General SMiSA News

SMISA members meeting 5 Oct - summary

SMISA members had their latest chance to put questions to their representatives on the club board at our recent members meeting, held on Tuesday 5 October. Below is a summary of the key points covered on the night.

The meeting was called to allow SMISA to present the results of the recent feedback form submitted to members to help the club learn lessons from some of the operational issues experienced this summer, and for the SMISA reps on the club board to explain what they had done in response.

St Mirren chair John Needham opened the meeting and introduced his fellow SMISA reps on the club board, Gordon Scott and Alan Wardrop. He gave apologies for Tony Fitzpatrick and David Riley – who had both been meant to be there but were unable, with Tony self-isolating awaiting a PCR test result, and David still recovering from having Covid a few weeks back.

Colin Orr (SMISA Board) gave a brief update on the results of the feedback form circulated among members in August. There were 102 responses and all of these were passed to the SMISA reps on the club board. The top issues raised were 1) club communications, 2) capacity restrictions, 3) season ticket renewals, 4) ballots for tickets.

John gave an update on how each of those issues had been dealt with by the club, as follows:

Club communications – this summer saw the club deal with some unprecedented circumstances. John admitted the timing and detail of some of the comms could have been better, albeit there were certain things the club couldn’t comment on at the time.

The board had a lengthy and frank chat and fan feedback was considered. Now, a comms plan is being devised to look at how the club will communicate more proactively on scheduled events and those that arise. John will issue regular chairman’s updates, as Gordon used to. The club will also use the BIG Partnership (PR agency) for big announcements and any potentially contentious issues.

Capacity restrictions – these have now been lifted and it has also been confirmed the main stand red zone will be taken away, removing the remaining restrictions. The club had a significant health and safety issue which arose during internal checks and that meant they took a bit of time to go from 1,039 back to 5,000. The issue is now fully resolved, thanks to a very significant team effort from club staff, Kibble, SMISA chair George Adam, and Renfrewshire Council.

Season tickets – Club board agreed to accelerate changes to ticket system but issues with data transfer from old system caused problems. John acknowledged this was a difficult transition which caused angst for fans and staff. Extra staff came in from Kibble to help when the club had a Covid case among own staff. He believes all complaints now resolved, apart from a small number of season ticket cards being reprinted, and some snagging issues which have been reported to the supplier.

Ballot process – This issue has passed now but all feedback from the time has been taken on board. Team did have to act quickly and didn’t have a process in place, but now have one that could be used if we ever had that situation again.


John then invited questions from the floor and a summary of some of the key points covered is below:

On how club operations are being managed:

John is now meeting with Tony once a week and will help support him with any issues. The club is in a transition phase but he feels as a new chair he is now getting a good handle on what’s happening day to day.

Alan conceded the club may have tried to change too much at one time this summer but there were reasons for each change. The old ticket system was inadequate. The stewarding contract was due to be renewed. Changing the club shop was a board decision as they felt it could generate more revenue.

On how boardroom decisions are made:

John explained no one around the boardroom table can make any decision for the whole board. Decisions are made as a group and they go with the majority. John as chair has casting vote and would take account of his position as a SMISA rep when casting it.

The board will always listen to supporter views and everyone involved will always do what is best for the club. John felt SMISA have put a good structure in place. If he had any concerns about it he wouldn’t be here and wouldn’t stake his personal and professional reputation on it.

On the role of Kibble:

Gordon explained the pandemic has made things difficult as Kibble’s ability to bring young people in to club has been limited. But as one example of partnership in action, their young people have painted large areas of the stadium, giving them real-life work experience. That would otherwise have been a big cost to the club.

He believes as we emerge from Covid more benefits will emerge. The structure is the right one for our football club and has massive potential. He also believes the Kibble reps would be happy to talk to fans in future about their role but as tonight was a SMISA meeting it wasn’t the right forum to do that.

