THE HISTORY OF THE POSH SUPPORTERS’ TRUST
2002: Genesis. Building a shareholding in PUFC.
The Posh Supporters’ Trust was conceived in 2002 against a backdrop of apathy and frustration surrounding Peterborough United. The club, owned by local entrepreneur Peter Boizot, had been for sale for over 12 months but, despite interest from numerous parties, only three or four had made substantive bids. Fans had read so many times in the local press that a deal would be concluded “within 48 hours” that nobody took much notice any more.
Leigh Porter, a 26-year-old customer services manager in the travel industry, decided to hold a public meeting to discover whether there was enough interest in forming a supporters’ trust. On 9 November 2002 about a hundred fans turned up at Ebeneezer’s, the HQ of the Posh Independent Supporters’ Association (PISA), to hear Leigh outline his views and plans. His master-stroke was to invite the Chief Executive of Posh, Geoff Davey, and two officials from CFU, the trust formed by fans of nearby Cambridge United. While Geoff was very supportive, it was Steve Greenall of CFU who galvanised the audience with his infectious enthusiasm, exhorting the fans to dig deep into their pockets. Aided by PISA’s generous gift of £500, the new trust started life with £976.
Seven volunteers signed up to help Leigh: two teachers, a policeman, a financial consultant and three early-retired people. With one exception none had previously been involved with a supporters’ organisation. At its first meeting ten days later the working group was joined by Matthew Holt from Supporters Direct, the Government-backed body that helps fans to form trusts. He offered advice on what form the Trust should take and how to choose its aims and objectives. SD provided all the legal costs of setting up the Trust and small start-up grants to cover room hire, advertising, printing etc. We agreed on: a name for the trust; where and how often to meet; the role to be taken by each member; and the date of the all-important launch meeting. In our total naivety we opted for 23 January 2003 (66 days later). We also decided to write to all 276 Posh shareholders, asking them to donate or sell their shares or gift us their proxy voting rights.
From that point on we had to apply to the Financial Services Authority to register as an Industrial and Provident Society – i.e. a totally democratic and transparent body, just like the Co-op. We would have to submit annual returns; members would have limited liability; and the full force of the law could be brought to bear on anyone who misappropriated the funds. Matthew Holt told us all about CFSS (the trust at Chesterfield), who expected a long haul to acquire a small shareholding in their club, but six days later owned the club!
After obtaining useful advice from Trust STFC [Swindon Town], the group decided at its third meeting on 18 December to postpone the launch until Monday, 10 March 2003, thus giving us more time to set up a first-class event. We designed an application form and agreed on an annual subscription of £10 (£1 for juniors). Meanwhile, as the saga of the Posh takeover continued, we started to make contact with the existing owner and potential purchasers of the club, in order to build our profile.
Initially we received 45 replies from shareholders with promises of 46 shares and 27 proxies. Since Mr Boizot owned 99.6% of the paid-up shares, we would not have a significant holding, but at least we could attend AGMs and EGMs and ask questions once the shares were transferred to the Trust.
2003: Launch Meeting. Posh changes hands. Seat on Posh board.
The working group planned to start recruiting members at a 4th round F A Youth Cup tie against Manchester City on 22 January, but first we were thwarted by the club’s failure to open part of its facilities and then – contrary to what had been promised – supporters were prevented from entering the bar in which we had set up a membership desk. This episode persuaded us to change the Launch Meeting venue from the club (capacity about 250) to much larger premises elsewhere. While still acquiring raffle prizes and auction items and also engineering personal appearances by current and former Posh players, our next task was to sell tickets to the Launch Meeting. We gave ourselves a month to do so, the main opportunities being home games against Cardiff, Stockport and Wigan. The first of these was postponed owing to a frozen pitch and the second only went ahead after two inspections! So we had to redouble our efforts to sell the tickets.
