SMiSA News

SMISA members December update

We emailed our members with the following update - including the latest from our men on the club board, and a message to members from the club youth academy

Directors’ Update

SMISA’s two appointees to the St Mirren club board, David Riley and John Needham, are playing a key role in the running of the club while also acting as the link between SMISA and St Mirren’s board and management. In the first of what will be a series of regular updates for SMISA members, the pair explain in more detail what they have been involved in.

It covers how they ensure SMISA member views are considered in club decisions, the contribution our partners Kibble have made to the club to date, and how the club board are responding to what has been a turbulent year on and off the park. You can read that on our website here.

Choosing next season’s kit

We recently gave members the chance to choose next season’s home and away kits from a series of options created by the club’s strip manufacturer, Joma. We want to thank everyone who took the time to vote for their favourites – and debate it on social media too!

Voting has now closed and Joma and the club will unveil the two winning designs later in the season. We hope this will now become an annual event, with fans also hopefully getting the opportunity to submit their own designs for consideration.

Allan McManus thank you

Earlier in the year we asked members to consider supporting the St Mirren youth academy during a difficult period by pledging the funds from both the July and the October £2 spend ballots in one go.

Members voted in large numbers to back that proposal and a sum of almost £15,000 has since been paid to help with the running and upkeep of the Ralston facility.

Head of Youth Allan McManus has always been grateful to the SMISA members for their ongoing support of the academy and he recorded a video with the club’s head of media James Hunter where he explained how that money has been spent while also thanking SMISA for their ongoing backing. You can watch the video on the club’s You Tube channel here.

SMISA news

Two members of the SMISA board, Alan Quinn and Jim Cumming, have been appointed to the club’s newly-formed finance and audit sub-committees respectively. The appointments will allow Jim and Alan to ensure good governance is upheld at all times and will also give them greater insight into the workings of the club ahead of next summer’s transition to fan ownership.

And finally….

We’d like to thank all of you once again for your support throughout what has been a tough and challenging year for everyone.

We look forward to 2021 when we will complete the transition to fan ownership and supporters will - all being well - be back inside the SMISA Stadium before too long!
In the meantime, please get in touch with us at any time via [email protected].

Wishing you all a Merry Christmas – and Come On Ye Saints!

SMISA directors update - December 2020

In the first of what we plan to be a regular series, SMISA's two directors on the club board provide an update for members on a range of issues...


John - you are SMISA’s newest addition to the board. Can you tell the members a bit about your own background, and how you’ve found your first few months in the job?

JOHN: Sure, I retired from full time work in 2017 after almost 40 years working for RBS, starting in the former branch in the Piazza straight from school. During that time I was lucky enough to work in a variety of roles so I have a very broad set of skills and experience.

As well as working in the branches I was a relationship manager, worked on large projects, ran a large part of the back office across the UK, worked in audit and risk management and finally ended up working alongside the Bank of England following the financial crash in 2008 ensuring RBS was made safer and more secure for the future.

Since leaving the bank I’ve spent a lot more time on the golf course but I’ve also been building up a small set of voluntary and non-executive director positions. The chance to become a director of St Mirren fits perfectly with that and was an opportunity I felt I couldn’t let pass me by. I was never good enough to be a player so this is the next best thing!

It’s been a steep learning curve with the challenges facing us on and off the field from Covid. That said, I’m loving every minute of it. My primary role is to ensure the views of SMISA members are fully considered as part of the strategy and direction agreed for the club.

Allied to that I have tried to identify a couple of areas where I can work with those employed by the club to improve things. The topics of most interest to me are our digital/online offering and fan engagement. While great strides have been made by the club in recent years, I believe these are areas we could develop further.

David - you’ve been on the board for two years now. Can you tell us a bit about how the SMISA reps (which before John joined in the summer, were yourself and David Nicol) have been involved in club decisions, and how SMISA member views have been factored in?

