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    Wilbur got a reaction from santaponsasaint in CIC Article in Herald   
    Meticulous planning for a brighter future case study st mirren
    Richard Atkinson
    8 Jun 2011
    THERE is something of the evangelist about Richard Atkinson. The 37-year-old company director is orchestrating the planned transformation of St Mirren from a traditionally run Scottish football club to an organisation with a much wider remit in the town of Paisley.
    In many ways Atkinson, whose family own a haulage and construction company in Irvine, is attempting to turn back the clock, returning St Mirren to its supporters and community. It will be a distinctly Scottish model, but borrowing from the membership concept of clubs on continental Europe, including Schalke ’04 and, yes, Barcelona.
    Whether the project is truly visionary or hopelessly idealistic remains to be seen. But what is not in doubt is that Atkinson has researched the scheme meticulously and that it is now close to becoming reality. The £2m to make it happen is almost in place, and it is up to the fans, and the wider community, to decide if they want to embrace it. The signs are that they do.
    If it was merely Atkinson and fellow St Mirren director Chris Stewart who were attempting to manoeuvre the club towards a more purposeful future, it might have been considerably more difficult to persuade the fans of its merit. The presence of club legend Tony Fitzpatrick has lent the project a weightiness which Atkinson acknowledges has been invaluable.
    \ It was important for the supporters trust, in particular, to believe in what we are doing
    “We’ve been accused of wheeling out Tony for public relations, but he’s been involved in this for over a year,” Atkinson points out. “He has a massive standing with the support, whereas Chris and I have none whatsoever. It gave us a bit of credibility because it was important for the supporters trust, in particular, to believe in what we are doing.”
    This, it has to be said, is no straightforward buy-out of the controlling 52% shareholding of the club held by a group of five directors, including St Mirren chairman Stewart Gilmour.
    They have been trying to sell the club for almost two years, and Atkinson spotted an advertisement placed in the Financial Times. He did some research, put his proposition to the board (which he then joined along with Chris Stewart) and the intervening months have been spent putting the complex deal together.
    Essentially the £2m required for the purchase will be provided by a number of social enterprise companies. It will be in the form of grants, soft loans and repayable debt. That will allow Atkinson and his group of advisers to form a Community Interest Company which will own the controlling 52% shareholding. The club itself will remain a limited company.
    In order for the social enterprise companies to release this £2m, Atkinson needed to find at least 300 individuals (fans) prepared to pay £120 a year each, 12 companies at £10,000 a year, and a further 24 community venture companies in the Paisley area to pay £500 a year. These numbers have been found – there were more than 700 pledges from individuals – and the project looks set to get the green light.
    It is envisaged that after 10 years of these payments, the debt owed to the social enterprise companies for the purchase of the 52% shareholding will have been paid off.
    Long before then, St Mirren will have become a democratic, members club. That is expected to happen at the end of this year, following a transition period when Atkinson and his advisers will ensure that the project starts on the right lines. But from November, or December, the members (those who pay annual subscriptions) will have a huge say in the way in which St Mirren is run, including sanctioning the comings and goings of players.
    “We’re trying to return St Mirren to what it was 100 years ago – individuals, businesses and community organisations all directly involved and helping the football club,” explains Atkinson. “We’re in a football stadium which sits in what is one of the most deprived areas in western Europe. It’s a £14m facility, yet it’s empty most of the time.
    “Community Interest Companies exist to use assets and profits for the good of the communities they are based in. This CIC has been created to bring the community of Paisley together round the football club for the purposes of the greater good of the community and the club.
    “We’ve always disliked calling this project the Barcelona model, or the Schalke model, because it’s not – although we have taken note of what they do there. Scotland is a country which has invented some of the most important things on the face of the earth, so I’m sure we are perfectly capable of coming up with a football model that everybody else refers to as the Scottish model.”
    In some respects the aims outlined by Atkinson are more those of a church than a football club, and it is no surprise that he confirms himself to be a committed Christian. He even envisages a day when free membership of St Mirren might be conferred on every baby born in the town – get them young being the only realistic motto for a club which lives in the shadow of the Old Firm.
    Yet for all this evangelism there is a hard-headedness to Atkinson also. The old model of football club ownership is falling down in Scotland and, if the professional game is to survive, new concepts must be embraced. “Football isn’t a business – it’s a passion,” he says. “Everybody has skills, talents and contacts, and we need to tap into the enthusiasm and ideas of the supporters.
    “You listen to football phone-ins and everybody is complaining. I hate people who moan but aren’t prepared to do something about it. Whether what we’re proposing to do works remains to be seen, but when people pull together, it makes the prospects of succeeding that much greater.”
  2. Like
    Wilbur got a reaction from shull in 10000 Hours Q&A Thread   
    Does the CIC have to purchase the entire 52% that the selling consortium have put up for sale ? Why not negotiate to buy only 51% or 50.1% ? Taking 50.1% would surely still constitute a controlling interest, ought to reduce the sum borrowed by approx £40k, and would leave the selling consortium with a 1.9% shareholding that would at least add some degree of legitimacy should any of them remain on the SMFC board after the sale has gone through.
  3. Like
    Wilbur reacted to Gruffalo in The Club Hangs In The Balance?   
    Look if Dodgy Dan the Demolition Man put a deal on the table to buy the shares for £5m and the consortium sold out. A year later he closed the club and turned the ground in to a donkey derby stand. We the fan could do nothing about this.
    The CiC is not being sold as the saviour of the Club. In some respect it is an experiment.
    Whats the worst that could happen. The CiC fails and goes in to administrations. The shares are then sold to an individual who the fans don’t know. Its no different to the club being sold to that person right now. (The CiC is the only show in town, there is no plan
    The CiC will only fail if the fans let it fail.
    No disrespect to the current Board. But I do not want another year like last year for our club. We lack direction, initiative and vision and are currently not progressing as a club. The CiC will certainly bring new blood and new ideas.
    I have a concern that the guys involved are not St Mirren or “football” guys. But looking at the state of Scottish Football as a whole which is run by “football” guys then that is maybe not real concern.
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