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Key questions on the future of Darlington FC
FANS last night quizzed Darlington FC officials on recent changes at the club including the reasons behind the restructuring of the board. Joe Willis looks at some of the key questions.
What is the new structure of the Darlington 1883 board?
The club has a chief executive, Martin Jesper, and operations director Laura Drew. The third member of the board is Darlington Football Club Community Interest Company (CIC), which is the majority shareholder in the club.
Who is Martin Jesper and how did he get involved in the club?
Mr Jesper is a turnaround professional who specialises in transforming ailing businesses. He was originally paid to provide some accounting expertise and examine the club's finances. After it became clear the club was facing fresh financial difficulties, he became a director and agreed to help the club through the difficult period. Mr Jesper, a Leeds fan, is not being paid and says his main motivation is “professional pride”.
Why was it necessary to reorganise the board of Darlington 1883?
The club says that given the adverse financial position of Darlington 1883 that emerged, it was not possible to secure the required level of funding without the reorganisation and without a suitably experienced professional in place. The interim board of directors was already aware that the allotment of shares would result in a transfer of skills to the CIC board. In addition, some members of the board had already given notice of their intention to resign.
Why was there a need for a cash injection?
It emerged towards the end of last year that the club would soon run out of money. Directors admit that mistakes were made and decisions regarding finances were made without board members having a clear picture of the financial situation. Rather than blaming individuals, the club says the board was collectively responsible and lessons have been learned.
What debts does the club have?
The club has debts of around £100,000, the majority of which are wages due to former staff agreed when the club was bought last year. These payments will be made over three years as agreed during the takeover.
What is the connection between Darlington 1883 and Enabling Sport?
Enabling Sport is a not-for-profit organisation which, according to its members, hopes to reconnect sports clubs and communities. This idea was sparked during the efforts to save Darlington FC. In response to interest shown by other sports clubs and communities in similar situations, the group hopes to share its knowledge and experience further. Other than through the members of the group continuing to help the club secure a bright future, Enabling Sport is not connected to Darlington 1883.
Are the Darlington 1883 directors being paid?
The current directors are not being paid and are not receiving expenses. However, they say that they do see a time when the club may need to pay for professional directors to ensure it runs in a professional manner once it is financially sustainable.
Is the current Darlington 1883 board an interim board?
Mrs Drew says she does not plan to be a permanent fixture on the board, adding: “I'm a football fan and one day I would like to watch a game without without having to make the orange juice at half-time.” Mr Jesper says he will stay “as long as he fee;s he can make a difference”.
What is the legal fees bill for the services of Muckle LLP?
The legal fees for the purchase of the club were capped at £50,000, however the company has since done further work for the club, including dealing with Supporters Direct, former chairman Raj Singh and the FA. The club says the the fees have now risen, although are less than £100,000. According to the directors, the firm has been a huge asset and the fan takeover could not have been completed without it. Had the club been charged market rates, it would have faced a bill four or five times higher, they say.
Does the club regret a recent lack of communication with fans?
The directors say the communication with fans could have been better, although they point out that the club is run by volunteers.
Is the campaign to find a permanent home in Darlington affected by the financial problems?
They are separate issues and plans continue to return the club to Darlington, they say.
The name of the club has been changed recently from Darlington FC 1883 to Darlington 1883. Why was this?
The name change was done to simply things, the directors say.
How will the membership of the boards of Darlington 1883 and the CIC be decided?
The Darlington 1883 directors will be appointed by the shareholders, with the CIC having the majority shareholding. Members of the CIC board are currently appointed by the CIC, however it is envisaged that CIC members will be able to vote on CIC board membership in the future, the club says.
Why were the outgoing Darlington 1883 directors asked to sign confidentiality agreements?
Mr Jesper says that the agreements were crucial given the sensitivity of what had been discussed prior to the reorganisation. It was an attempt to limit leaks which could threaten the future of the club, he adds.
Who will liaise with Martin Gray and the playing staff?
Mr Jesper will be the day-to-day contact with the manager and playing staff. Mrs Drew will work with football secretary Colin Galloway.
Will fans be asked to contribute towards further fundraising campaigns?
The Darlington 1883 board says that without a wealthy benefactor, there will always be a requirement for the fan owners to step up. However, the aim is to make the club self-sufficient without the need for repeated injections of cash from fans.
What is the difference between the three types of shares issued in Darlington 1883?
Holders of ordinary shares worth £1 each are entitled to one vote for each share. “A” ordinary shares , also worth £1 each, are entitled to two votes per share. These shares were issued to the first investors of £70,000 who bought them on a two-for-one basis. The golden share has been issued to the CIC and represents ten per cent of the votes capable of being cast.
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