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Wednesdayite Q&A - Part 1

Wednesdayite Q&A - Part 1

On Tuesday night, the Vital Sheffield Wednesday forum was visited by Darryl Keys, chairman of Wednesdayite, the fans group with a 10% holding in SWFC, at the centre of the action during the current takeover talks and subsequent media outcry.

After a general introduction by JoshOwl, Darryl settled down at his keyboard to interact with the forum. Here, in a two part article, are our questions (mostly serious, some not so serious), and his replies.

the owler: What does Wednesdayite hope to achieve by coming onto this forum?

DK: To engage with fans, to inform and to listen.

the owler: Are the views of the chairman held by the other members of Wednesdayite?

DK: All major decisions are put to the members - we do 2 surveys a year and act on the results. We speak to many members and the views we express are what we believe to be the views of our members.

the owler: Previously, Wednesdayite backed Ken Bates to take over as chairman. As such, why should DA have a working relationship with Wednesdayite if they've previously tried to force him out?

DK: In life things move on. We have only 2 board members out of 12 from those days and neither were leading figures at that time. The membership has almost tripled and therefore we are a different animal. DA should have a working relationship with the fans as he is the chairman of a football club and therefore has a responsibility to bring everyone together.

northern irelandowl: The need of the club as a whole is surely greater than the wants of individuals.

DK: Totally agree.

northern irelandowl: How do you plan to help in making this club great again, and what do you need to achieve this?

DK: Successful clubs work as a team throughout - led by the club's board who want success and ensure it happens. When there is no desire to do this, everyone will be pulling in different directions when they should be brought into the plan. We need the club to respond positively to offers of support from the fans, whoever they are - after all, despite the 'division', we all want the same thing and that is success for SWFC.

mightyowl: Not many clubs I know have a supporters group on the board, can you name a club that's had success with the Chairman and a supporter group working in harmony?

DK: I believe that there are 39 clubs with supporter representation on their boards and 61 hold shares. 4 clubs are supporter-owned and many clubs have a good relationship - for example Arsenal, who have a close working relationship!

takeoverneededfast: I read on your site that the aim is for 100% ownership of shares. if you had 100% of shares where would the millions come from to get us, but mainly keep us in the Premiership?

DK: The website is wrong and has not been changed simply because the new site is in progress and soon to be launched. The old site is very difficult to author with some sections cast in stone and others that we can change and that is the reason why it persists. If we want to change a 'cast in stone' part of the old site then we request but it is out of our control.

We acknowledge the criticisms of the old site and that is why we are trying to launch a new one. The new site would have been launched by now if it hadn't been quite so hectic over the last few weeks and attention diverted. Sadly, we only have a certain number of hours in the day and have to fit jobs and family life in too.

But the old site is erroneous and for that I apologise. The new site will be much more user friendly and significantly more flexible.

The point you raise is a complex one and has a range of possibilities most of which involve governing bodies and how football is structured and funded. We can't rely on finding 92 people with megabucks so in that sense it is not sustainable. I guess Barcelona is one model but I feel football faces some huge challenges ahead to remain competitive and attractive and not just a temporary plaything for the oligarchs who might have got bored about bragging about their yachts and now it is the fashion to own a football club (for now).

It would be useful to have serious debate about the money coming in and how and when it is distributed - what would happen to Chelsea tomorrow if Roman Abramovich decided to quit?

takeoverneededfast: How much of his own money has DA spent on the club? How much through your commendable efforts have you raised through fundraising etc?

DK: Re: DA - not certain - as the Directors loans in the accounts are not broken down per Director - but I think he was quoted in the media as saying he had £3m at stake - plus his shares. I believe he has gifted a small amount too. Commendably, he does not draw a salary from the club. But he is the one to ask as we are only going on anecdotal evidence.

In terms of our fundraising - it is difficult to maximise the potential without the club's co-operation and support of volunteers. There is no doubt the number of volunteers is influenced by some of the media we experience. In the last 2 years we generated £28k and last year increased that to £82k - but we feel there is considerable scope to increase this in a harmonious situation.

hellboy: How can the fans make suggestions for ground improvements? It has been my wish for a long time to get rid of the old scoreboard and replace it with a big screen - yes, it would cost the club initially but that money would be made back in investments and the advertising potential is huge but there's no way of getting this suggestion out there.

DK: Like all fans we wish to see better facilities but I guess it comes down to cash priority and that has to be on the team right now.