On whether the 1877 Club could be used more:

Alan explained the 1877 Club has a capacity of 240 and there are 220 members. It isn’t an exclusive club - anyone can join. But there does have to be some loyalty to the people who are paying a membership fee – without them the club couldn’t have been built. That model saw the 1877 Club bring in £22,000 of membership income even when the club was closed.

On potential for new facilities at the stadium:

John explained to fill in a corner will cost £1.5m-plus and that’s a lot of money. Banks won’t lend to football clubs so we would need to look at creative ways to raise funding. We need to know it would be commercially successful – any new facilities couldn’t just be open on matchdays, as the stadium needs to be more of a destination and integrated into the community.

Gordon and Alan explained the club have looked at a lot of ideas to add new facilities to stadium but raising the finance and generating an adequate return is always the challenge. The board are not going to take a chance and spend £1.5m on something that may or may not work out.

On the change of operator for the club shop:

John explained the initial intention had been for Kibble to have a role in running the club shop but that wasn’t possible due to Covid. Club feels the deal we now have on club shop is very good one. The company we are using provide same service for Motherwell, St Johnstone and Dundee Utd and make more money for them than our shop did previously. He makes no apologies for change of plan as we have right outcome

On the ticket arrangements for Old Firm games:

John explained there are no plans to change previous arrangements for the next Rangers game but he feels the pain of fans who object to the Old Firm having two stands. The bottom line is the Old Firm having the family stand three times a year generates £120,000 and if we stop that we need to replace that income.

John isn’t confident we would sell that many tickets to our own fans, so he and the board are looking at ways to replace that income for next season – if we could, club would retain the Tony Fitzpatrick Stand for home fans. Ideas would need to be market tested among season ticket holders.

Gordon made the point we used to put away fans in West Stand but the club wanted to keep W7 singing section in place when we came back up to the Premiership.

The meeting closed with a thanks to everyone who attended for their input. We will look to hold more similar meetings in future

St Mirren volunteer squad - could you join them?

SMISA member Jim Crawford helps organise a team of volunteers who do great work to help keep the SMISA Stadium looking at its best. They are looking for new recruits. Could you join them? Read on as Jim explains more about how the group came about and what they do....


The title of 'St Mirren Volunteer Squad' may not mean much to many St Mirren supporters and the volunteers themselves do not lend it any credence but it is a way of defining what we are.

Over the years there have been many other voluntary groups set up to help the club in any way possible. The forerunner to the present day volunteers were a group called FOSMA, Friends of St Mirren Association who were originally local businessmen that assisted in the upkeep of the stadium by using their skills and workforce. This is a tradition that the present volunteers hope to maintain.

To date, our input has been limited to general cleaning. Prior to a new season starting, the club would organise a professional cleaning company to come in close season and clean all the seats and surrounding areas.

This was a major expense to the club and cut into the playing budget. The present day volunteers saw this as an unnecessary cost and agreed with the club that they would work in conjunction with Tommy the groundsman to take over the task of preparing our stadium to meet the criteria that would enhance the matchday experience.

As the season progressed we then volunteered to come in the week after each home match to help with the clean up of all the litter left behind. When a major storm forced damage onto the Dome behind the stadium it had to be deflated in order to be repaired.

Unfortunately, this took time and as a result debris and the weather conditions caused a heavy accumulation of water to lie on the surface and make it impossible to inflate again. The volunteers met up in appalling conditions and squeegeed the water aside and scrubbed the verdigris off the fabric to bring it back to its original condition.

Although we are blessed with a modern stadium some areas have needed attention in order to maintain its original appearance. One such area was the metal perimeter fence that surrounds the stadium. Over the years this had become in desperate need of a good clean and again the volunteers offered to come in and scrub the fence.

With most of the requirements met at the stadium the volunteers moved onto our excellent training facility at Ralston where it was recognised that the grilles covering the windows of the buildings prevented them from being cleaned.