DAVID:, I would like to express my thanks and gratitude to David Nicol for his excellent work in representing SMISA and its members prior to my arrival. He also provided support and guidance to me in my first few weeks and months which was very much appreciated.

From my very first board meeting I have been fully involved in all decisions taken. Where SMISA members have expressed views on a particular subject or issue they were presented to the board and considered in our decision. The other board members have always been interested in the thoughts and opinions of SMISA and its members and these form an integral part of the final decision.

It’s not always easy to balance the views of the majority with the best interests of the football club as a business. There have certainly been some decisions that needed to be taken with the head at the expense of the heart.

The impact of Covid-19 on the club this year has been significant and it is thanks to the incredible support of our fans that we have been able to continue to work towards improvements in areas identified from member feedback, either individually or via the recent SMISA member survey.

Ultimately we all want to see a successful team on the pitch, playing exciting football, and a top-class academy producing the next generation of first-team talent. Every decision we make is taking us a step closer to these goals. Some changes have already been implemented but there are more to come, delayed only by existing contractual obligations and/or Covid restrictions.

The club board recently chose to offer the naming rights to the stadium to SMISA. Can you tell us how that came about and why the board wanted to thank SMISA members in this way?

JOHN: The stadium-naming was a suggestion from Jim Gillespie (one of the two Kibble board reps). The previous commercial arrangement had come to an end and, being a big advocate of fan ownership, Jim thought it would be a good way to thank the fans who’ve made such a huge contribution towards the change in ownership, and the rest of the board agreed.

The timing also fits well with the countdown to the transfer of shares which Gordon Scott has agreed will take place, ahead of schedule, next summer.

The SMISA board were asked to come up with a name and chose The SMISA Stadium, which recognise the contribution of SMISA’s members but also to maximise the publicity for the transfer of ownership that is about to take place.

The club board were also pleased to give SMISA’s members the chance to choose next season’s strips, which is something David and myself had suggested, and there was a great reaction to the recent online vote.

While the winning designs will be kept under wraps until the summer, we look forward to seeing the team running out in a design chosen by the members – and the fact the strips will be the choice of the fans means it’ll hopefully be one they’ll want to wear too!

The club saw major changes early this year with the addition of Kibble to the club’s ownership structure. How have you found working with them? What difference have they made to St Mirren so far and what else can they add in future?

DAVID: The changes have been very smooth and Kibble have brought additional skills and resources aimed at making St Mirren more professional and maximising the commercial return from all aspects of the club’s operation – ultimately providing more investment for the playing squad.

It is unfortunate Covid took hold so quickly after our deal with Kibble was approved in February. If not for that, their impact would be far more visible but the support they have offered the club has made a significant impact behind the scenes in the meantime.

Existing staff at the club now have the support of Kibble’s expertise in admin, catering, IT, marketing, graphic design, PR and more. An example of the last three in practice is the Be in That Number campaign to help promote season tickets over the summer, which had a really strong presence online and on billboards around the town.

They have also helped deliver significant improvements to the building maintenance and infrastructure of the youth academy at Ralston, through staff time and resources. These were all the type of things Kibble promised at the SMISA members' meeting in January.

One individual who has made a big difference is David Jamieson, the club’s new general manager. David brings a wealth of experience, expertise and fresh ideas in a number of areas, as well as an extra pair of hands to support Tony Fitzpatrick to run the club as chief executive.

At board level, we are working closely with Kibble’s board reps – Jim Gillespie and Mark Macmillan – to ensure a strong long-term relationship is developed that will lead us into a successful and exciting fan-owned future for our club.

Finally, there’s been a few big, and unprecedented challenges for the club in recent months...not having fans in games has impacted on income, and there’s been some well-publicised issues with Covid. What can you tell SMISA members about the work going on behind the scenes to deal with all of that and get things right on and off the pitch?

JOHN: It’s been a frustrating season so far, for various reasons. Covid has brought many restrictions to the way we do things, with additional costs and reduced income.

