Newsletter 9/10/2018

Here is our latest newsletter which focuses on the actions we have or are taking on the issues raised in the fans survey. Here is the link to the survey results on our website Survey Results

Although a bit later than we had planned we can now provide an update of our action plan from the survey conducted earlier in the year.

Question 1 asked about Trust Membership. The survey was completed by 657 supporters of which 271 were members of MT and 386 non-members.

Questions 2 & 3 – These were about what does Mariners Trust stand for? 55% thought they knew which meant 45% didn’t know or were unsure. When asked what it should stand for the overwhelming response was that we should be “the voice of the fans”.

We fully take this on board and are endeavouring to incorporate this into everything we do. Also we want to build this into our logo and tag line and so for instance instead of saying as we do now “connecting club and community” we want to say something like “by the fans for the fans” but would welcome further suggestions. The emphasis on fan representation is actually already written into our objectives that form part of our rules (see below) and we will ensure going forward that we continually reference back to these.

Mariners Trust Objectives

The objects are to benefit the community by:

    1. being the democratic and representative voice of the supporters of the Club and strengthening the bonds between the Club and the communities which it serves;
    2. achieving the greatest possible supporter and community influence in the running and ownership of the Club;
    3. promoting responsible and constructive community engagement by present and future members of the communities served by the Club and encouraging the Club to do the same;
    4. operating democratically, fairly, sustainably, transparently and with financial responsibility and encouraging the Club to do the same;
    5. being a positive, inclusive and representative organisation, open and accessible to all supporters of the Club regardless of their age, income, ethnicity, gender, disability, sexuality or religious or moral belief.

Question 4 Asked if you believe MT do a good job. 70% said Yes and 30% said No. This is below where we want it to be and 80%+ is our target. We acknowledge that with such a large variation of opinions with the fan base we will never please everyone but 80% should be achievable. We intend to track this reading on an annual basis.

Questions 5,6 and 7 were about our place on the board. There was a very high understanding that we have a representative on the club board (96%) and a fairly high, but lower, understanding that we pay the club £30k pa. Question 7 then asked if we should pay £30k pa for the board place and a sizable majority of 74% said no. This was the single biggest issue coming out of the survey and one that we have dealt with via the work we have being doing with Supporters Direct (SD) and the club. We will shortly be issuing a memorandum of understanding which will outline our working relationship with the club which will cover this and other issues. This will confirm that our board place is not conditional on fundraising. We do however acknowledge that we will actively fundraise, particularly as a high proportion is via the club bars, but the use of the proceeds will be on agreed projects and clearly communicated each year.

Question 8 asked if the MT should support the changes to the Checkatrade Trophy ahead of the 2018/19 season. In all honesty we think this question was a bit confusing and 58% said No whilst 42% said yes or unsure whereas we were expecting a much higher No vote. Just to be clear our view on the Checkatrade is that the competition is fundamentally flawed and there is no place for premiership teams in EFL competitions. The other concern of fans is that this is just the start and the next step is that “B” teams will be introduced into the EFL league structure, and so we have taken up this issue with the club as part of the work with SD. We are delighted that the club have agreed to incorporate into our agreement that they will NEVER agree to the introduction of premiership representation into the EFL league structure. We think this is a really positive step forward and hopefully allays some of the fears of supporters.

Question 9 was about how can MT communicate better? Results were as follows:

More on social media 49%

More on traditional local media 11%

More regular newsletters 10%

More regular e-mails 14%

Others 16%

Much of this is also covered below in Q10 in the section about better communication. The “others” element mainly relates to making better use of notices around the ground and also verbal communication such as open meetings etc. We would also remind everyone that we are available at every home game and pleased to answer any questions and we are also always well represented at away games where the same applies.

Question 10 This section asked for 3 things we should do this year. Given this gave 1800 + different suggestions it was by far the most difficult section to analysis and in hindsight should have been more targeted. There were however some key issues from this which can be summarised as follows:

  1. a) The single biggest category related to things directly outside of our control and in particularly many related to the future of then manager Russell Slade. These accounted for 12% of possible comments and 36% of respondents. Although outside of our direct control rest assured those views were fully represented at the board.