With the removal of the wire grilles the volunteers set about bringing the glass up to an acceptable standard. Next, we were tasked with helping to brighten up the interior by painting the entrance and passageways of the changing room and reception area. This was a task that proved a challenge for most of us as apart from domestic painting we had limited ability to fulfil the job to a reasonable standard.

This is where we need to tap into the skills and crafts of our support. Now that we supporters are in control of our club it has become more important than ever that we can assist our club in any way that we can. Remember, what we do frees up the budget that could transform the team that we put out on the park.

Therefore, we would like to identify those members who feel they have a skill that would benefit in the running of the club I.e. joiners, electricians, plumbers, painters etc. It does not mean that there would be a requirement on a regular basis but if and when the occasion arose the club could tap into our volunteer squad.

There is a realisation that now more than ever we are a stand alone club, there is no sugar daddy out there, we must rely on the community to pull together and help OUR club in any way we can. If you feel you can contribute in any way to becoming a volunteer please contact me by email - [email protected]

We're looking for a new rep on the club board

Would you be interested in being a director of St Mirren? SMISA is now looking for the right person to be one of our representatives on the club board.

Currently, SMISA appoint four of the eight directors on the club board, with those positions currently filled by John Needham (club chair), David Riley, Gordon Scott and Alan Wardrop.

However David let us know a while ago that - due to changes in his personal and work circumstances - he planned to stand down from the club board at the end of the year. David has represented SMISA on the club board since 2018, having been our sole rep at that time.

He has played a key role for us and the club since then – having been one of the sub-group that helped negotiate the deal that delivered fan ownership five years ahead of schedule – and all on the SMISA board will miss the major contribution he has made.

David will stay in post until we have appointed his successor, who we hope to have in place for the club’s AGM, likely to be in December. This means we are now looking for expressions of interest in the role.

The successful candidate will be expected to act as the link between the club and SMISA boards, ensure member views are considered in club decisions, and have the skills and experience to make a positive contribution to the running of the football club.

New SMISA appointments to the club board are subject to the formal recruitment process we put in place last year, through which John Needham was appointed.

That will see the SMISA board invite applications, shortlist and interview those who best fit the job description, and select a preferred candidate, who the members will be asked to approve. Ideally they will already be a SMISA member, but we will consider all applications.

Anyone interested should contact [email protected] and we will send you an application pack. The closing date for applications is Thursday 28 October. If anyone wishes an informal chat about the role, we can arrange this with one of the SMISA or club board members.

Summary of members meeting with club chair

SMISA members recently had the chance to meet with club chair John Needham to put questions to him over issues affecting the club in the past few months.

The following is a summary of the meeting, which was held in the hospitality suite at the SMISA Stadium on Monday 6 September 2021.

George Adam (SMISA chair) opened the meeting, introducing John Needham (SMFC chair and one of SMISA’s representatives on the club board).

In John’s opening remarks, he covered the following:

- an apology for Gordon Scott, Alan Wardrop and Tony Fitzpatrick who were all abroad on business or holiday. He explained David Riley had been due to attend but had to pull out due to a positive Covid-19 test that day.

- he explained he wanted to look forward at how things can be improved at the club. He apologised for the recent problems with season tickets and other operational issues at the club. While he would try to explain the background as best as possible there would be issues that for legal and contractual issues he might not be able to comment on. He would also not talk about individuals as this would not be fair.

- he said he would explain the benefits of the Kibble partnership and dispel some of the things being spread on social media which are untrue. He said everyone’s focus was on making the partnership work and the club has got more out of the relationship with Kibble so far than Kibble has.

- some of the things he reads on social media are damaging to the club’s reputation and the morale of staff. He remains active on Twitter as he wants to hear supporter views but doesn’t want to get drawn into debate online. He is prepared to meet anyone face to face to discuss issues.

JN then opened the meeting for questions from the floor. A summary of the topics covered by the Q&A is below….

