18th January 2021 (Online Session)
Attending: Dave Eyles (Chair), Bruce Walker (Minutes), Grace McKenna, Jamie Gordon, Andy Fletcher, Nigel Lawrence
Apologies: Frank Smith, Ian Devoy, Lionel Bird, Luke Harris, Geoffery Gulzar, Rachael Brown
Matters Arising from Previous Meeting
Bruce indicated which matters had been dealt with since the last meeting - mainly invoving transfers of information between Board Members - and which would be covered in the remainder of the meeting.
Update from the Chair
Dave told the meeting that the proposed December meeting of the Supporters' Forum had been postponed to a February date tbc because of the Covid situation. He was of the opinion that, since the meeting was to be held on Zoom in the first place because of the Covid restrictions, the reasoning behind this postponement was not entirely clear. The remainder of Dave's comment re: the Forum are at Item 6 below.
Dave reminded the Board that a group of Bury supporters had contacted the Trust re: their proposed film on the impact of the loss of football on the lives of fans, the wider community and on the future of the game of itself. They had filmed an interview with Bruce and CJ Joiner at the Ricoh on 17th December last. Some further information re: this is at Item 5 below.
He then summarised the improvements that have been made to the website - see Item 12 below - and raised a proposal for the Trust to contribute to the charity 'Football Beyond Borders' (see footballbeyondborders.org):
It was agreed that a one-off donation to 'Football Beyond Borders' be made by the Trust (sum to be agreed off-line)
Bury Supporters and '4Fans Productions'
Bruce and CJ had responded on behalf of the Trust to the request from 4Fans Production ('4FP'), founded by supporters of Bury FC, to a filmed interview on the impact of the loss of football on fans, clubs and the wider community. The FSA were also on board with the 4FP initiative.The interviews were not explicitly about the roles and responsibilities of owners, the EFL and other parties on football's current crises, nor about Covid- related issues.The interview took place at the Ricoh after 4FP had interviewed David Busst.
In the interviews, Bruce and CJ spoke in personal capacities of the impact of CCFC not playing in Coventry on themselves as fans, on wider groups of fans and on relations between the Club and the wider community and City. They also spoke of the frustration that they and many fans felt at the expressed desire of all parties to the Ricoh crisis for the Sky Blues to play at the Ricoh and nothing apparently being done to make this happen.
4FP had happily agreed to let Bruce and CJ see any clips of their contributions prior to any release of the proposed film.
As note at Item 4 above, the December Forum meeting has been postponed until February. Dave indicated that among the items to be discussed are the election of a Vice Chair. Dave asked if he should stand and Board were unanimous in their encouragement for him to do so.
A separate issue was that of a replacement for Dave at individual Forum meetings. It was agreed that this was a separate and internal Trust issue from the election of a Vice Chair and should not be raised at the next Forum.
The Forum was also likely to address CCFC's fans' rep on the SAG. It looked likely that Frank would be the only candidate and, in any event, by far the best qualified candidate from the Forum organisations. It was agreed that:
Dave would stand for Vice Chair of the Forum
Frank would be proposed and supported to continue as the Forum's SAG rep
Finance, Membership and Accounts
In the absence of Rachael, Dave reported that there was no change in the Financial and Membership position (see previous Minutes)
Dave and Bruce brought up an issue of synchronising two aspects of the 2019-2020 Accounts which was preventing them being reviewed externally. While trivial numerically, the matter need to be squared, which Rachael, Dave and Bruce would see to off-line.
Transport, Ground Accessibility & Safety Advisory Group (SAG)
In Frank's absence and in the absence of crowds at matches, there was nothing to be reported, though see second Bullet Point under Item 6.
Football Supporters' Association
Grace offered to prepare a summary for the Trust's website, linked to the Newsletter, of the range of activities in which the FSA and she, as our FSA rep, had been involved.She then pointed to three issues that had been raised at the FSA level which led to further discussion.
First, the iFollow service, which an FSA survey of League subscribers indicated had found favour with a majority of users but which a large minority found deficient in a number of ways (e.g., customer service and the in-match balance of live action and replays). However, few complaints were of a digital/technical nature and, in any event, were no more acute than in the case of clubs' which had their own live match delivery services.
Second, racist abuse of individual and groups of ethnic minority footballers appeared to be on the increase, particularly on social media. Some of this was or posed as political opposition to the BLM political movement. There was controversy over whether the organised taking of the knee before matches was focusing this opposition and more general concerns about 'empty gestures'. Discussion centred around alternatives that might be given, if necessary, for players wishing to take anti-racist/anti-discriminatory solidarity action prior to kick-off.
