Actions Speak Louder Than Words

It was always going to be the case that when the pressure was turned up slightly around the actions of those involved in the sale of Swansea City in 2016, the mudslinging was going to start.  Unsurprisingly, we have seen plenty of mud being thrown over the weekend.

From the opening salvo of the “An Audience with Huw Jenkins” gambit which many members of the press reported on Friday afternoon without any sort of critical questioning of some of the outlandish and untrue statements he made, to the Supporters Trust’s excellent statement yesterday, it has become clear that both sides want to put across their side of the story and that those stories differ greatly.

There has also been the usual and tiresome Twitter posturing from former shareholders and their families. who block opinions they disagree with and enjoy goading supporters, which at best seems inconsistent with their roles as either employees of the club or, in some cases, self-styled “ambassadors”

And the New Year started no differently, with former shareholder Rob Davies wading in by claiming that the actions of the supporters will send the club into the abyss.  He also claimed that the Trust was offered £20m in March 2016, and delayed its response.

Put simply, this offer was never made.  Speaking on the story that broke today, Phil Sumbler – who was reported as attending the alleged meeting with Nigel Hamer representing the Trust – stated “There was no shareholders meeting in March 2016, a comment categorically confirmed by the Supporters Trust yesterday.

“It is true to that I did once attend a shareholders meeting with Nigel on behalf of the Trust.  That was on 5 November 2014 and it was in the early stages of the discussions around a potential deal with Charles Noell and John Moores.  This meeting was reported by the Trust in February 2015 at a forum at the Liberty Stadium.

“It is simply not true to state that there was a meeting in March 2016, outside of those already outlined by the Trust, and it is laughable that there has been a claim that there was a £20m offer made for the Trust’s shares.  It is frustrating that whilst the supporters’ organisations are dealing with facts and evidence, the media is allowing other shareholders to make untrue allegations unchallenged and with no substance or proof.”

“The events of this time have been set out by the Trust based on when things happened and the whole detailed timeline, together with all relevant correspondence, was handed to Counsel as part of the legal advice that was sought.”

“I suspect there will be further claims made, but the evidence made public so far shows that the Trust wrote immediately to all shareholders as soon as they were told about the sale, despite the fact that the Trust was told several months too late.   This correspondence did not receive the courtesy of any reply other than a draft term sheet sent by the Chairman.”

“I have no doubt that this is part of a coordinated and concerted campaign by the former shareholders to discredit the Trust and others who were involved at the time but are no longer part of the Trust board.  But the facts are there, and I am sure that the fans will judge these based on what they see and hear which is all that can be asked for.”

“The simple fact is that there was clear collusion between the sellers to keep the particulars of the sale away from the Trust until matters were virtually complete and no amount of revisionism will ever change that.”

The Swansea City Supporters’ Alliance continues to believe that it is time to formally cut all ties with all past shareholders so that the club and supporters can unite once more, despite the divisions that have been caused by the manner in which the club was sold.

SCSA Applauds Trust Response

The Swansea City Supporters Alliance has welcomed and applauded the response from the Supporters Trust regards the interview made in yesterday’s press by club Chairman Huw Jenkins.

In the interview, it was intimated that the Trust was aware of the sale before it had been claimed that they were and that there were many factual inaccuracies in statements being made.

The Trust though have moved swiftly to counter the claims made and we are pleased to see their reaction being strong enough to call for the resignation of the Chairman.

We are not sure why it was deemed a good idea by the football club to allow this interview to take place and we completely support the Trust in their calls for the resignation in light of this interview being made.

It has been the viewpoint of the SCSA since our formation that the position of the Chairman has been untenable due to performance in role but the conducting of yesterday’s interview merely added weight to that argument.

We are also disappointed, but not surprised, to note the fact that the interview was conducted with little questioning back from the press despite some clear statements to the contrary being available in the public domain.   These situations have not helped our cause since the first news of the takeover was made as far back as April 2016.

We hope that the majority shareholders will take note of the calls by all supporters groups and act on this accordingly.