On club communications over the summer:

JN agreed this has not been as comprehensive and proactive as it could have been. It’s not reasonable to expect people to respond to everything on social media. But agrees we need a more structured approach to communication.

On the suggestion one company had been given all the contracts for stewarding, catering and building works at Ralston:

JN confirmed these have not been awarded to the same company. Three companies were shortlisted for the stewarding. They were all brought in and interviewed before a decision was made. The board didn’t award the other contracts, these were awarded by club management and reported to the board.

The company doing work at Ralston are Renderworks who are used by Kibble, who are project managing the work for free. The delays on completion are down to a nationwide shortage of timber, as anyone involved in the building trade will know.

JN also confirmed suggestions of a family connection between members of the club board and people behind companies awarded contracts are completely untrue.

On why the club changed the suppliers for the ticketing system and shop:

JN apologised for circumstances where it was said one of the employees in the ticket office had been poorly treated by the club, and that he would look into this.

He explained the old ticket season system was clunky, needed updated, and that St Mirren was the only club using it. The club had been told it would be easy to move data across to a new system but found the data was not compatible, which is why everyone had to re-register their details.

The club didn’t want to change the ticketing system over the summer but there was a risk the previous system – which also includes the stadium entry system – could have failed mid-season, which forced the club to act sooner than they wanted. The new system will allow for extra benefits to be offered to fans.

The club had initially planned to take the shop back in house but after further consideration, the deal eventually negotiated with the new shop suppliers is much better financially for the club than what was in place before.

On why stadium capacity was limited for games earlier in the season:

JN explained the club wanted more fans in but there were issues with the stadium which came to light over the summer that needed fixed before the club could go to the council and request more fans. These issues have now been resolved.

On why there were very few St Johnstone fans at the previous home game:

JN said the club decided it was best not to have the additional strain of away fans in for the first game with the new ticket system and new stewards. St Johnstone don’t bring a huge away support and we could charge for pay-per-view so there wasn’t a big commercial loss.

On the size of the main stand restricted ‘red zone’:

JN apologised for the size of the main stand red zone, which is to do with the access to the stadium for players and officials. The authorities will not allow the club to do away with the red zone but the club have done what they can to reduce the size of it.

On whether there was an option for SMISA to buy out Kibble:

Kenny Docherty of the SMISA board explained SMISA has the first option if Kibble ever wished to sell their shares but that our focus is on maintaining a strong working relationship with Kibble.

George Adam added it can be easy to blame a new partner when things go wrong. The partnership had just been formed when the pandemic started and that has made the last 18 months harder for everyone. He added without Kibble’s help the club would be in a much worse position.

On the suggestion the two Kibble board members have a veto over certain issues:

JN explained Kibble only have two members of the eight on the board, so do not have a veto on any boardroom issues.

KD explained the shareholder agreement between SMISA and Kibble lists the reserved shareholder matters which are major issues which require to be mutually agreed by both parties. This includes things such as a change of playing surface or changes to the colour of our strips. The board are not allowed to make such decisions without shareholder approval.

Kenny explained both shareholders can intervene on new board members chosen by the other if there is a good reason, such as a criminal record. The reason for the veto is to allow the shareholders to protect the interests of the football club.

(Note – a summary of the shareholder agreement was presented to and overwhelmingly approved by SMISA members in February 2020, when they were asked to vote on whether to deliver fan ownership in partnership with Kibble. That can be read here).

On the suggestion Kibble staff have replaced club ones:

JN explained there is only one member of Kibble staff permanently working at the club, which is the acting general manager, Lynsey MacLean, who JN believes is a very talented individual who will make a big difference going forward.

He explained he main thing Kibble want is for their young people to get training and work experience around the club. Having one of their employees here allows them to maintain their duty of care to them. They offered a general manger to help support Tony with the running of the club. The benefit for the club is an additional senior staff member free of charge.

He explained during the period earlier in the summer where the club was working on season ticket renewals, there was a Covid outbreak within the staff. Kibble provided the club with six staff overnight in order to help shore things up, which helped the club considerably.