The conversation included many questions about the share ownership issue:

the owler: DA has maintains that Wednesdayite won't sell the shares unconditionally - what re-assurances do Wednesdayite seek and are they realistic?

DK: The same as Mr Allen mentioned in his programme notes v Derby last year - the only additional one is an ongoing dialogue.

fozzyp: What benefit to the club is it with you having the shares? And what harm would DA do by having them back?

DK: This could be a long answer but I will try and cover the overview and then we can debate it on here in the days ahead. Some key benefits:

a) Stops a compulsory purchase of small shareholders against their wishes.

b) Gives the fans a small part of their club to add to their emotional investment.

c) Allows resolutions to be posed at AGMs.

d) Allows EGMs to be called in extraordinary circumstances to make sure that issues are properly debated and covered with greater awareness.

If the shares have no purpose why is DA so focused on them? For DA to have them back it would need a vote of members. To persuade them I feel they would need to see what he was proposing to do with them. For example what benefit is it to the club if he got our shares and nothing changed in terms of the funds he was prepared to put in or seeking an investor?

takeoverneededfast: Would the capability of calling an EGM be a turn on or turn off for any prospective investor?

DK: If the investor wants to take the club forward then we would be voting with them and not against them! Please note Wednesdayite in its present guise has never called an EGM despite the most difficult circumstances over the last couple of years.

We would only call an EGM to offer a solution for consideration by the shareholders as what is the point on things like a vote of no confidence or just to highlight problems we all know about which would result in certain defeat and a waste of everyone's time (which could be spent more constructively)?

fozzyp: Why would you not just give the shares back for 500k investment for the club? Surely that not only puts immediate investment in it also strengthens the shares of our board, making us more attractable to potential investments?

DK: Only our members can vote to give the shares back or relinquish them and we need to be able to persuade them and we need reasons to do so. DA knows our concerns and refuses to address them - we have offered for him to put his case in writing or to address our members at public meeting to convince them but he has declined the offers.

takeoverneededfast: How useful could the extra squad funds be with your share sale? If you won't sell for 0.5 million, how much do you actually want!?

DK: We have generated £6m approx of transfer fees and have yet to spend much of this. Last December the board turned down the Jersey consortium's offer of £1m for the squad. I am not sure why £500k is now the issue? In any case if the alleged price of the Gregg deal is taken into account, £500k is far too low - why not sell directly to an investor who has the desire, resources etc to move the club forward?

Under the DA offer the tax concern has failed to be addressed - advice says we would have a large tax bill but no cash to pay it with.

We are not as such interested in the money - the value of the shares being used for the club's future is more important and for that to be a material solution and not just for 1 player at one point in time who may turn out to be a bad one!

Auckland Owl: What's the market value of a 10% holding in shares?

DK: The value appears to depend upon who is holding the 10% :-)

We bought shares last year at an average price of 11.6p. I understand through the broker that the tranches left are well in excess of this price now if we were to buy a similar stake.

takeoverneededfast: It's clear DA won't back down and that this is going to drag on. For the good of the club this situation needs to change and it will take a great man or men to do it. So, why not name your price and be done with it?

DK: We do not see a problem with the fans owning a small % of the club - 10% stops nothing in terms of overall control - so we ideally have no desire to sell as our holding should not be an issue. However if our members can be shown that there is a material benefit to the club by us selling or relinquishing them then we would welcome any proposals. We have not had any proposal which satisfies our concerns re: tax or which demonstrates why it is in the club's best interests.

Tomorrow, Part 2 of the Q&A.. stay tuned.

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Writer:Auckland Owl
Date:Wednesday August 22 2007
Time: 12:00PM


