Working Group (WG) Chairman Ian Wright has met with Jacqui Low, Director of Three Black Cats (3BC), for an update on the project to transfer the majority shareholding, main stand and land at the south end of Firhill to fan ownership. It was a positive and productive meeting, from both perspectives.
Ms Low said that Colin Weir’s death was very unexpected and, as a result, time was needed to resolve his personal matters through the course of this year. However, she stressed that he had left instructions to continue with plans for the transfer of ownership of the shares, main stand and land to fans. (The main stand and land had not been transferred within the original timeframe due to issues related to tax. As soon as this arose, Three Black Cats immediately granted a legally-binding licence to the Club to use the main stand and land until the transfer of ownership was completed in line with Colin’s commitment made in November 2019.)
That process had been due to begin with a proposal from the WG being presented to 3BC at the end of March. Both now agreed that, with hindsight, the original date was overly optimistic although done with the best of intentions. It did not reflect the scale of work identified by the WG to be done to bring forward a fully formed proposal for approval by 3BC. The question of a revised date would have been raised with 3BC at the start of the year when it began to look unachievable. However events, which were out with anyone’s control, took over.
Fan engagement was an area acknowledged by Mr Wright that had been lost sight of in the desire to achieve the deadline. As this was an element that 3BC places great importance on and it was yet to happen, it was agreed there had to be time available to do this.
For those reasons, the WG and 3BC have decided to relax the timetable for bringing forward the proposal. The WG is still tasked with producing a workable proposal, but it needs time to have an open and honest conversation with the Thistle support to shape the model. This will involve a concerted effort to identify and address the concerns of those who remain sceptical or fearful of the concept of fan ownership and what it would mean for Partick Thistle.
3BC acknowledged that the WG is passionate about the opportunities that they believe a fan-owned club would have but recognised that it had to better articulate what those opportunities are. In short, there had to be structured engagement with supporters to feed their input into the proposed model for fan ownership. The success of a fan-owned Club is, to a great extent, directly linked to the level of participation in it. From the outset, 3BC had stated that as many fans were to be consulted as possible.
Once the proposal detailing the way ahead is signed off by 3BC, and then by the Board, the model will begin to be rolled out. Once Colin’s personal matters are settled, the shares, main stand and land will be transferred to the new entity resulting in the Club being fan-owned.
Ian Wright said:
“The Working Group welcomes a revised, relaxed timetable for this process to be completed. The need to do this correctly far outweighs the need to do this quickly.
“With the majority shareholding comes the future of Partick Thistle Football Club and we need to involve more of the fan base to bring them with us.
“It would be irresponsible of Three Black Cats to pass that shareholding to a fans-led organisation that hasn’t been properly structured or constituted. It would be equally irresponsible of the Working Group to propose that the shareholding be handed to an organisation that cannot demonstrate that it is fit for purpose.
“We believe strongly that the long-term best interests of the Club, the best way in which to protect Thistle for future generations, is by it being owned by the community that will forever have the club’s best interests at heart, the fans of Partick Thistle Football Club.
“The Working Group’s commitment to turning that opportunity into a reality is undiminished and is as strong now as it was when the process first started.”
Jacqui Low added:
“I am grateful to Ian for having an open conversation about progress to date and the way ahead. The priority is getting the new ownership model and its implementation right and the WG needs time to do that with the support of the fan base. 3BC’s purchase of the majority shareholding was to be a “once and for all” event for Thistle that gave both stability and the right ownership model going forward. It has taken years for other clubs to achieve and Colin was aware that the deadline might be too tight. I am confident that allowing more time is in line with his vision.
“Thank you to everyone who has volunteered their time and skills for the WG to date. I hope that this update reassures fans that Colin’s plan for fan ownership continues to move forward exactly in line with his wishes.”
A full communications/fan engagement programme will be now instigated by the WG, including regular updates to supporters to share progress.