The Launch Meeting was eventually held on 10 March at The Cresset, Bretton. Over 300 supporters were joined by the entire first and youth team squads, coaching staff, and manager Barry Fry. Fans heard some stirring rhetoric from representatives of the Chesterfield and Cambridge trusts, and our acting chairman Leigh Porter spoke of his aspirations. Supporters were also given the opportunity to put questions to former Posh stars, including Steve Welsh, Lee Howarth and Peter McNamee. The highlight was undoubtedly the comedy double act of Jack Carmichael and Tommy Robson.
A vote to give the steering committee a mandate to continue to the first Annual General Meeting was carried unanimously. Finally, supporters were given the opportunity to bid for an impressive range of football memorabilia, plus gifts generously donated by former players, including England goalkeeper David Seaman. Some bold bidding by the Posh manager helped to take the total raised over the £2,000 mark.
By this time Posh had been on the market for 18 months and the threat of administration or demise by asset-stripping was becoming stronger by the day. The Trust steering committee kept pace with an ever-changing situation by talking to the existing owner and various potential buyers. But subsequent events proved how much the football world is a roller-coaster. A week before the end of the season the club was bought by long-standing director Alf Hand and manager Barry Fry. It was later discovered that the deal had been underwritten by Mr Fry’s close friend Colin Hill. Five months later it was announced that Mr Fry had “bought out Mr Hill’s interest”. However, the mechanics were that the ownership of the stadium and the football club had been split respectively between Peterborough United Holdings Limited (controlled by Mr Hill) and its wholly-owned subsidiary, Peterborough United Football Club Limited (controlled by Mr Fry). In a deal that was for some time shrouded in mystery, the club would pay a peppercorn rent for the use of the stadium for ten years. However this was achieved, there was a covenant requiring (a) that the site be used for sporting purposes and (b) that the City Council have the first option to buy it back if the club went out of business or wished to dispose of the ground.
The highlight of the Trust’s year was the moment when, on 1 November, having held a press conference to announce that he had bought the football club from Colin Hill, Mr Fry invited our Chief Executive, Leigh Porter, to be his first directorial appointment on the Posh board. It was made clear to the club that the Trust’s representative would have to stand for re-election as the supporter-director each year. At 27 Leigh became one of the youngest football club directors in the country.
Meanwhile the Trust, which by now had 500 adult and 130 junior members, built up its profile. It combined with the Supporters’ Club to arrange a successful open day; it established a squad of ball boys (and one girl), obtaining sponsorship of the kit from a firm of solicitors; it negotiated a wide range of discounts with more than two dozen local businesses to provide tangible benefits to new and existing members; then, at the invitation of PUFC, it took over the running of the club shop on match days. In addition the Trust became more active in its fund-raising activities, including: the sale of books, football programmes and other merchandise; a balloon race; an annual New Year’s Eve party; bucket collections; raffles etc.
Soon after joining the board Keith Jennings, who had been a purchasing manager in his working life, proposed that the Trust should offer a unique selling point to its members: discounts on goods and services from local businesses. By using their membership cards members could save more than their annual subscription. From then on, in his capacity as business development director, Keith proceeded to negotiate deals with a wide range of firms in the Peterborough area and has been adding to the list ever since.
2004: Gold Bond. Membership of professional organisations. Links with other trusts.
Towards the end of 2003 the Trust had launched an appeal to raise funds for new floodlights at London Road. By means of bucket collections, a New Year’s Eve party and a balloon race, the Trust raised £2,000 and handed a cheque to Posh, in exchange for 1,000 shares in the club. This brought the Trust’s holding up to 1,390.
In January the Trust launched its Gold Bond Super Draw, which gave Posh supporters an opportunity to win big prizes and simultaneously raise funds for the Trust. The brainchild of Walter Moore (later to be appointed a director of the Trust), Gold Bond rapidly became its principal source of income.
Oakham Ales, Brewery Tap and Charters sponsored the newsletter for the first time, a relationship that has continued ever since.