On the role of the club board:

JN said the board don’t run the day-to-day operations of the club. Like all organisations, the chief executive is in charge day to day, and makes decisions on staff and contracts up to a certain level. The board’s job is to make sure Tony is supported to run the club effectively, to have a wider strategy for the bigger footballing and financial issues and to explore ways to bring in more income. JN is now meeting Tony every week.

On John’s vision for the club going forward:

JN would like the club to be more professional, for everyone to be proud of every aspect of it, and for greater use of the stadium and land around it. He wants the team to compete for fifth or sixth place and to manage some cup runs and hopefully silverware.

He wants to increase the club’s turnover by 10% year on year, and the ongoing contributions from SMISA members will contribute to that. He wants the club to be more influential in Scottish football as currently we don’t punch our weight. He sees Motherwell as further along the fan ownership journey and as a model to follow.

He cares hugely about the club and being chairman has made him feel more so. He is honoured to be in this position and is confident he will meet the challenges raised tonight in time. He will continue to represent the fans views and hopes to widen understanding of how the club is run.

SMISA completes takeover of St Mirren - we're a fan owned club!

ST MIRREN have today completed their five-year journey to become a fan-owned club.

The St Mirren Independent Supporters Association (SMISA) have bought out the remaining shareholding of chairman Gordon Scott to become majority (51%) owners of the Buddies.

The deal helps to safeguard the future of the club – formed in 1877 – by placing it in the hands of its supporters, the people who care for it the most.

The move into fan ownership comes in conjunction with charity and social enterprise Kibble who last year bought a 27 percent stake to become part-owners of the club.

That model – where the club is owned by its fans and run in partnership with a charity – is believed to be unique in top-flight European football and has allowed SMISA to complete the transition to fan ownership in five years rather than the original 10-year plan set out in 2016.

And the dream of fan ownership has only been realised thanks to the financial backing from SMISA’s near-1200 strong membership over the past five years and the support and growth of SMISA in general from its formation almost 20 years ago.

Now that the shares have been purchased, the members’ contributions will instead go towards supporting different areas of the club including the youth academy and the charitable foundation.

SMISA will now have four representatives on the St Mirren board, with Scott and Alan Wardrop joining existing SMISA-appointed club directors John Needham and David Riley.

And, although the club is now owned by its fans, the day-to-day operations will continue to be run by CEO Tony Fitzpatrick and the St Mirren staff.

Scott, who made fan ownership possible by teaming up with SMISA to buy out the previous owners back in 2016, was pleased to see the deal come to fruition on a special day at the SMISA stadium.

He said: “I am immensely proud of the part I have played in delivering fan ownership.

“We had always said that we had ten years to deliver a sustainable model but when the opportunity arose to deliver this now in partnership with Kibble it was too good an opportunity to miss.

“We have taken giant strides over the last five seasons both on the pitch and off it and with the deal now complete I am convinced that this model will allow us to continue that progress."

SMISA chair George Adam added: “This is a really proud day not just for St Mirren fans but for the people of Paisley and beyond.

“To have our club now owned by the supporters means we will never have to worry again about it being run by people without St Mirren’s best interests at heart.

“It’s a real testimony to the fans who were presented with a vision back in 2015 and have now been able to make it a reality. I’ve never been prouder to be a Buddie.”

Kibble chief executive and St Mirren vice-chairman Jim Gillespie said: “This is a historic day for St Mirren’s fans.

“They are now in charge of the destiny of the club they love, and Kibble are delighted to be working with SMISA and to have played our part in making this possible.

“When we agreed to become shareholders and  partners last year, it was because we were excited about the chance to work hand-in-hand with SMISA to help take the club forward while improving the lives of young people in the Renfrewshire area.

“We believe we are starting to see the fruits of that relationship and look forward to contributing towards many more successful years at St Mirren.”