To mitigate that, the board acted very quickly over the summer to ensure we understood the impact on budgets and made decisions aimed at ensuring we will be able to ride out the storm in good shape, even if we don’t have fans back during the season.

However a key factor in being able to manage the financial impact was the massive contribution made by our fans who bought season tickets in such great numbers. We are really indebted to every one of you.

There was some media coverage of late around potential issues raised in the club's annual audit which myself, David and the rest of the board are looking into. We can't say any more while that remains ongoing but we expect the club will be able to give fans an update on the resolution to those issues in the near future. Members can be reassured the club remains in a healthy financial position.

Clearly the fact there was a Covid outbreak at the club earlier this year was far from ideal. As a board we looked closely at how the club’s procedures could be improved to stop that happening again. The appointments of Brian Docherty and Kevin Pollock will help ensure the risk of any further outbreaks are minimised.

The club has now appealed the severity of the sanctions imposed by the SPFL. We are unable to comment on that any further at this stage – but the club will update fans on the outcome of that when they are able to.

In terms of the team, we are all fans on the board too so we feel the same ups and downs. Form had undoubtedly faltered for a spell in the autumn but the management team worked very hard to turn that around, and results and performances have been much better of late, culminating in this week's fantastic Betfred Cup win over Rangers. We are now feeling confident the team will be able to push on up the league and reach a position that matches the quality of squad we feel we now have.

November update - including chance to choose next season's strips

*We recently emailed our members with an update* 

Your chance to choose next season’s kit….

As you know, season 2021/22 will be the first in which St Mirren will be owned by its fans…and we are pleased to announce the team will be taking to the field in strips chosen by the fans too.

To help mark the transition to fan ownership, the club board have asked SMISA members to choose next season’s home and away strips from a series of options created by their kit partners Joma. We were delighted to accept that offer and thank our two club directors David Riley and John Needham for helping make it happen.

Joma have presented four options for each of the home and away strips – and you can run the rule over them elsewhere on the SMISA website here.

Then, once you’ve made a note of your favourites, you can vote for them through Very Connect. 

Voting will run until Sunday 6 December, and the home/away options with the most votes at that point will be the ones Joma will put into production. The club and Joma wish to keep the winning options under wraps to allow a reveal nearer the point the kits go on sale – so the outcome of the vote won’t be announced until then.

We hope SMISA members picking the strips will become an annual event. There may also be opportunities in future for fans to submit design ideas (which there wasn’t time for this year, due to production timelines).

The SMISA Stadium

As most of you will know by now, St Mirren Park has been renamed The SMISA Stadium for the remainder of the season. The release of this news quickly spread far and wide and details of the arrangement were reported on by a vast number of media organisations both in Scotland and beyond.

We are naturally very appreciative of this gesture which shows how much your contribution is valued by the club.

It also helped mark the start of the countdown to majority fan ownership, which we can now confirm is on track to happen slightly sooner than planned – in summer 2021.

The other benefit is the additional exposure it will bring SMISA between now and then. When Jeff Stelling announces to the nation on Sky Sports that “there’s been a goal at The SMISA Stadium” then we want football fans all across the country to be sufficiently interested to google the name and learn more about SMISA and fan ownership in general.

That can only help as we look to enhance our reputation heading into a pivotal year.

We hope that additional interest will lead to an increase in membership numbers as more St Mirren fans sign up as we get closer to completing our takeover, five years ahead of the initial date of 2026 set in 2016.

We would encourage as many fans as possible to sign up as the more members we have, the stronger we become.

Simply put, the more funds that are in the pot once the buy out of Gordon Scott’s shares has been concluded, the more money there will be to improve the team on the park. And that is something every St Mirren supporter wants to see.

SMISA Business 

We are pleased to report that, despite the financial uncertainty caused by the effects of the global pandemic, our member numbers have remained fairly robust, with 1165 still signed up. We remain grateful as always for your contribution.