The Trust began to forge strong links with other trusts in the East Midlands by attending regular meetings at venues all over the region, usually in football club boardrooms. The exchange of news, views and ideas became vital to our own development and, since a representative of Supporters Direct always attended, we also obtained legal, financial and other advice at first hand. At the Supporters Direct Annual Conference and various regional seminars we listened to eminent speakers from the football world, the legal and accounting professions and other fields, thus expanding our knowledge and understanding of issues relating to the governance of football clubs and the supporters’ trust movement.
When Steve Cooper died suddenly, only 12 years after scoring the memorable goal at Huddersfield that propelled Posh to the division 3 play-off final at Wembley, the Trust, supporters’ club and PISA organised a bucket collection to raise funds for his family and agreed to arrange at a later date a friendly match at London Road.
At the Trust’s second AGM in October Peter Lloyd took over the chairmanship, while Leigh Porter remained as Chief Executive and of course the Trust’s representative on the Posh board of directors.
Although the ownership of the football club had changed in September 2003, it took well over a year for the Trust to obtain from Companies House and other sources the relevant documentation. It took Peter Lloyd and other board members many months to conduct a forensic examination of the papers in order to understand the highly complex structure of ownership and control within PUHL and its wholly-owned subsidiary, PUFC.
We reasoned that, if the football club were to go into administration, the Trust had insufficient funds to come to the rescue on its own. Consequently it was necessary for us to create alliances with a number of local entrepreneurs who might be willing to provide financial backing. The board considered that the best way of promoting the Trust’s aims would be to join the Cambridgeshire Chamber of Commerce. Regular attendance at CCC breakfasts, lunches and other events enabled us to broaden our range of contacts and demonstrate a level of competence and professionalism in the business community.
For similar reasons the Trust joined the Peterborough Council for Voluntary Service and the Anglia Regional Co-operative Society. With regard to the latter, the Trust asked members to nominate its account number when purchasing items from Co-op stores, thus providing another source of income.
2005: Trust stall at fetes, Beer Festival etc. Contingency plan.
The Trust has only ever wanted to see a flourishing and successful Peterborough United. Like other supporters’ trusts, it considers that fans should have a financial stake in their club and be able to contribute towards its welfare. In recent years supporters’ trusts have either saved or resurrected many football clubs – Exeter City, AFC Wimbledon, Brentford and FC Halifax come to mind, among others. Given that the Trust was born when the future of PUFC was in doubt, it has always been one of our principal raisons d’etre to be in a position to step into the breach if the club folded. Although this has sometimes been misinterpreted as a desire for the demise of the club, the Trust board and members have, despite setbacks such as losing its seat on the PUFC board, always supported the Posh from the stands or terraces and provided unpaid practical and financial assistance in many ways.
On 1 May at London Road the Steve Cooper Family Fun Day provided, amongst other attractions, three separate football matches, including the Wembley ’92 team versus a Sky TV celebrity side. All proceeds went to the Steve Cooper Memorial Fund.
Yet another income stream was established when we set up an on-line shopping account, Buy at the Posh Trust.
Since one of its aims was to promote the game of football in the community, the Trust decided to sponsor the under-7 competition at the annual Yaxley Festival of Football. It would be hard to forget the first appearance of the Trust’s stall at an event: a handful of Trust directors turned up, including our treasurer, Richard Bellamy, who had kindly agreed to lend his gazebo. This could be erected “by a couple of people in thirty seconds”, or so he claimed. Half an hour later, after battling against a gale force wind carrying dust from the fens, half a dozen of us gave up in despair, but after much hilarity! Thereafter, once we learned how to erect the gazebo, our stall became a regular feature at fetes and other events for the sale of merchandise, programmes and books, but most importantly for meeting fans and spreading our message. Our most ambitious foray was the annual Peterborough Beer Festival, which required us to man a stall for all five days; there were plenty of volunteers, who enjoyed meeting members, other Posh fans and supporters of different clubs to “talk football” in convivial surroundings.
