Gateshead Soul open meeting on 1st May, 2019
Pelaw Social Club

Panel:

Bernard McWilliams (Chair), Tony Carter (Vice-chair), Tracie Wilson (Secretary), Ross Black (Events officer), Karl McInnes (Membership officer)

Apologies: David Kenny

Attendance: approx. 120

Introduction:

BM thanked Alisha Henry, Dominic Scurr, Simon Johnson, Annie Davis and Rob Douglas for attending. Also Michael Brunskill from the Football Supporters Federation.

BM gave a recap of past few weeks events which resulted in the club being put up for sale and protests when the sale did not happen despite finding buyers who were keen to take over. On Friday, April 26th it was announced that two new directors would join the club – one of whom has links with Ilkeston who went bankrupt. The supporters association realise that we have wasted our time and decided to look at other options. On Saturday we spoke to as many fans as possible attending the Barrow game to gauge interest in putting support behind a ‘phoenix’ club.

Questions and comments from the floor:

Question: What have they got left to sell? They have no assets, only a bit of paper to show ownership.

BM: they have a lot of debt, wages still need to be paid for April, rumours persist of voluntary relegation and Dr Varghese stated they want to move the club out of Gateshead

Question: Who will go and watch their club next season? (show of hands requested –no one raised hand)

Question: What will happen to memorabilia in the Mick Thornton suite?

BM: The council will act as custodians and take care of it.

Question: How can we get the support of people not ready to commit to a boycott? If they do go could we protest at the ground, encourage those attending not to spend any money on refreshments etc, get support from away fans?

BM: Gateshead Football Club has no staff, no players, no ground. The National League have certain standards meaning that they will have to leave the borough to play. They won’t own the concessions so boycotting them will make no difference.

Question: Current regime have destroyed the club, but it isn’t dead. We want to keep it alive, we want our club back.

TC: We have tried everything we can. They are not going anywhere. The Club is gone, before long the league will kick them out.

Question: Why are they doing it? Spite?

BM: They blame everyone but themselves for this situation. They behave unpredictably and without responsibility. Not paying the bills is not the same as cutting the bills. If anyone can suggest how we can get rid of them please do.

Question: Our place in the league is our only asset. Is the college tied to the club?

BM: Mike Williams claimed that Belper Town academy (which changed its name to Gateshead Academy) was nothing to do with us – now Nigel Harrap is a director.

Question: If we relocate will that be out of the area?

Yes. There is nowhere suitable in the borough. There is an active FA investigation but meetings have been constantly postponed.

Question: Who will work for them?

They have a manager already lined up.

Question: Similar thing happened to Slough – they left the supposedly for one season and it took twenty years for them to return. We have to do something now. The council should be proud to have a football club.

Question: What is Cala playing at?

BM: he had a certain business plan which did not work as expected.

Question: Is the Chris Dunphy deal dead?

BM: CD was aware of the club’s financial situation in March but things have moved on. Due diligence would have to be undertaken again so they would be fully aware of the current financial situation. So yes the deal is dead unless the books are turned over immediately – they knew how bad the situation was in previously but not how it stands now.

Question: Are the police involved in this?

BM: We have no evidence that a crime has been committed.

Question: Are they holding out for any money they might get from the sale of Marcus Maddison?

BM: There is a cap on the total amount and money has already been released for appearances etc so any sell on fee might not amount to much.

Question: Can we force them into administration?

BM: We can’t comment directly on finances due to the non-disclosure agreement we signed. We would be looking to speak to those owed money and encourage them to pursue their interests. We are under a time limit and need to act now.

Question: We know who is involved – can we write/email these people to make our feelings known? Should we be protesting outside whatever stadium they end up?

BM: As it stands there is nowhere for them to play. Kingston Park has been mentioned but the National League require seniority of fixtures as well as an agreement that an artificial pitch be replaced by grass in the event of promotion to the football league.

Question: Why would Kingston Park want them if they don’t pay their bills?

BM: Exactly

Question: Could the National League kick them out anyway?

Gateshead FC would have to meet certain conditions before they would be allowed to play, one being tenure of a ground. Most clubs have at least one condition, at present, GFC have 4. We could sit back and do nothing, but then it will be too late to do anything. It is a very complex situation and the FA and League have not been forthcoming with help.

Question: When will the club officially be no more? If it folds, can you change plans and start a phoenix club?

BM: There are very rules and conditions attached to starting a phoenix club or a new club. People need to understand the situation. They have no ground, no staff, no fans, no cash – all they have is a piece of paper. The club isn’t Ranjans – he’s just got a piece of paper. Players and staff come and go, but here we have people who have supported the club for decades. The fans are the club – no matter what league they play in. That club no longer exists, we don’t want to lose GFC but let them do what we want – GFC is for the fans, the people in this room, the people who signed the petition, the people who live away from the Borough who go to away games. We are a family. GFC is the fans, no Ranjan, the fans.

