General SMiSA News

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.

SMFC 21/22 strips - voting results

Thanks to all members who cast a vote last year to choose the club’s strips for season 2021/22. We had a brilliant reaction to the vote and the strip reveal with lots of lively debate, and this is something we want to run again in future years to keep members engaged.

The new strips can be seen on the club website here. And a reminder of the options from the vote is here (remember the club now has a new sponsor from when the initial designs were produced):

The full voting was as follows:

Home Kit: Option 1 - 32; Option 2 - 102; Option 3 - 49; Option 4 - 455

Away Kit: Option 1 - 140; Option 2 - 312; Option 3 - 74; Option 4 - 112

Total votes cast were 638.

SMISA club board representatives - update

We can now update SMISA members on our plans for who will represent them on the club board once the majority shareholding in the club has been bought.

It’s now only two months until SMISA completes its purchase of the majority shareholding in St Mirren, meaning we can forever keep our club in the hands of those who care for it most – you, the fans.

One of the key questions we need to resolve between now and then is who will represent SMISA on the club board from the summer.

Currently, SMISA has two reps on the eight-person SMFC board. As of the summer we will be entitled to four of the eight.

We this year defined SMISA’s future role (you can see it here), based on your feedback, and one of our key responsibilities is to help the club remain a well-run business. 

As we’ve said before, fan-owned does not mean fan-run – the club board will oversee the running of the club. SMISA’s job is to make sure the people doing that on our behalf are the people we judge best qualified for the job.

So with that in mind we have asked two of the current club board – Gordon Scott and Alan Wardrop – to become the additional two SMISA reps from the summer.

In doing so we considered a number of issues. We have always said continuity and stability would be key and that we won’t make change for the sake of change if things were going well at the point of takeover.

St Mirren has made a profit in each of the past four seasons, while improving its league position year-on-year.

With the additional skills and expertise available to the club through our partnership with Kibble, we believe the club has the right people and structure already in place to build on that in the new fan-owned era.

While SMISA members will in future have the right to approve or reject new SMISA appointments to a vacancy on the club board, those already on the board are not new appointments.

The SMISA committee interviewed both Gordon and Alan against the existing job description for a SMISA-appointed club director, to ensure all parties were comfortable with the extra responsibilities this would involve for them.

Both are successful businesspeople who have played key roles in St Mirren’s recent successes, as well as long-standing SMISA members and lifelong fans with the club’s best interests at heart.

We are confident both will continue to provide good leadership and oversight of the club on SMISA’s behalf, while also ensuring our members’ views are considered in club decisions.

What happens next

SMISA will complete the purchase of Gordon’s remaining shares on July 27. From then, we will own 51% of the club (Kibble will be the only other major shareholder, with 27.5%).

The shareholders agreement – which requires the club to refer certain issues to the major shareholders – will only apply to SMISA and Kibble (Gordon will no longer be party to this).

Gordon and Alan will join David Riley and John Needham as the four SMISA reps on the club board from the summer. The rest of the club board – Tony Fitzpatrick (chief executive), Chris Stewart (club secretary), plus Kibble representatives Jim Gillespie (club vice chair) and Mark Macmillan, will all continue in their current roles.

Who fills the role of club chair is for the board to decide, but they have agreed Gordon will remain as club chair for the time being to help aid the transition to the new era.

However the future set-up will be different from in recent years, when Gordon was also the club’s owner. While the chair remains a key role, no one individual will be in charge – the board as a collective will be responsible for club operations.

Our website has a guide to how fan ownership will work outlining the roles of the various parties.

It has been a long road to get to this point but the journey to fan ownership is nearly complete. We are excited for what the future holds for our club and hope you are too. We thank you again for everything you have done to make that possible.

£2 Spend April vote

We recently emailed members with details of the £2 spend ballot for April in which members were asked to vote on two projects. 

The first is to provide a financial contribution towards the cost of materials for the refurbishment of the first-team facilities at the club’s training ground at Ralston.