The Trust was particularly conscious of the need to prepare detailed contingency plans for implementation if Peterborough United folded. From our discussions with other supporters’ trusts we knew that extraordinary efforts would have to be undertaken, often within limited time constraints, to galvanise fans, raise large amounts of cash and negotiate with administrators, the local council and other businesses. This would require a substantial amount of planning, most of which would need to be finalised long before a crisis happened. Consequently the Trust built a huge database of contacts (national and local media, local government, potential investors, legal and financial advisers, fans who could be relied on to help, former Posh players and officials etc), plus ideas for fund-raising campaigns, venues for public meetings, prime advertising sites, actions to be taken etc.
2006: New Moy’s End stand (plus flats). New owner for PUFC.
Three years after acquiring London Road Stadium, Peterborough United Holdings Limited (the parent company of the football club) made a move. In March the Trust learned that PUHL had submitted a planning application to build a new stand at the Moy’s End and, directly behind it on the site of the car park, 135 flats. It was obvious to the Trust board that, apart from the new stand itself, the football club would not benefit from the development, unless the Trust, on behalf of the supporters and the club, made its views known.
After studying the plans in great detail, we lobbied the local and national press and had meetings with city councillors, planning experts and property professionals before submitting our own detailed submission to the planning committee. Whilst being in favour of the development in principle, we recommended that:
(1) the profits derived from it could facilitate the funding of a youth football “centre of excellence”,
(2) parking facilities for elderly and disabled supporters should be safeguarded, and
(3) the new stand could provide a range of facilities for the local community.
The meeting of the planning committee was originally arranged for 25 July, but was postponed three times in 2006.
In recognition of his sterling work in connection with the Gold Bond Super Draw, Walter Moore was appointed to the Trust board.
When Sky TV made a series of “behind the scenes“ programmes about PUFC, fronted by Ron Atkinson, the Trust declined to participate on the grounds that interviews could easily be distorted in the editing process. Viewing of the first few episodes persuaded us that our decision had been very wise.
Soon afterwards a “white knight” charged into London Road in the form of Irish property developer Darragh Macanthony, who purchased the football club shares. The Trust met the new chairman in December and was encouraged by his ambition to make Posh a “community club”. For our part we compiled a wish-list, including inter alia: a re-launch event; a fans’ day; the appointment of a community director; a Posh museum; match-day ticket sales outside Peterborough; a campaign to attract new fans to the club; better use of the Family Stand concourse; and a share save scheme (as pioneered at Glasgow Rangers, enabling fans to buy around £600 worth of shares in the club over a period of five years).
2007: Moy’s End planning inquiry. “Posh Smile Tickets” initiative.
Soon after acquiring the club Darragh Macanthony made an offer to buy the ground for £4m, but this was rejected by PUHL, who wanted £12m. As a result the chairman withdrew his offer and started to search for a site for a new stadium. Meanwhile the Trust board continued to monitor the proposed Moy’s End development.
In July six representatives from the Trust (including our own planning expert) attended the two-day public inquiry into PUHL’s application for planning permission. They felt truly sorry for the planning inspector as he struggled to understand the ownership of the club, the relationship between PUHL and PUFC, “A” and “B” shares, and where Colin Hill and Darragh Macanthony fitted into the equation.
In his submission on behalf of the Trust Barry Bennett made a number of telling points, including the following:
The development proposals provided only four parking spaces for disabled drivers.
Whereas PUHL had always claimed that the new stand “would not cost PUFC a penny”, the Trust had discovered that the cost of fitting it out – i.e. providing fixtures, fittings, toilets, handrails and 2,000 seats – would amount to £1.015m. Not even PUFC had realised this.
There was a danger that the developers could demolish the existing Moy’s End stand, erect the flats but fail to build the new stand, leaving Posh with a three-sided ground. Therefore, we recommended that the development should only be allowed if the stand were completed before any residential occupation took place.
