolades anyone who knew Brian will remember him above all as being a kind, humble and caring man. His life touched and inspired many people, and his legacy will live on.

RIP Brian

http://www.theguardian.com/football/blog/2015/nov/02/brian-lomax-death-supporters-direct-northampton-town?CMP=share_btn_tw

Posted in All News, Community, QPR1st

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