The second is to support the purchase of a professionally-designed Paisley Panda costume to be used for matchday, entertainment and charity appearances.

We are aware some members have endured intermittent technical problems when trying to cast their votes on their phones.

We have been in regular dialogue with our platform host to see if they could provide a temporary fix but unfortunately that isn’t going to be possible before the end of the voting period. 

Some members have told us they have been able to get around the issue by turning their phones onto landscape (horizontal) mode and hopefully that will work for many of you. 

We also know that those who have accessed the vote via an iPad, tablet, laptop or desktop PC have not encountered any problems, and so we would ask any members who are yet to cast their vote to use one of those devices if they have access to any of them. 

If that isn’t possible, we would ask members to email [email protected] with their preferences and we will record each email and combine it with the system votes to make sure every member’s opinion is counted. The voting will remain open until this Friday, April 23. 

Mercifully, the issue only appears to be affecting a small minority of mobile phone users and those who have already voted should be assured that their votes have been safely recorded.

We apologise for any inconvenience this issue may have caused some of you and remain confident it will be resolved ahead of the next member vote. 

Anyone with any ongoing difficulties or questions can contact us via the above email address at any time. 

Q&A update with SMISA's directors on St Mirren board

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

 

Q: It’s been three 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?

 

DR: Sure. It has been great to see the team come together and climb the league, despite falling just short of claiming a place in the top six. We are all confident they will continue to push hard to finish in seventh spot and hopefully enjoy a run in the Scottish Cup, too.

 

Behind the scenes we have been working on the plans for getting fans safely back into the stadium. No one knows how that will happen or what it will look like but our fans can rest assured that we will do everything possible and meet every requirement to ensure as many as possible are able to attend matches next season.

 

If restrictions on numbers are still in place, we will be looking to ensure that live streaming continues to be available for those who can’t be accommodated. This isn’t guaranteed but we will ensure our voice is heard in any discussions.

 

As always, we are monitoring the budget and planning for season 2021/22 to provide the manager with the funds, facilities and resources he needs to ensure the team keeps improving.

 

As advised in a previous update, we are constantly looking to improve the matchday experience for our fans and to that end we are making very good progress. More on those next time.

 

Q: One of the major recent developments was, of course, the decision to hand manager Jim Goodwin an extended contract. Can you give a little background as to how that decision was reached and the reasons behind it?

 

DR: Jim is recognised throughout the game as one of the top young managers in the country. From the first interview it was clear that he has the desire and skill set to succeed and ambitions that matched those of the Board.

 

He has navigated his way through one of the most difficult seasons any manager will ever go through – just look at some of the managerial casualties – and only just missed out on a top six finish.

 

Jim is committed to taking the club as far as possible and it was only right that the Board made the same commitment to him by offering a contract extension which we are all very happy has been signed. We will support Jim every step of the way to help bring future success to the club.

 

Q: How has the relative certainty over knowing what division the club will likely be in next season helped with forward planning? Has the club been able to put plans in place for next season in terms of enhancing the playing squad?

 

JN: It certainly has been a help. However, the club had embarked on a strategy last summer to sign players on longer-term deals to reduce the churn of players every close season. As a result, around 15 of the squad are already signed up for next year and that solid platform will hopefully allow us to attract better quality players to strengthen the squad further.

 

Targets have already been identified and we all hope that Jim and Tony’s success in the transfer market will continue.

 

That said, the most important thing in terms of future planning is financial stability. The Board’s financial strategy at the club in recent years has meant we are well placed to continue improving the squad without over-stretching the finances.

 

Q: It now sadly looks like supporters won’t be able to attend matches at the SMISA Stadium this season. What’s the latest guidance in terms of getting fans back into grounds next season?

 

DR: Unfortunately, we are at the mercy of the pandemic like everyone else. As the First Minister and Chief Medical Officer have said, we will be guided by data, not dates, so we need to have plans in place to cover all possible scenarios and be ready to adapt to changes at very short notice…and we will.