The arrival of a new chairman keen to build a completely new stadium meant that the new stand could conceivably be redundant within 2-3 years.
Two months later the inspector granted outline planning permission for the development, crucially subject to the stand being completed before the flats were occupied. But the prospect of a new stadium elsewhere in the city rendered the whole Moy’s End issue academic for some time.
The Trust was proud to launch the “Posh Smile Tickets” scheme, allowing local community groups and disadvantaged fans to apply for free tickets to Posh home games. Whilst donating £500, the Trust also sought donations from interested parties. The first recipients were four children nominated by John Fox, the secretary of the Rudolf Fund.
2008: Trust Bus. New Posh Fans Initiative. Meetings with PUFC.
In another new initiative the Trust put on a bus service to the first home game of the New Year, serving fans from St Ives, Huntingdon, Chatteris, Doddington, March and Whittlesey. The experiment was repeated at later matches, but, despite a fare of only £5 a seat, it did not prove popular enough to warrant a regular service.
For some time the Trust had been monitoring an initiative taken by CFU, the Cambridge United supporters’ trust, to attract new fans by “blitzing” housing estates with the offer of free tickets to a forthcoming home match. It had been found that the scheme was very popular and a significant number had become regular fans. Towards the end of the 2007/08 season, with the full co-operation of PUFC, the Trust launched its New Posh Fans Initiative. About two dozen volunteers delivered leaflets to houses in the Orton with Hampton ward of the city, offering a total of a thousand tickets to the Posh v Stockport County match, subject to a limit of six tickets per household. The response was overwhelming, with demand exceeding supply only four days after the leafleting. Since the tickets were provided free of charge by PUFC, the cost of leaflets and postage was covered by sponsors and the legwork was done by volunteers, the scheme did not cost a penny. It proved so successful that it has since been repeated numerous times. Furthermore, all those who received a free ticket are on a database, enabling the Trust to make contact with them again in the future.
The first monthly meeting took place between Bob Symns of PUFC and the three supporters’ organisations.
At the Trust AGM Peter Lloyd resigned as chairman after four years in the post, to be replaced on a short-term basis by Tony Griffin.
The Trust decided to recognise the efforts of Posh players in the local community by awarding a Player Community Trophy. The first, very worthy recipient was Aaron Mclean.
2009: Wheelchair Enclosure. Success of New Posh Fans Initiatives.
The Trust, PISA and Forever Posh shared the cost of building the Wheelchair Enclosure, a shelter for the disabled in the Family Stand. The structure was kindly erected by VP Welding and R A Baker at cost price.
Tony Griffin resigned as chairman, with Peter Lloyd replacing him as acting chairman.
At the end of a second consecutive promotion season Peter Lloyd joined Chris Wayte (Forever Posh) and Adi Mowles (PISA) in presenting, on behalf of the fans, an inscribed crystal glass paperweight to Darragh Macanthony on the London Road pitch.
The Trust undertook a survey of a New Posh Fans Initiative. Of 125 respondents, 14 had never been to a Posh game before, yet as a result of their experience had subsequently bought 96 tickets for other games, while two planned to buy season tickets. The figures for 89 people who “had been but don’t go regularly” were even more impressive: they later bought 766 tickets and seven planned to buy season tickets.
At the AGM in October Peter Lloyd finally resigned after six years on the Trust board and five as chairman, being replaced by Barry Bennett as acting chairman. It was unanimously agreed that Peter should become the Trust’s consultant and occasional spokesman. Since then he has been a vital link between the Trust and Supporters Direct.
2010: Council buys London Road Stadium.
In September the Trust joined forces with PUFC to apply pressure on the City Council to eliminate the dreaded prospect of having no stadium in 2013 (when the PUHL lease was due to expire). In co-operation with PISA the Trust played a vital role in encouraging the council to purchase London Road from PUHL when the opportunity arose. Once this momentous decision had been taken (giving PUFC security of tenure at its home of 76 years), attention shifted to the gradual replacement of three stands, starting with Moy’s End.