You can view the full Trust response at https://www.swanstrust.co.uk/2017/12/31/detailed-trust-response-to-huw-jenkins-interview/

The Supporters’ Trust must return to its members

There has been much discussion in the past few weeks about the proposed sale of some of the Trust’s shares to Swansea City’s majority owners.

Following a lengthy consultation process back in the summer, the Trust board recommended a deal to its members that would see the Trust selling some of its shares to the 27-strong consortium, with club chairman Huw Jenkins also taking part in the purchase.

The Trust board strongly recommended the deal to its members and on the strength of this recommendation, almost 75% of Trust members who voted elected to take the deal.  However, a great deal of water has passed under the bridge since that members’ vote, including the resignation of at least two Trust board members – including the long serving chairman – who cited a change in terms of the deal as one of the reasons for their departure.

At a Trust members’ forum last week, the members of the Trust board present suggested very clearly that the deal though was back “on track” and that there would be no need for further consultation with members as the board is working to fulfil the mandate given to them in the summer.

The SCSA disagrees strongly.  We believe that the Trust simply must return to its members for a second vote, given the very public statements made by former board members and the recent changes in the makeup of the Trust board.   Members of the Trust need to have faith that they made the right decision and that the decision, and the reasons for it, are still valid.  We fully accept that a second vote may well have the same outcome as the first, but at least it will mean that the Trust board is acting on the most recent mandate from its members.  It will also mean that Trust members have had the chance they deserve to consider the deal again, especially in the light of the recent events we have already outlined.

There is only one chance to get this right, whether to continue with the deal to sell shares is the most important decision the Supporters’ Trust will have to make.  More than four months have passed since the last vote. It only seems right that members should be asked again for their current view, even if such a move was to delay the process slightly. Better that than to plough ahead in haste and regret it in the years to come.

We at the SCSA cannot and will not predict what the outcome will be if there is a second vote.  However, we are sure that it is the right thing for the Trust to ask its members for a view again, in the form of a second vote, when final information is available to present to them.

We therefore call on all Trust members to make their voices heard and to contact the Trust to ask for a second vote.  It is important that you do this and it’s equally as important that you do it politely.  Please respect that request.

You can contact the Trust by email at info@swanstrust.co.uk, by using the contact form on the Trust website (https://www.swanstrust.co.uk/contact-us/) or in writing to 12 Dynevor Avenue, Neath, SA10 7AG.  We would highly recommend including your full name and address to allow that information to be matched against the database of members.  We also urge you to join the Trust if you want to make your view known on this vital issue for the future of Swansea City and you can join online at www.swanstrust.co.uk

It is absolutely key at this point that everything is transparent and open at both the club and the Trust so that both can start to regain the trust and support of the fans.  We believe that a second vote on the deal is vital in starting that process.

Please make your voice heard.  We want our club back. #backtojack

At the SCSA we have been inundated with messages of support this week from people backing what we have been doing.  One of those people – Rhys Hughes – shared with us an excellent note he sent the Trust on this subject.  Rhys has agreed that we can use some of the body of that email if you wished to replicate some/all of it.

I am writing to you today with regards to the vote that took place in the summer of this year, with regards to our shareholdings within the Club.  Given the huge change in scenario now compared to the environment in which we were voting in the summer, I consider it imperative that the membership have a final say on how we best move forward from here – free of the biased propaganda espoused by the Trust some months ago.

In the few short months after the vote, it became clear that the terms in which the deal was agreed had been altered and that our ownership were appearing to “move the goalposts”. This voids the very deal that our membership voted for in the summer through false pretenses. Further to this, the toxicity of the atmosphere and feeling of opinion towards our current board members has further intensified, the membership has clearly shifted in tone with regards to the cooperation they feel we should have with them. So much so, I have little doubt if an open and credible re-vote were to take place in the coming months, we would have a very different outcome indeed!

The lack of validity of the original vote, the outlines given proving to be inaccurate and the deal put forward by the Trust and board members in summer appear to be falling apart – it is therefore of vital importance that our membership have the final say on the relationship the Trust has in the future of Swansea City. To stand in the way of a second vote would not only be undemocratic but it would be grossly neglectful of the opinions expressed by most fans, causing irreparable and long term damage both to the standing of the Trust within Swansea City but also of the future of a football club we all care so dearly about.