Supporters Direct Scotland chief executive Alan Russell added: “At SD Scotland we are delighted to see SMISA reach this milestone and are proud to have supported them on their journey towards fan ownership.

“They have shown what can be achieved by working in close partnership with other shareholders and other community organisations and have had one hand on the steering wheel as St Mirren FC have established themselves in the Premiership once again.

“Their experience as minority shareholders over the last few years will be invaluable as they take ownership of the club - and they join the family of fan-owned clubs who are a beacon to the whole supporters trust movement in Scotland and beyond. Congratulations!”

Anyone wishing to join SMISA can do so from as little as £5 a month at smisa.net/signup.

July member update

There’s now just one week to go until we complete our purchase of the majority shareholding in the club, a historic moment allowing you to safeguard the future of your club.

But before we get there, we have a few items of news to update you on:

Future finance model voting results

We wrote to members at the end of June with details of our proposals for how future SMISA income will be spent, and invited members to vote on whether to approve this. Voting was as follows:

YES – 547 votes (97%) / NO – 17 votes (3%). Total votes – 564.

Thanks to everyone who voted. Full details of the model are in this link:

To summarise, your future membership fees will (after SMISA costs) be spent as follows:

- 50% will be banked and added to our cash reserve;

- 30% will be reserved for the club’s youth academy;

- 10% will go to a ‘club pot’, for club-related projects as voted on by members;

- 10% will go direct to the St Mirren Charitable Foundation.

This model means a strong SMISA will lead to a strong St Mirren – the more of us there are, the more we can do to help take our club forward and invest in its long-term future.

New membership fees and benefits package

Another key issue we looked at in recent months is what SMISA’s membership fees and benefits package should be once the shares are bought.

Put simply, fan ownership was only possible because of the incredible commitment of our near-1,200 membership.

So we want to thank you for your loyalty by offering the chance of some match-day experience and money-can’t-buy rewards aimed at bringing you closer to the club once you own it.

You can see the full table of benefits on our website here.

To summarise, all Standard (£12-per-month) members will get the following additional benefits:

- entered into a series of draws to win a day out at club matchday hospitality

- the chance to win a seat on a SMISA table at club events (such as the Player of the Year dinner)

- the chance to win a place on tours of the stadium, training ground, or to watch a training session

- priority access to other SMISA-run events (such as online manager and player Q&As)

All Plus (£25-per-month) and Premium members (who paid a one-off fee for ten years of membership at the start of the Buy The Buds campaign) get the following, in addition to the above:

- plus-member-only draws for match-day hospitality and club events (as we have much fewer Plus members than Standard, this means a much better chance of winning a seat);

- the chance to watch a game from the directors’ guest lounge;

- the chance to win a lunch with the team manager/captain/players;

- occasional piece of SMISA memorabilia;

As part of the new structure we have also added a new Entry (£5-per-month) membership category. This new tier carries no additional benefits but does include a vote on all SMISA issues.

We hope this new membership tier will make SMISA more inclusive and help us attract new members for whom cost may have been a barrier, or to encourage ex-members who left for financial reasons to return.

Directors' Q&A

The two SMISA-appointed St Mirren directors John Needham and David Riley provide an update on the latest from the club and look ahead to the imminent fan takeover in the latest edition of our directors' Q&A. You can read it here.

July £2 spend

The eagle-eyed among you may have noticed there has been no quarterly £2 spend for July.

Given our extra workload this month as we prepare for the share purchase, we decided to roll this quarter’s spend over into the new club pot, which is, in effect, the successor to the £2 pot.

We are currently developing plans for a significant project which will allow the members to put their stamp on the SMISA Stadium in future, and hope to reveal these later in the year.

Directors' Update

OUR two SMISA-appointed St Mirren directors, John Needham and David Riley, provide an update to members on what’s been happening at the club over the last few months and give some insight into what lies ahead.

 

Q: It’s been a few months since our last directors’ Q&A – can you update the members on the main things that have been keeping the St Mirren board busy during that period please?