fozzyp: Why would you not just give the shares back for 500k investment for the club? Surely that not only puts immediate investment in it also strengthens the shares of our board, making us more attractable to potential investments? DK: Only our members can vote to give the shares back or relinquish them and we need to be able to persuade them and we need reasons to do so. DA knows our concerns and refuses to address them - we have offered for him to put his case in writing or to address our members at public meeting to convince them but he has declined the offers. So the solution lies with pursuading the members of Wednesdayite to agree to the 500K sale. So we have no chance then, as most members will be South Yorkshire socialists, so no chance of breaking up their union.
22/08/2007 12:27:00
sounds like somebody needs to get off the high horse, club/ fan relationships are the core for growth and stability, we unfortunately seem to have two pieces of jigsaw that don't fit. neither side looks like its going to back down, I still do not understand why there has been no dialogue between potential investors and share holders, surely when you want to buy something from someone then you ask them first, any potential investor could go right round wednesdayite and purchase shares from other holders gaining control that way or is that too easy, all an investor should do is hold a share holders meeting put a proposal to them, discuss future team investment, debt repayment and development for the future ( ground development, training ground facilities, youth team etc etc.) any true wednesdayite would welcome this I'm sure and its not rocket science is it, I think honestly the debt is putting off potential investors which is why there is no team investment, all monies recieved are paying off the debt giving Dave allen a more saleable asset which in truth may be the right thing to do, but I wish the club would say this and not think up silly excuses and strange stories of scouting missions to europe, wednesday fans have had too many kicks in the teeth this last decade and a bit of honesty from all people involved instead of politically worded answers to questions which just make the club look worse needs to be happening now.
22/08/2007 13:07:00
I appreciate DK actually taking the time to talk to websites like this. It gives anti-Wednesdayites the chance to view their concerns and have questions answered. I think if Dave Allen took the time to talk to the fans then it would give the anti-Dave Allen people chance to get answers and maybe less people would shout for him to ***** off at the matches.
Disgruntled Owl
22/08/2007 14:02:00
pretty much sums up my point mate, all I want is the truth from the club and not lies or excuses, like you say maybe the guy would have a bit more respect than he has at the moment and I only mean a bit.
22/08/2007 17:06:00
in answer to Haxey - I think your conclusion is not accurate - most members voted in our spring survey to relinquish the shares to anyone who offers a material solution to the club's problems...
22/08/2007 18:55:00
Dave Allen in trouble with F.A over insulting wednesday fans last month in press confrence. Apparently he called Fans Scum and one of woman a Bitch which F.A are now going to start an inverstigation into. Well done Allen you IDIOT !! wish youd sling your hook for the good of the club.
22/08/2007 19:15:00
we need a solution fast the longer we stay at stalemate the longer otherclubs pass us by and the longer it takes us to catch them
22/08/2007 22:55:00
If some entity is really interested in "taking over" or buying into some other entity, normally that person or the representatives speaks to the board. If he gets knowhere, he then speaks to the shareholders, either directly or through the media. Surely we can all remember Ken Bates. What about when the old board wanted to "sell us down the river" for a small pot of gold. They called a meeting of shareholders at the Octagon, I remember quite vividly Dave Richards digging himself into a big hole and Joe Ashton digging him out of it with a rousing speach which in the end won the majority (although not on the night) to push it through. Can anyone remember the weeks and months running up to that meeting, when mystery callers were canvassing for your shares. The published accounts that followed showed that every board member had lumped up their shareholding in the club in that financial year. So when the Charterhouse money came in, they took a nice little slice thankyou very much. With the exception that is of Joe Ashton. There was a general election looming, and he couldnt be seen to have been 'insider' dealing. Thats when you are priveliged to certain information and make good on the back of it. Much the same is happening here. Remember, Charterhouse wanted out and needed something back, albeit a fraction of what they had put in. They were not prepared to put any more money in. Richards had squandered the first £17m and run up debts of as much again. Great bloke. The bank needed a saviour. The current board had a bit of cash, DA in particular, and bought the shares along with other board members. However, the 'gift' to the trust had to be made because they couldnt at that time have as many shares as they had. All DA is doing now is protecting his interest, he fought off Bates because it would have been bad for his investment. (Bad for the club as well) so give him some credit. The shares are all over the place. Neither Wednesdayite or the Board put together hold a majority. However, the majority have allegience to the board, and whatever happens at a shareholders meeting, whatever the mood, whatever the voting on the night, the board will always win through because of the proxy votes. Until such time as the board deem a prospective buyer right for themselves, therfore the club, then nothing will happen. Remember DA has the confidence of the bank, and recent transfer dealings will have done nothing to harm that relationship. Maybe, we the fans need to 'get real'. Most businesses in the real world in our situation would have had difficulty keeping the doors open. I aint a DA fan, nor do I have anything to do with Wednesdayite. However, I would love there to be some open debate between them, some plan going forward. That may settle a few nerves on the playing staff, Laws will know where he stands regarding finance (maybe does already) and the fans would have realistic expectations.
23/08/2007 09:21:00
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