Our Previous Shareholders

It has been said many times that the film “Jack to a King” was merely a marketing ploy to prepare the ground for the sale of Swansea City.  This becomes particularly obvious when you consider the way that certain people were represented in the film and the way that others of equal or greater importance were cynically airbrushed from history as if they did not matter.

From the mythical re-mortgaging of a house to a magical cashpoint, the film stretched the truth in so many ways to enhance the role of some individuals.  This was a shame really, because the story of the rise of Swansea City was incredible enough without any embellishment.  However, I guess it did not work as well as the marketing tool that the producers had been asked to create.

The film did though have the desired effect.  As we have outlined previously, Swansea City was sold behind the backs of the fans and with no thought for the future safety of the club.  We all remember the oft-repeated “by the fans, for the fans” mantra that was enjoyed and trotted out so long and so often by those who are now reaping the financial benefits of deceiving their “fellow” Swansea City fans.

More than that though, it isn’t just the financial rewards from selling their shares that these people are still enjoying.  You only have to look at the club’s accounts and ask yourself where the money has gone over the years to realise that outside business interests have also benefited.  That may be through the rental of private properties, hotel rooms, vending machines, building businesses, travel packages, the list goes on.  It really has been a case of “having your cake and eating it” for these guys (not that there was ever a bakery involved, at least as far as we know).

If that wasn’t bad enough, we now also have some of them (or their very close families) spending their time goading angry Swans fans on Twitter.  Whether that is through constantly telling people about their seemingly endless supply of match tickets (who really needs to post their match tickets on social media?) or through just basic arguing.  Simply saying “views are my own” does not wash when you still style yourself as being a part of Swansea City.

These same people still enjoy the benefits of being in the directors’ box on match days.  They enjoy the food and hospitality behind the scenes while the fans watch the devastation on the pitch and feel the anger and despair in the stands caused by the actions of those who sold the club.  These people are rubbing our noses in the fact that they have sold Swansea City to the hedge fund wolves.

As with the chairman, the only way that fans will ever unite fully behind this club again will be when these people are removed.  That isn’t something we say lightly as we recognise the work that they did in 2001 when the club was on its knees.  Sadly, that work and the goodwill it rightly created has been more than undone by the sale and their actions since.

That is such a shame, because it didn’t have to be this way. Selling the club out from underneath the supporters when one of those doing the selling was so instrumental in setting up the Supporters’ Trust is unforgivable.  Yet that person is retained by the current owners as a consultant despite them admitting that the commercial arm of the club has vastly underperformed over the years.

Then we have all aspects of social media.  The tweets of former shareholders and their families are extremely damaging to Swansea City.  There is absolutely no need for these people to be as proactive on social media in an environment where feelings run so high.  It will only ever cause friction, and this is often seen to be the case.   They should be given a simple choice – your Twitter following or the good of the football club.  One or the other.

The SCSA calls for the immediate removal of all former shareholders of Swansea City and we ask the football club to be transparent and open in any dealings with current or previous shareholders.  No business transactions should take place with these people as it will only serve to heighten ill feeling.  It is not in the best short or long-term interests of Swansea City for these relationships to be in place if our club is to be united once more.

We call on Swansea City to remove any and all privileges from former shareholders.  The money they put into the football club, whether that was in 2001 or later, as it certainly was in some cases, should not be seen as the investment they tried to portray it as in the film, but merely a group of fans doing what they said they were doing at the time.  Helping to save Swansea City.  If that is why they did what they did in the first place, as they claimed, then surely paying for match day tickets (with the appropriate membership where applicable) should not be seen as a hardship?

We suggest that any preferential treatment for anyone arranging travel packages should stop this season.  We understand that the appropriate Jack Army memberships are in place but as these are non-transferable (as per the terms and conditions) do we also need to assume that it is the same people that travel to all the games for which trips are arranged?    The suspicion that it isn’t is something else that isn’t helping the club’s reputation at this time.