 

A: It’s been a very busy period with setting budgets for the coming season, improvements to the facilities at Ralston, moving to a new ticketing system, changing how the club shop will operate and planning for the return of fans to the stadium. It’s been a big ask for the team behind the scenes and whilst there have been some challenges with the ticket system migration we feel confident that these changes will bring big benefits in the future.

 

Q: How do you reflect overall on the events of last season, both on and off the park? Do the board consider it a successful campaign?

 

A: Whilst COVID brought significant challenges I think the club coped well overall and the results that Jim and the team achieved on the park made for an exciting and rewarding season. To finish 7th and get to two Semi Finals represented our best performance for many years. It’s shown that a Top 6 finish is definitely a realistic goal - something many doubted. Off the park there was a lot to be pleased with too as we managed to cope with the loss of income from games without our fans. It forced us to develop our SMTV offering, improve our marketing and social media presence, and look to balance the books in other ways. That in turn has enabled us to continue to build depth in the playing squad. So, yes, we do consider that 2020/21 was a successful campaign on many fronts.

 

Q: How are things shaping up behind the scenes for next season? Is there cause for optimism once more?

 

A: We are certainly optimistic that with the latest additions to the squad and the experience gained from last season we can go one better and get into the Top 6. Another trip or two to Hampden would be most welcome too! However, achieving these goals will only come if we continue to work relentlessly on and off the park. Football is a fickle business and we can’t take anything for granted.

 

Q: What’s the latest guidance in terms of getting fans back into grounds?

 

A: We were restricted to 500 fans for the Dunfermline game but as Scotland moves forward with the plans to move to Level 0 that will increase soon to 2,000. Further progress after that should be possible as long as there is no major surge in cases and football clubs can demonstrate that we can operate in compliance with the rules on distancing etc. Our priority is to get all home fans back as soon as possible.

 

Q: The club has made a switch to a new ticketing system. Can you give the members a bit more background on that and what you hope to gain from this new partnership?

 

A: I think it’s no secret that the previous system wasn’t as user friendly as it could have been. As such we took on board the feedback from fans and searched for an alternative. The transition has been more difficult than we expected so there have been issues. However going forward we are confident that once everyone is successfully migrated we will have a system that meets the needs of our fans.

 

Q: Finally, we’re moving ever closer to the handover date when SMISA becomes majority shareholders of the club. What’s the feeling at board level ahead of the transition?

 

A: I believe it’s one of anticipation. SMISA members, along with Gordon Scott and Kibble, have achieved so much in a relatively short space of time and to have our club protected from any unwanted suitors for posterity is really a remarkable achievement. However, as a Board we see it as the end of one phase and the start of another. Once 51% of the Club’s shares have been purchased we will look to invest in areas of the operation that improve the engagement and experience of our fans. We have a list of potential projects and are working through the detail. As soon as we have firm plans we will share them with the members and the fanbase as a whole. It’s an exciting time to be a Buddie! 

Future finance model

SMISA members are being asked to vote on proposals for how our income should be spent in future once we own the majority shareholding in the club.

It’s not long now until we complete the purchase of the majority shareholding in St Mirren meaning by the time next season kicks off, our club will be fan-owned.

Over the past five years, the bulk of SMISA’s income has been saved for that share purchase. So one of the key issues we’ve had to look at in recent months is how future income will be used once the shares are bought.

Our extensive member survey last summer asked whether members would be happy if your future member fees were to be invested in the club. 89% of you said you would, and only 2% were not (the rest were maybes).

So on that basis we have spent considerable time creating a proposed future finance model, outlined below, on which we are asking you to vote on whether to adopt.

Future finance model

The model we are proposing would see all income after SMISA operating costs split according to the following percentages:

- 50% would be saved in the bank. We believe the early years of fan ownership is a chance for us to be sensible and build up a cash reserve. We will have around £150,000 in the bank as of next month and plan to maintain this at or above £400,000 by 2024. This would give the club financial security but would also give SMISA the ability to make large-scale investments (either as donations or loans) in the club in future. Any spending from the cash reserve would be subject to a member vote.