At the AGM the Trust appointed a new chairman, Ady Woolley.
The Trust continued to organise New Posh Fans Initiatives. After the fourth of these events (at the home game against Swindon Town on 16 October) 3,800 new fans had come through the turnstiles courtesy of the Trust and PUFC. Under the scheme “new fans” receive the offer of a discounted ticket for the next home game, together with a questionnaire that enables the trust to monitor how many become regular visitors to London Road.
2011: New Moy’s End stand. Funding milestone.
When the City Council and PUFC announced the new Moy’s End stand and the STEM Centre, the Trust’s Paul Froggitt began to monitor the development. His first concerns were safe standing and the loss of car parking capacity. Although PUFC declared itself in favour of safe standing, the City Council stated that it had no incentive to pursue the option if the club had not actively requested it. The Trust has resolved to ensure that, when the London Road end is redeveloped, both the council and the club should be persuaded to break new ground by being the first to install this type of facility in this country.
After the resignation of Ady Woolley (owing to business commitments), Barry Bennett finally became the Trust chairman, having served as vice chairman for many years, acting chairman on two occasions, not to mention periods as acting secretary and acting membership secretary.
Ever since the establishment of the Trust its board members had only been able to gain entry to the football club’s AGM through its own shareholding and by obtaining proxies from members or other well-wishers – an administrative inconvenience. When the former PUFC chairman Bill Wilde died he left 500 shares. At the club’s suggestion, these were purchased by six members of the Trust board, thus giving them all automatic entry to PUFC AGMs. The Trust had the first option to buy if ever these individuals decided to sell them.
The trust was proud to announce that Tommy Robson, the holder of the club’s appearance record (514 between 1968 and 1981, scoring 128 goals), had agreed to become its Patron.
Towards the end of the year a significant milestone was reached when, thanks largely to the Gold Bond Super Draw administered by Walter Moore since 2004, the Trust’s funds reached £100,000. Whilst such a “war-chest” would not per se enable the Trust to take over the club if the present owner ever had to walk away from London Road – arguably not even £1m would be enough for that – nevertheless it would be better placed to conduct an effective “Save the Posh” campaign than it would have been almost ten years ago. And, of course, since then the Trust had developed more contacts, more knowledge and more experience to call on. As ever, the board hoped that that day would not come, but, like an insurance company, it was always ready to take action if the worst happened.
2012: Moy’s End: slow progress. Safe standing. Gold Bond.
The first half of 2012 saw Posh survive in the Championship, but once again struggle in their second season. Just as frustrating were the continual delays in commencing demolition of the Moy’s End stand and thus construction of the all-seater replacement, leading to the likelihood of a three-sided stadium for most of 2013.
The Posh Supporters’ Trust was established under the aegis of Supporters Direct, the Government-backed organisation, and has always been required to abide by its standards, rules and regulations. Early in the year Peter Lloyd, our former chairman (and now consultant to the Trust board), was elected to the Supporters Direct Council. This was a real feather in the cap for the Trust, the city, but most of all for Peter. Living in London, he was ideally placed to attend meetings at Supporters Direct, the Football Association or the Houses of Parliament.
One of the first issues Peter faced was that of the proposed Football Club Licensing Scheme, recommended by the Culture Media and Sport Select Committee of Parliament. This sought to impose limits on a football club’s amount of debt and also its expenditure (in relation to its income). After being primed by Trust chairman Barry Bennett, Shailesh Vara (MP for North West Cambridgeshire) agreed to attend a meeting in Parliament. He and 48 other MPs were given a presentation by Supporters Direct eight days before the Select Committee’s report on football governance was due to take place in a Westminster Hall Debate. Unfortunately, since then there has been little progress. The Football Supporters’ Federation said: “Overall, the FA is proposing to leave the governance of the professional game to the Premier League and Football League themselves”, while Peter summed it up as follows: “Money and power have got in the way and it’s not really happening. In fact, it looks as though power over such things will reside even closer to the club owners if current proposals go ahead.”