We are sure that the majority owners (all 27 of them) want Swansea City to be united.  Removing the privileges and special treatment we have outlined here, whether they be business concerns or simply social media postings, will move us one stage closer to that goal.

These former shareholders will understand it because they understood it when Tony Petty was here so they are on our wavelength, surely?  I wonder how they would feel if they were in our position now, on the outside looking in while our club is being run inexorably into the ground by greed and incompetence.

The SCSA therefore asks the majority shareholders to remove the privileges, the business interests and use of social media (while those involved are still linked to Swansea City) of the former shareholders who contrived and plotted to sell the club behind the backs of their former friends and fellow supporters.  We want our club back.

#backtojack

Huw Jenkins

So why are the short term aims of the SCSA as stated?

We have been asked to detail why we have three short term aims which are reproduced below as a reminder.

  • Work hard to increase knowledge among the wider fanbase of Swansea City about the actions of the former shareholders in the sale of the club.  We will achieve this by making efforts to publicise information that is already in the public domain but has been largely ignored by both the local and national media.
  • We will call for the shareholders who sold the club from under the supporters and the privileges currently afforded to them to be removed.  This should include boardroom access as well as preferential treatment in ticketing and stadium matters.
  • We will urge the Supporters’ Trust to return to its membership for another vote on the proposal not to take legal action in favour of a partial sale of the Trust’s shares.  We are not saying at this point that the original vote should be ignored.  However, we feel that recent developments have led to the need for the Trust to consult its members on this issue again, quickly.

It is also worth noting that we believe the position of club chairman Huw Jenkins to be untenable as a direct result of the above three situations and we will now lay out in more detail why we think this is the case.

1.  Selling the club behind the back of the supporters.  

We should never lose sight of the fact that the decision to sell the club behind the backs of the supporters was not a decision taken only by the chairman, but one taken by all the shareholders, acting together.

There is no doubt that they were frustrated and angered by the presence of the Trust in a previous potential deal with Charles Noell and John Moores.  However, that does not justify completely bypassing the organisation that was formed to ensure that the longer term interests of Swansea City were protected.

Huw Jenkins was present in 2002 when the club returned to local ownership following the Tony Petty era.  He should have been acutely aware from his involvement at that time that and the actions taken how much Swansea City means to its fans.  That makes his decision to sell without the full involvement of the Supporters’ Trust crass at best and ultimately unforgivable.

Indeed, this quote from Huw Jenkins in April 2012 should be remembered at all times “The hard times of the past mean we fully appreciate what we have today, we have ambition, but we grow the club within its income, encourage managers, and work hard. We and the supporters trust have respect for each other. It is mad for the football authorities not to encourage supporter ownership more – the game is about supporters.”

Also, consider the comments Huw Jenkins made in his programme notes in February 2015 following the failed sale to Moores and Noell: “I’m positive that any movement away from the current set-up will only be put in place if everyone connected to our club is convinced it’s a good thing for the football club first and foremost. If not, and this is my opinion, I can see the status quo continuing for some years to come.”

2. Continued poor performance on the pitch.  

Swansea City has regressed dramatically on the field in recent years.  From the moment we lifted the Capital One Cup in 2013 and competed in Europe the deterioration has been rapid and continued.

There is little doubt that the appointments Roberto Martinez, Brendan Rodgers and Michael Laudrup were inspired and driven by a clear vision for the club.   The appointment of Garry Monk was also meant to be along those lines but since then you have to question the logic behind the appointments of Francesco Guidolin, Bob Bradley and now Paul Clement given the team’s current position.

Add to that the endless poor transfer purchases coupled with players apparently being imposed on managers and you have decisions that have cost people employment.   However, increased salaries and bonuses have resulted while our league position speaks for itself.  After close brushes with relegation in the past two seasons, we now face a third and possibly final battle against the drop.

The SCSA completely agrees that the club needs to work within its means but how many top quality signings can you mention since Michael Laudrup’s transfer purchases that have set the world alight?