The SMISA board continues to meet via Zoom every fortnight and speak regularly via other channels on a daily basis. We have recently welcomed two new contributors to the group, Colin Bright (otherwise known as Paisley Panda), who has been co-opted on to the board, and Kenny Lang who is currently involved on a more informal basis.

Colin has replaced Lawrence McCabe who has stepped down from the board. We thank Lawrence for everything he achieved during his time with us and look forward to hopefully working with him again in future on specific projects.

As we get ever closer to becoming majority owners of the club, SMISA also remains in regular dialogue with our partners, Kibble, and will also have representatives on the new joint working sub-committees that are being established by the club for some areas of the business. This will allow SMISA to gain more insight into how things work and to act as a conduit for passing information and views to and from the club board.

As you know we recently carried out a comprehensive survey of SMISA’s members which captured your views on a range of issues and we will use the very useful feedback we received to help us shape SMISA’s future role and operations, including in areas such as membership fees, events and benefits.

We will also be stepping up our communications to members between now and next summer – both in terms of widening awareness of how fan ownership will work and by bringing you more regular updates on SMISA business, such as this one.

St Mirren Park to be renamed The SMISA Stadium

St Mirren’s home is being renamed The SMISA Stadium in a show of recognition of the fans as we start the final countdown to becoming majority owners of the club in the summer.

To thank the members for your continued commitment, the club board has decided to gift the naming rights to the stadium to SMISA for the rest of season 2020/21.

The gesture is designed to mark what will be the last season before the club becomes majority fan owned – as we can also today confirm we are on track to complete the share purchase in the summer.

Our legal agreement with chairman Gordon Scott currently says this will happen by the end of 2021. But thanks the commitment of our members – past and present - we will have the share purchase money and a sizeable cash reserve sooner than hoped. And Gordon has confirmed he is happy to complete the share purchase on a date to be decided in the close-season.

The club board has agreed the stadium-naming gesture to thank SMISA’s 1,150-plus members – whose monthly membership fees have been saved towards the share purchase since 2016 – for making that possible.

And it will mean that tonight’s match against Dundee United will be the first to take place in the newly-christened SMISA Stadium.

SMISA chair George Adam MSP said: “Our aim has always been the same – to see St Mirren stay forever at the heart of the Paisley community and in the hands of those who will care for it most. What better way to mark the ownership of the club moving into the hands of the fans than to put their name above the door?

“When we started off on the journey towards fan ownership five years ago we never expected to be in this position so soon – but the incredible commitment of our members made this possible. We are thrilled the club board have chosen to recognise SMISA members in this way.”

Gordon Scott added: “I always wanted to know I was handing over the ownership of the club to the fans when the time was right, and with the set-up we now have in place we believe that time will be in the summer.

“I and the rest of the board are delighted to be able to recognise the commitment of SMISA’s members over the past five years for making all of this possible.

“Sadly our fans can’t be in the stadium at the moment but we hope having SMISA’s name on the ground for the rest of the season shows how much we value them as the lifeblood and future of the club.”

The #BuyTheBuds deal had initially been expected to take ten years to complete but will be delivered in just five thanks to SMISA and St Mirren’s partnership with leading social enterprise and social care charity Kibble.

That partnership was overwhelmingly approved by SMISA’s members during a vote in February and is believed to be unique in Europe by making a charity the part-owners of a top-flight football club.

Kibble provide support services and commercial expertise to the club, while working with the club to creating job and training opportunities for the young people in their care.

Their purchase of some of Gordon’s shares reduced the sum SMISA needed to raise and means SMISA now expect by the summer to have banked the share purchase money plus a substantial cash reserve, which will help offer financial security to the club in future.

Kibble chief executive and St Mirren director Jim Gillespie added: “With Kibble having been in Paisley for the best part of 200 years, our involvement with St Mirren helps bring together two of the town’s oldest institutions.  