Third, on the wider issue of the FSA in encouraging diversity in football, Grace indicated that Cardiff City FC had put together a (professional) photographic exhibition indicating the diverse nature of their fans and their activities, and of Cardiff as a whole. This might be something that the Trust could lead on, perhaps in the context of City of Culture.
It was agreed that Grace would use her City of Culture contacts to see the response to this idea (Bruce indicated that he would do the same with his main contact) and cautiously enquire about part-funding opportunities at the FSA.
Andy yet again requested that Board Members and Trust members more generally get involved to a greater degree in 'liking', re-tweeting and posting through the Trust's Facebook and Twitter accounts. On social media more broadly, there was a long discussion which Jamie summarised by arguing that the Trust as an organisation did not need to engage formally in the wider social media space.
It was agreed that any individual could of course do so but the channels through which the Trust as an organisation communicated with its members and the wider world would be the Trust's Twitter and Facebook accounts and the revised website/Newsletter (Items 12 and 13 below).
Update and Progress on Website Revisions
Jamie introduced and led on a discussion of the new website, the outline and form which he had 'drafted' and to which he directed Board members. There was unanimous agreement that this promised a vast improvement on the current website. Further development required a number of software changes and amendments, but also changes of emphasis in presentation. For example, is our primary concern fan ownership per se, is a pusuit of EFL 'fit and proper owners' reform centre stage, where are our community objectives?
In addition, the content of the proposed Newsletter would be found by direct link to the website so the site needed to be sorted in terms of its structure.
The Board welcomed and wholeheartedly endorsed Jamie (and Luke's) significant reforms to the website.
It was agreed that:
Dave, Jamie and Luke would liaise off-line about the final development and presentational aspects of the website with a view to reporting back at the February meeting (and in the interim as necessary)
Dave should take Chairman's action in committing the sums required to overhaul the website
Dave as Chair agreed to explore the possibilities of a short term PO Box address as one that would be accessible for the Trust's purposes
Luke had pulled together and, in his absence, previously circulated a mock-up of what the Newsletter might look like, indicating the links to the website which would contain the details under the different headings in the body of the Newsletter. This approach was very well received and the Board wished their thanks to Luke to be recorded.
After a positive and detailed discussion it was agreed that:
Luke, Jamie and Dave would liaise on the technicalities, form and broad content of the Newsletter, given the key role that the website would play in disseminating the Newsletter's messages and contents to members and others.
Dave would write the Newsletter's introductory section; the Newsletter would include separate sections for on the pitch, off the pitch (Ricoh and related locational matters) and on wider Trust issues, the latter to include a contribution from Grace on FSA matters
The Trust would aim to produce the Newsletter every two months with the proposed content to be circulate prior to the pertinent Monday Board Meeting with a view to mailing out the following Friday
Luke, Jamie and Dave would draw in Board Members and others as necessary to acheive the above. Active on-line co-ordination and communication within and among the Board is anticipated
Any Other Business
THE FUTURE ROLE OF THE TRUST
Nigel introduced and led on this item. It was discussed intensely, positively and at length.
In brief, it was argued that the Trust's emphasis on getting the Sky Blues back to Coventry was an appropriate and vital objective. A successful outcome in this respect was was likely to be either a short term, leading to a longer term, rental or partnership agreement at the Ricoh or a (potentially) short term rental at the Ricoh with a longer term future at a new stadium.
Whichever of these paths was to be actively pursued by the owners of Coventry City, the Trust should seek to strongly influence outcomes in the interests of its members and the wider City fan base.
This was what the Trust was founded for - to maximise the influence of the fans, to represent them and to give them voice. The ability to do this would be crucial in the months to come in shaping outcomes for Coventry City at the level of principle and of detail.
To give additional credibility to what is, after all, the Trust's historic mission, the Trust needs to strengthen its links with members - the website revision and Newsletter were excellent starts, as were the proposed regular brief surveys - and to reaffirm its existing links with wider, influential partners (e.g., MPs, EFL). Also, since the aim is to try and ensure that what happens to the Club should ensure its long term stability, viability and future - which is what Trust members and all fans want - the Trust should be prepared to strongly support CCFC and its owners as an organisations when they clearly seek to achieve such outcomes. Equally, where the actions of either the Club or its owners damage the shorter and longer term prospects of Coventry City FC, the Trust should be strongly critical on behalf of the fans.
After a lenghty debate it was subsequently agreed that:
Nigel, Bruce and Dave would draw up a short note suitable for the website and a public statement (tbc) reaffirming the above. It would be circulated prior to the next Board Meeting
Dave would seek to refer to this in his introduction to the Newsletter
Date of Next Meeting
Monday 15th February by Zoom. Time to be confirmed