- 30% would be reserved for the club’s youth academy. Every time we’ve asked members for your top priority for investment, the academy has topped the list by a distance. St Mirren fans are right to be proud of our academy – it is the lifeblood of the club. The proposed investment would be additional to the current academy budget and would help it grow its operations. Each year we would ask the academy to submit suggested uses for the money to the SMISA board for our approval.

- 10% would be for a ‘club pot’ to be spent as members decide. This would be the successor to the £2 pot, which has supported a wide range of projects over the past five years. We will invite suggestions from the club and our members for projects which help the club or improve the fan experience, and members will vote on whether to adopt them. We are proposing this be done as and when suitable projects are on the table, rather than via a fixed quarterly schedule.

- 10% would go direct to the SMFC Charitable Foundation. As a registered society under the Community Benefits Act, SMISA needs to demonstrate clear community benefit. As the club’s charitable foundation already do great work in this area, supporting them to build on that would be the best way to deliver on this. This 10% would be a direct donation, to be spent as the Foundation chooses, but they would like to hear suggestions from SMISA’s members over projects or local good causes they could support.

All of the above would be subject to an annual financial review, where the SMISA board will consider if each investment is delivering on our objectives, and if the percentages should be adjusted. Any change to the percentages would be subject to a member vote.

Why we are proposing this

We believe the model gives the club financial security, while investing in its long-term future and helping deliver success on and off the park. It also strikes a balance between giving members a say on where their money goes, while giving the club and its associated arms a degree of certainty over their financial planning.

We also believe it meets member feedback. Our member survey of summer 2020 also asked you to rank your preferences for where any investment in the club would go, and the results of that shaped our approach – the youth academy was your top priority and on the whole you wanted sustainable long-term investment.

Other fan groups – such as Foundation of Hearts and the Well Society – put money into their club’s operating budgets each year, but their members don’t decide where it goes. We think your money should be spent in line with your wishes and that this model not only delivers that, but will keep members engaged in the years ahead.

Clearly our income will go up or down depending on member numbers, so we’ve had to forecast the sums involved. To give a rough guide, should we maintain current income levels, we could have roughly £160,000 after costs, which would mean £80,000 for the cash reserve, £48,000 for the youth academy, and £16,000 for each of the club pot and charity foundation.

If the model was adopted, a strong SMISA will mean a strong St Mirren – the more members we have, the more we will be doing for the club. This underlines not just why we need existing members to stay with us, but why we want to attract new members too. We will be revealing a new membership fees and benefits structure in the coming weeks which we hope will make continued and new memberships even more attractive.

SMISA costs

Like all voluntary organisations, SMISA has operating costs, and while we are careful to ensure every penny of spend is necessary, ours currently run into five figures. We are proposing the SMISA board start with an initial annual budget of £24,000 with which to meet these costs.

£10k of this will be used to provide an improved member benefit offer (this will be mainly be spent on club hospitality and events, so will be going to the club). The rest would cover our other costs, which include professional fees, website and software costs and bank charges. A detailed breakdown of these is in our annual accounts and we are happy to take any questions from members on this.

Each year the SMISA board will have a formal budget planning meeting to review the previous year’s spend and set the upcoming year’s budget, and would vary this accordingly. Any unspent money would be kept in the bank for future expenses and we would only exceed the budget if necessary.

What happens next

We are asking members to vote on whether to accept the proposed future finance model. This would mean:

- the SMISA board would have authority to set and amend an annual budget to cover the organisation’s costs as described;

- all income after operating costs would be split according to the percentages outlined and spent as described above;

- any significant changes to the model in future would require a member vote;

Members can cast their vote via our membership platform VeryConnect now. Voting will run until Monday 12 July.