“But with SMISA taking on the majority shareholding, St Mirren’s future will be a fan-owned one. Kibble are delighted to be supporting that and helping keep this club at heart of the community."

“SMISA’s members are the ones who made this happen and the stadium renaming is a great gesture to recognise them for their fantastic achievement.”

SMISA member survey - results

This summer we ran a comprehensive survey of SMISA members – the biggest we’ve ever done.

With SMISA set to take on the majority ownership of St Mirren by the end of next year, the committee are currently planning ahead to prepare for our fan-owned future.

But it is important whatever SMISA does next is shaped by what our members want – and the feedback from the survey has given us a huge amount of invaluable insight into that.

It covered a range of issues – from what you think SMISA’s future role and priorities should be, to where member money should be spent, to what our membership fees and benefits should be in future.

Nearly 500 of you took the time to fill it out and we thank you for your views. All of the feedback we received was reviewed and all of it was useful.

Given much of the feedback was text-based, it was a time-consuming job to analyse, however we have now completed this – and the key findings are summarised below:

The survey is now closed, however if anyone has any additional comments for us, we are always happy to receive it via [email protected]

 

-- -- -- --

SURVEY RESULTS

Our members

- 33% of respondents live in Paisley and 52% in Renfrewshire. However we are a far-flung group – 14% live outwith Scotland and 4% outwith the UK.

SMISA priorities

- when we asked you why you joined SMISA, the two top answers by a distance were ‘to deliver majority fan ownership’ and ‘protect the club from unsuitable owners’ – each cited by more than 70% of respondents;

- we asked you to rate a series of possible priorities for SMISA over the next year from 1 to 5 (5 being the most important). Three things were rated as essential (5/5) by more than 50% of respondents. In order of preference, they were: ‘investing in the long-term future of club’, ‘helping the club mitigate the financial impact of Covid19’ and ‘raising the final funds for the share purchase’;

- we used the same question format to ask you what SMISA’s top priorities should be once we own the club. Your top three answers (each rated essential by more than half of respondents) were: ‘help ensure the club is as well-run as possible’, ‘keep the club in hands of the fans’ and ‘invest in the long-term future of the club’;

- across both of the previous two questions, the answer with by some distance the lowest average score was ‘community work unconnected to the club’ – only 8% saw this as essential;

- we asked you to define SMISA’s future role and purpose in your own words, and you gave some great answers. We analysed every comment and grouped them into themes. The three most common were, in order: 1) protecting the future ownership (a lot of you talked about ‘safeguarding’ it), 2) helping ensure the club is well-run (common words used included ‘stable’, ‘sustainable’ and ‘professional’, with a focus on living within its means and healthy and prudent finances), and 3) being a voice for the fans/ensuring fan views are represented;

- we asked if you would be happy for SMISA to keep investing member money in the club once we own it - 89% of respondents said yes, and only 2% said no (the rest said ‘maybe’);

- when we asked you to rate a series of options for where future SMISA money could be spent, two things were well out in front. The top priority was the youth academy (with an average score of 4.44 out of 5), followed by ‘facilities that can generate revenue for the club’ (average 4.25 out of 5).

Club priorities

- we asked several questions around what you want from the club. Our analysis and the full results have been shared with our two directors on the club board (David Riley and John Needham) for them to ensure your views are considered in future boardroom discussion;

- when asked what you thought the club’s top three priorities should be, the top answers were ‘ensure the club is well-run and financially healthy’ (86%), ‘develop young players’ (64%), and ‘deliver success on the park’ (62%);

- we asked what one thing you wanted the club to change or improve on, and grouped the most common answers into themes. The top three were around improving the matchday fan experience, improving the ticketing system, and being more professional;

- when asked to define success for the club, most answers were around footballing performance (staying in the Premier League was the most common, but top-six finishes and European football also featured), but many of you also cited financial security and living within its means;