3.  Bypassing of duties as the chairman of a multi million pound organisation

The court case that we all read about this week was depressing to say the least. Steve Penny and Don Keefe worked for this club for many years and for a large part of that time they did so without any reward.   They were present at almost every game and devoted their time to the cause that was Swansea City.

As the club grew the rewards were given because of the extra hours needed but these guys were tossed to one side the moment the sale was completed.  As we have seen in court this week, fictitious minutes of non-existent meetings were created with the chairman admitting that he signs documents without fully checking them.   That is an unacceptable practice that should not be allowed to pass without comment.  Indeed his comment about not taking much notice of “the intricacies” he was signing in his role should set off huge  alarm bells given his position and the other documents he is asked to sign on a regular basis.

We at the Swansea City Supporters’ Alliance believe that while Huw Jenkins remains at the helm of Swansea City, the supporter base will never be completely united.

While we understand the reasoning behind the Americans wanting to utilise Huw Jenkins’s previous strong track record, the last four years of poor decisions and ill feeling cannot be ignored any longer.  We implore the majority owners of Swansea City to consider removing the chairman to allow us to take the first step towards getting our club back again.

 

SWANSEA CITY SUPPORTERS’ ALLIANCE 

The purpose of the Swansea City Supporters’ Alliance (SCSA) is simple – to represent the supporters’ aims, views, concerns and wishes and to ensure that it is vocal in supporting and pursuing these aims at all times.

The SCSA will not operate a closed shop.  It will need and seek input and support from fans of all ages, backgrounds and views as the SCSA looks to pursue the aim of bringing Swansea City Football Club back to its fans, a position we are nowhere near at the moment.

The sale of Swansea City to an American consortium in 2016 has left us with several challenges that need to be overcome.  These include but are not necessarily limited to:

  • The position of the former shareholders.  We should never forget that these people CHOSE to sell the club behind the backs of the supporters.  They did this despite the supporters holding a significant shareholding in Swansea City.
  • The continued presence of these shareholders at Swansea City.  The depth of feeling against the continued presence of these people is strong.  The fact that some of them contimue to goad Swansea City fans on social media, continue to run Swans-related businesses and still receive preferential treatment simply serves to strengthen the feeling of anger among supporters.
  • The supporters’ shareholding, presence and voice have been devalued.  The passing of majority voting rights and the inability to cash in on the value in compensation has weakened the position of the Supporters’ Trust, an organisation that we were all once so proud of.

To try and overcome these challenges the immediate aims of the SCSA are to:

  • Work hard to increase knowledge among the wider fanbase of Swansea City about the actions of the former shareholders in the sale of the club.  We will achieve this by making efforts to publicise information that is already in the public domain but has been largely ignored by both the local and national media.
  • We will call for the shareholders who sold the club from under the supporters and the privileges currently afforded to them to be removed.  This should include boardroom access as well as preferential treatment in ticketing and stadium matters.
  • We will urge the Supporters’ Trust to return to its membership for another vote on the proposal not to take legal action in favour of a partial sale of the Trust’s shares.  We are not saying at this point that the original vote should be ignored.  However, we feel that recent developments have led to the need for the Trust to consult its members on this issue again, quickly.

The SCSA is disappointed to note recent actions taken by Swansea City, including increased prices for the club’s vice presidents as well as a poor run of results on the pitch that have left us bottom of the Premier League.  The SCSA believes that these decisions and the current malaise on the pitch are a result of poor management decisions at board level preside over by the club’s chairman, Huw Jenkins.  Such decisions have become the subject of some very public scrutiny this week due to the ongoing court case involving former directors Steve Penney and Don Keefe. who are claiming damages against the football club  The SCSA believes that seeing the previous good name of Swansea City being publicly demeaned in this way makes the position of the current chairman untenable, especially when considered alongside the rapid and continued regression in the team over the last few years.

Until a short few years ago, Swansea City was a club that was almost universally admired for the way it was run off the field and the way it played the game on the field.  We want that back.  We want our club back.

If you are interested in finding out more about the SCSA or you would like to get involved in activities. please contact us at info@scsa.wales