Question: How much money is owed to the council? Should they be doing more? That money is owed not just to the council but by the people who live here.

BM: Certain procedures need to be followed.

Question: Why don’t the council submit a winding-up order?

BM: We aren’t able to go into details on issues such as that.

Question: Is the contract with kit suppliers at an end – could they also have no kit next season?

BM: Not sure about that situation.

Question: We’ve seen the name Newcastle Gateshead City FC – is this to meet requirements to get an approval of a move to Kingston Park?

BM: Certain conditions must be met to suit the league.

Alisha Henry joins the panel and discusses her experiences working for the club.

AH: Cala does not care if you turn up. He does not care if you buy merchandise. He does not care if you hate him. He is happy with low crowds as he then doesn’t have to pay stewards. He does not care.

BREAK



Future plans:

BM: The club is dead. They have no interest in the fans or the community. They want to leave. Where does that leave us? GFC own the club on paper – they have nothing else but debt. Ideally, we’d wait for the club to go into administration but that is not going to happen any time soon. We can’t start a phoenix club while they still exist, but we can start a new club in a competitive league. If they do fold we will be in a position to pick up the pieces as we will have started along the line.

We would enter the league pyramid at step 7, with possible special dispensation to join at step 5. As a phoenix club, we would be entitled to join at step 5. AH has spent a lot of time looking at budgets and many people have been involved in the discussions. We need to move now to keep football in Gateshead and build a football club for the people of Gateshead.

We can’t wait for their club to fold – what if it doesn’t? If we don’t do something now we’ve got nothing. We have key stakeholders who are interested in helping us – we can’t go into details yet however.

Don’t cling to the hope that Ranjan will have a club in Gateshead. Do you want to leave the borough? Do you want to be left with nothing at the start of the season?

From nothing we are now in a position where we can raise £10000 a year. This is encouraging to investors.

Question: What have we got to lose? Let’s get our own club!

BM: We have sat back and let other people run our club, we let Graham Wood spend money. We need to stand up as fans – whoever you blame for this situation – as fans we need to step up. We have done amazing work in a few weeks, we need to be ready.

Question: If we go ahead with this and by the end of the summer GFC have gone out of business, can we step in?

BM: Yes – but what if it doesn’t? If an opportunity arises, yes, but what if it doesn’t? Who wants to watch GFC outside the borough? Who wants our won club?

Question: Where will the money come from? Realistically, who would come and watch if we can only get 600 in the National League? Where would we play? Can we have it ready for August? Who would even play for us?

BM: Everything is in place, the only thing I cannot confirm is what league we would be in. We have exhausted all other avenues with the club. AH has looked at budgets and potential setups, we have spoken to key stakeholders. Things are in place and we need to be stakeholders. We don’t want a bankrolled club – we want a community club for the key stakeholders and the fans. Gateshead Soul has raised money in a short space of time. If we don’t get involved and do it ourselves we might as well give up. We are either part of something or part of nothing.

Question: let us be practical – who is going to watch football in the Wearside League? We need £50,000.

BM: As a new club we would be step 7 but with special dispensation, we could get step 5. We can sit and wait, or we can get involved and be part of it. There are many aspects we cannot discuss publicly yet.

Question: People understand the situation with Cala, but they are worried about the money?

BM: We are on target to hit £10 000 this year.

Question: The people in this room can’t provide all the money, but the act of signing up to the Gateshead Soul shows potential to stakeholders.

BM: We can’t have a fan-owned club but showing we can raise money as is important as how much. We have stakeholders but have to show we are there.

Question: If no-one does anything there is no guarantee of a club. The only way we can guarantee it is if we set one up. Doesn’t matter what league, if people want to watch and support football in Gateshead we need to set it up. Don’t worry about how many might turn up – just do it.

BM: We are trying to get the most competitive club we can for the people of Gateshead. But we need to stand up as fans to show we care – or else should? We need to make this attractive to stakeholders.

Question: What can we do apart from put money in? How can we let people know about our new club?

BM: Our new club will be the best level of football we can get. We have interested stakeholders. We need fans to back us. There are almost 70 Gateshead Soul members putting money in. Do what you can. We don’t want to wait for someone to do it for us. We cannot do this alone, we know that. We need to show we are worth backing. We can be part fan owned – key stakeholders for the first time. We can’t rely on someone to bankroll us. We have things in place. We have members, we are arranging another fundraiser, we are about to launch a Go Fund Me campaign. There are many things that can’t be discussed at this time.

Question: When can they be discussed? When will we know?

BM: We can’t give a time scale. We are taking advice from lots of different parties/

Question: Is there a cut of date for forming a new club?

BM: The longer we leave it the harder it will be. We cannot wait in case we miss opportunities.

Question: What about club colours and badge?

BM: All to be decided at a later date.

Supporter’s need to have faith in the Gateshead Soul committee.

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