 

The vaccination programme is progressing well so by summer I hope we will be well placed as a country to get back to something very close to normal.

 

Those of us on the Board have been fortunate to be able to attend matches this season but I can say with absolute certainty – and I know I speak for all of my fellow Directors – that football is nothing without fans. We truly can’t wait to get everyone back inside the stadium roaring the team on. That first day back will be hugely emotional for everyone; fans, players, management, staff and maybe even the polis!

 

Q: Have there been any new commercial developments taking place behind the scenes that members might be keen to learn about?

 

JN: The Directors are constantly looking at ways to improve the returns from our commercial activities, albeit this year efforts have been focused on ensuring losses from COVID were mitigated.

 

We do have plans for increasing the use of the stadium (once it’s safe to do so) and driving up income and hope to make announcements on these initiatives in the coming months.

 

Whilst COVID restrictions have had adverse impacts they have also forced us into developing things like SMTV to enable streaming games in greater numbers which has generated significant income.

 

We are also seeing the benefits of sharing skills and resources from Kibble in the likes of marketing where the “Be in that Number” campaign was a huge success. Also, the eye-catching billboard advertising that continues around the area.

 

Q: Supporters were excited to see 16 year-old Dylan Reid make his first-team debut recently. Are the board encouraged by the signs coming out of Ralston in terms of youth development?

 

JN: Our Academy is a real source of justifiable pride and the work done by Allan McManus and his team is greatly appreciated by the Board. It’s essential their good work continues and investment in the Academy is a central part of our strategy.

 

Dylan will hopefully become the latest in a long line of talented young players we’ve been able to enjoy seeing in the stripes.

 

This season we’ve also seen Kyle, Ethan and Cammy further establish themselves as regulars with Lewis and Jay knocking at the door too. It’s great to see these guys getting a chance to gain experience and improve.

 

An added bonus has been the successful recruitment of young talent from elsewhere such as Conor McCarthy and Jamie McGrath to augment our homegrown Academy graduates.

 

At St Mirren we’ve a great reputation for giving youth an opportunity to flourish and I’m sure that will continue.

February update including Meet the Manager and £2 Spend results

We recently emailed members with a February update:

 

Meet-the-manager Zoom event

 

The new year is only a few weeks old but it’s already thrown up plenty of St Mirren-related talking points. And we are delighted to be able to give our members the chance to talk about them with Jim Goodwin, from the comfort of your own home, with our latest virtual manager Q&A.

 

Jim will be joined on the call by club chief exec Tony Fitzpatrick and SMISA’s two reps on the club board – David Riley and John Needham – to help answer any questions on off-field matters.

 

The call will take place on Monday 15 February at 7pm. As our Zoom account limits capacity to 100 we’d ask anyone who wants to join the call to book your place by logging in to Very Connect and going to the Events page.

 

We’ll send joining instructions and a meeting link to all confirmed attendees on the day itself. Please don’t book a place unless you plan to use it (or if you do book and can’t use it, let us know)

 

January £2 ballot results

 

Last month we put forward two possible projects for members to vote on in the latest £2 Spend ballot.

 

One was to provide new training kit for the St Mirren Women and Girls Academy at a cost of £3600, a figure that will include incorporating SMISA branding.

 

Those members who voted chose to support this overwhelmingly, with 522 (87%) voting in favour and 76 (13%) voting against. That financial support will now help provide tracksuits and training kit for around 60 players in their under-13 to under-17 squads.

 

The second project was to help provide the club with new camera and microphone equipment to help improve the quality of St Mirren TV at a total cost of £3400. Again, this proved popular with those members who voted, with 520 (87%) in favour and 78 (13%) voting against.

 

The next ballot will take place in April and anyone with any suggestions for potential projects should email [email protected]

 

The SMISA committee