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Statement from the Board of ArabTRUST and the Committee of the Federation of Dundee United Supporters Clubs
Following two months of meetings and discussions with the Board of Dundee United, we (the Board of ArabTRUST and the Committee of the Federation of DUSC) feel that we now must update our members.
It is with regret that we have to make such a statement. However, we feel that following the discussions held we have no other option and it is our duty to do so as shareholders in the club and as elected members of the committees of fans representative bodies.
Despite numerous meetings between 15th January and 26th March with members of the Board of DUFC, the General Manager and the First Team Manager, we remain worried as to how our club is being managed.
An initial meeting between the Committee of the Federation and Derek Robertson plus David Southern of DUFC was held on 15th January. At this, they informed the Committee of the need to cut costs at the club and indicated that season ticket prices/gate prices would have to rise in 2015/16.
The Federation stated at this meeting that given the "feel-good factor" at the club at that point they saw any season ticket price rise as being detrimental; however, if this was based on an overall cost management requirement for the club they would discuss the reasoning behind the proposed price increase, when available, with their members. David explained that the club were carrying out a cost management exercise to get the Club to a break even position, without relying on transfer income, by May 2016 with season ticket price rises forming part of this. Over a month later, the Chairman of DUFC announced in the local press that season ticket prices were to be frozen. Given the discussions, we were puzzled by this announcement.
Two weeks later, the DUFC AGM was held on 29th January where a number of questions were asked which the Board of DUFC could not answer. We were hugely unimpressed by this, particularly as none of the questions were particularly challenging, for example, how many signed players did the club have? Most worryingly, at the meeting Stephen Thompson stated that he would not allow any investment in the club that would take his personal shareholding below 51%.
Subsequent to the AGM and the sale of two of our established first team players (Stuart Armstrong and Gary Mackay-Steven) on February 1st, and with the perceived disquiet of the fans around this sale given it was just a few weeks before our appearance in a major Cup Final, a meeting was arranged by the club for us to meet with Jackie McNamara, Derek Robertson and David Southern on 10th February. Although Jackie spoke very well and gave his vision for taking the club forward again, the meeting did not provide us with any comfort as to the overall management of the club.
On 3rd March, we received the following from Derek Robertson on behalf of the DUFC Board “I understand that both supporters groups wish clarity on various matters and the purpose of the meeting therefore is to provide you with an early opportunity to address any such issues directly with the Chairman and the Board.
"In order for you to get the most out of this meeting, and for us to provide the appropriate level of detail required, it would be helpful if you could forward me a list of priority questions before Friday.” It was then suggested by the club that a meeting could be held after the launch of the GA Engineering Arena on 6th March, unfortunately most of the members of our respective Boards and Committee were unavailable at that date. We therefore suggested a meeting shortly after this and submitted our questions to Stephen Thompson by letter on the afternoon of 6th March.
We finally received a written response to these on 24th March, after, disappointingly, having had to prompt the DUFC Board to provide a response to these on 20th March following unsuccessful communication regarding a meeting.
In the letter of 6th March, we submitted 22 questions, which can be grouped into the following topics: Thompson family shareholding/investment in the club, debt management, cost control, football strategy and remuneration. Despite a written response and a meeting with Stephen Thompson, Derek Robertson and David Southern on 26th March, a number of our questions remain unanswered. We are puzzled as to why this is the case, as we were clear we required a response to each question.
At the meeting on 26th March, we were told yet again that costs would be managed downwards. This is despite having been told the same story for a number of years and seeing no progress. In fact, the operating costs of DUFC have remained relatively consistent for the last seven years. As such, we remain sceptical as to whether any progress will be made in the current and future financial years without detriment to the playing side of the club. Positively, and contrary to the statement made at the AGM on 29th January, Stephen Thompson announced that he would now welcome investment in the club through wider share ownership. However, he was wary of a level of investment that would take the Thompson family shareholding below 75%.
There are three key points that we feel all Dundee United fans should be aware of:
- Firstly, we were shocked to find out that a huge amount of ‘commission’ has been paid to unnamed parties from the sale of 4 players – Gauld, Robertson, Armstrong and Mackay-Steven. We believe this figure to be in excess of £500k. This does not include payments to players, agents or other clubs. When all of these various payments are totalled, over 25% of the £6.3m in fees received has not been kept in the club.
- Secondly, despite the sales of the four players noted above, the Board of DUFC does not believe that this is yet sufficient to pay all current remaining debt.
- Thirdly, the amount of investment in the club by the Thompson family is not £5m as has been widely reported. This includes payments of over £1m made to buy out previous shareholders and soft loans to the club, the latter of which have been steadily repaid in the last few years. The actual investment, as confirmed by Stephen Thompson, is nearer £3.5m. Of this, the Thompson family hold nearly 85,000 shares in the club, which are valued (as agreed by the club's auditors) at £33 a share. We believe that if the Thompson family were to sell their shares, they could recoup a significant proportion of the money they have invested.
At the meeting on 26th March, it was agreed that we would reconvene with the Board of DUFC in June to reflect on any progress made in improving the management of the club. At this future meeting it should become clear the scale of the operating loss which will be incurred in the current financial year.
Given the points above, we believe that changes are required as to how Dundee United is managed. We want our club to be successful and stable, both on and off the park. Both ArabTRUST and the Federation wish only the best for Dundee United; the club is deep within our hearts and we hope that by the time we formally meet again with the Board of DUFC that the necessary changes have been made to improve the management of the club and allow us in the future to prosper on the field.