In terms of the things that we can influence these were the main issues raised:

  1. b) Improve matchday experience (11.5% of comments) These replies covered both home and away games as well as a variety of topics such as catering, bars, pre-match and half-time entertainment, ticketing and events for Juniors. This is something we want to do drill down a bit further on and get to a priority action plan. This section also included comments from exiles about wanting more recognition from the club and this is something we have been pursuing but have not yet reached a conclusion. We will continue to work on this and seek further views from exiles.
  2. c) Communicate better with fans (11%) – This has been a priority for us and something we know has been a weakness. We have had an ongoing struggle with e-mailing which we have now solved, and you will have noticed that we are now back up and running. Also, we have not been making full use of social media but again hopefully you will have noticed that we have been much more active over the last couple of months. We also want to be more informative which is why we have introduced regular newsletters such as this which gives us the chance to communicate in much more detail efficiently and economically.
  3. d) Retain and use seat on board to be more vocal (11%) – This comes back to communication and us being more informative about issues debated at board meetings but obviously within the bounds of confidentiality. This will be a regular part of our newsletters.
  4. e) Lead fan owned model (8%) – We have been very clear on this from the start in that the current Trust board do not believe this is the best course of action at this time nor is it practical. This survey suggests that there isn’t really a huge appetite for it but if this has changed and there are individuals willing to step forward to pursue this then we will not get in the way. We agree that change is needed, and our preferred scenario is that we help the club find new investors in line with their stated aim. As we understand it there has been some interest but nothing to report and the search goes on.
  5. f) Stop paying 30K for board place (6.5%) – As already reported we have reached a new agreement which accepts that we will commit to actively fundraise, bearing in mind a very large part of our income comes from the bars, but importantly our board place does not depend on it. Also, the use of the funds we raise will be spent on pre-agreed projects and clearly communicated.
  6. g) Improve relations between club and fans (6.5%) – Again this comes back to communication not just from ourselves but also from the club. We are working hard to bring forward joint initiatives, a good example of which is the 140year celebration and offers, and we will continue to look at ways of making the fans feel more part of the club.
  7. h) Change the GTFC board (4%) – Obviously we are not in direct control of this and our view is as outlined above
  8. i) Stability on Trust board (4%) – This has been a problem in the past but we not had any significant changes for six months now and believe we are now starting to see the benefit. Inevitably there will always be change due to the nature of volunteer roles, but we feel we can do better in terms of succession planning in particular for the “officer” roles. As always, we could do with more resource of the right calibre to help lead and shape what we do.
  9. j) Increase membership (4%) – To be honest this has not been a priority as we haven’t felt justified in pushing hard on membership whilst we have been doing the work with SD. Also, frankly, the membership system has been a mess and we have had to spend a lot of time getting it sorted so that we can move forward. This has now been sorted and the good news also is a volunteer has come forward to give us dedicated resource which will be huge benefit. Ultimately members will make their own decisions regarding continuation of membership and we need to make sure that our actions encourage them to continue as well as attract new and lapsed members.
  10. k) Step down from GTFC board (3.5%) – Some have a view that we would be better not sitting on the board and tackling the club from the outside, although this particular survey does not suggest this is a widespread view. This is not a view we share, and we strongly feel that we are much better off being party to all of the decisions even if ultimately some arguments are not won. We do not believe that there is anything that would be said from outside of the board that cannot be said from inside. There are not many clubs in the EFL who have supporter representation on their board and other clubs would dearly love to be in our position. At some point there will be ownership change at the club and hopefully progress on the new stadium and we think it is really important we are fully involved in these types of issues. If we were to come off the board but then further down the line decide we would want to go back on there would be no guarantee of acceptance, it is not something we can just dip in and out of as we please.
  11. l) Others (8%) This was a whole range of different comments and suggestions which were either not practical or not viewed as a priority. As we mentioned earlier getting 1800 different ideas and opinions gave us a real challenge and our plan is now to consolidate down to a sensible list of list of actions and consult on prioritisation.

Question 11 The final question asked for an overall rating from 1 (excellent) to 5 (poor) with the average score coming out at 2.8 which slightly above average bit is not at the level we would like to be at. We will use this as a benchmark against future readings and hopefully show improvement.

Consulting and communicating with fans is a key part of what we need to do to improve and gain the confidence of members and indeed the wider fan base. We know that this has been a weakness for us but hopefully you will agree that we are getting better and we will continue to focus on communication as a key area to keep improving. You told us we need to be better and we are listening and taking action.

Our ability to improve and the speed of improvement very much depends on resource and as we have previously stated we would very much like to hear from anyone who is willing to help particularly in the area of website content/design and social media. Technology is ever evolving and we people with the right skills to help us so that we can take full advantage.

Hopefully you have found this interesting and if you have any further questions or comments please do not hesitate to contact us by e-mailing This is our preferred method of communication and we guarantee that you will get a swift reply. We do monitor social media and forums but won’t necessarily see everything and cannot guarantee replying.

Keep the faith

Mariners Trust Board