SMISA’s future membership and operations

- we offered a multiple-choice question on what would make you stay a SMISA member in future, and the top answer by a distance was ‘to protect the ownership of the club’, cited by 93% of you;

- we presented some options around future membership fees – the answers suggest the vast majority of you would not only continue as members, but would maintain your current subscription level;

- we sampled interest in offering a junior membership category for under-16s (which wouldn’t carry voting rights but would offer some benefits for younger fans). At least 30% of you would be interested in buying one for a family member or friend;

- in terms of SMISA’s communications, 82% of you said you were happy with the current content and frequency of our members emails.

John Needham appointed as SMISA's new St Mirren director

We recently wrote to our members to inform them that, following a thorough recruitment process, we had identified John Needham as the best candidate to replace David Nicol as SMISA’s second-appointed director on the St Mirren club board.

Members were then given the chance to endorse or reject that proposal and an overwhelming majority of those who voted (95%) have agreed to support our choice of preferred candidate:

 YES (including three by postal vote): 434. NO: 24

 We are delighted, therefore, that John’s position on the board has been ratified by the members. As a committee we strongly believe John, alongside fellow director David Riley, will continue to ensure SMISA’s voice is represented on all club issues and will also make a notable contribution in helping to take St Mirren forward.

 John said: “I’m absolutely thrilled to have been selected to represent the SMISA members on the St Mirren Football Club Board.

“It’s no exaggeration to say that I regard this as an honour and, as a fan for the past 54 years, I never imagined that I’d be given such an exciting opportunity until now.

“Thanks for your support. I will do my utmost to ensure that your voice, as fans, is heard and that we continue to move forward as a club.”

John’s appointment means David Nicol will now, voluntarily, step down from the club board. Dave has served SMISA and the club as a director since 2016 and was an integral figure in the success of the Buy the Buds takeover campaign that sent St Mirren on their way to becoming a fan-owned club.

We would like to place on record our gratitude to Dave for everything he has done for us and the club over the past six years. He will continue to be a SMISA member and his experiences as both a SMISA and St Mirren board member are something we will no doubt call upon again in the future. 

July and October £2 Spend result

Earlier this month we asked our members to consider a proposal to use the £2 spend ballots for July and October in one go.

This was to create a pot we expect to be in the region of £14,800 that would provide general financial support to the St Mirren youth academy to allow them to continue operating at full strength and to also purchase some vital training equipment.

You have chosen to support this overwhelmingly, with more than 98% (618) of the 629 members who voted giving the proposal their backing.

Our next £2 ballot will now take place in January 2021. Any members wishing to forward projects for consideration can do so by email at [email protected]

July and October £2 Spend

This month we are proposing something a bit different for members to consider by suggesting using both this spend and the October spend in one go.

The project we are putting to the vote is to provide general financial support to the St Mirren youth academy.

The effects of Covid-19 have impacted football in many ways with nearly every club forced into making cost savings to try to offset the loss of revenue.

Some clubs have chosen to reduce or mothball their academies but we at SMISA believe a strong, thriving youth academy is vital to St Mirren’s present and future.

In a previous survey of SMISA members, you also indicated that supporting youth development ought to be the priority for the £2 spend sums.

With the club working towards attaining elite status within the Scottish FA’s Project Brave structure, this fund would enable the academy to continue operating at full strength and to also purchase some much-needed training equipment.

To that end we are proposing using the £7400 in the July pot now, and then in October the sum available (likely to be similar), to help head of youth Allan McManus and his team at Ralston.

Committing two pots in one go will give the academy team a bit more certainty over budgets and the ability to plan ahead during a time of financial uncertainty.

Should the project not receive majority backing the sums will remain in the pot for possible use at a future date.

Voting via Very Connect at   https://tinyurl.com/yd6j8qow   will be open until July 17.

If you have any questions about this or anything else please get in touch via [email protected].

Subcategories