Paul Froggitt has continued to work assiduously on the “safe standing” issue. The Trust held a meeting of interested parties, including the club, supporters’ groups, a city councillor, plus representatives from the City Council’s design and project team and its safety advisory group. They were addressed by Jon Darch of the National Federation of Football Supporters’ Clubs, who confirmed that most clubs were in favour of the idea, but were reluctant to “go out on a limb”. However, there is some progress in Scotland towards the conversion of areas at some clubs. Following his visit to the Hannover 96 football stadium in Germany with representatives of the City Council, PUFC’s Bob Symns issued a very positive statement about the feasibility of incorporating safe standing areas in the proposed London Road End stand.
A major objective was achieved with the launch of a new, improved website that could be updated and controlled by the Board. This was completed with the expert help of VironMedia.
Once again the Trust attended the Peterborough Beer Festival to fly the flag for the Supporters’ Trust and sell Posh merchandise, thus promoting the Trust and the club in the community.
In seven more New Posh Fan Initiatives the Trust entertained a total of 750 guests from Dogsthorpe and another 400 from the Orton Waterville area.
In August Walter Moore announced that, after eight years of hard work creating and then running the Gold Bond franchise, it was time to hand over to someone else. However, the Board was relieved when he reconsidered his decision for the time being, opting to make his collections every fortnight. As all members will recognise, Gold Bond has been responsible for generating over 65% of the Trust’s income ever since Walter persuaded the Board to adopt the scheme. When it entered its eleventh year in November, the Trust owed its strong financial position – a net worth exceeding £108,000 – to Gold Bond. It will continue to be in Walter’s debt for that and of course his wise counsel as a director.
2013: Relegation, but progress at last at Moy’s End
Peterborough United entered the New Year occupying 23rd place in the Championship, apparently doomed once again to relegation in its second season at that level. However, after winning 8, drawing 8 and losing only 5 of its last 21 matches, the club came within an inch of survival, succumbing only to a late, late goal at Crystal Palace in a 3-2 defeat. Despite the prospect of League One football, the sale of Dwight Gayle and the continuing lack of progress regarding the Moy’s End stand, Posh fans appeared to be optimistic about the club’s future, largely because it had retained most of the 2012/13 squad, which had played so well since the New Year. A succession of stunning league and cup performances ensured that the euphoria lasted well into the 2013/14 season.
Trust secretary John Henson had a pleasant duty to perform on 1 June, when he accepted on behalf of Peterborough United the BBC Radio Five Live “Best Away Day” award at the Echo Arena in Liverpool. The statistics proved that the award was well deserved: among Championship clubs Posh had the highest average number of away fans at 2,045, compared with an overall average of 1,360; the lowest club average was Middlesbrough’s at 668.
As usual the Trust had a stand at the Peterborough Beer Festival in August, not only promoting interest in Peterborough United, but also selling merchandise on behalf of the club.
There was a further development regarding the ongoing campaign – promoted strongly by the Trust for the past two years – for safe standing, in particular at London Road. At the Supporters’ Summit, hosted by Supporters Direct and the Football Supporters’ Federation, at St George’s Park, Burton-on-Trent, Bob Symns, the Posh CEO, spoke in favour of safe standing alongside his counterpart at Aston Villa, who holds similar views.
At the same conference other interesting topics were discussed, including:
the Supporters Liaison Officer, a new role being introduced in the UK following successful trials in Europe. It is considered a position best held by a fan, rather than a member of the football club’s staff;
the protection of football stadia as “assets of community value”.
At the eleventh AGM on 10 October the Chairman, Barry Bennett, advised that the Trust had continued to campaign to improve the governance of football and for the installation of safe standing, while continually liaising with the club concerning stadium development and the New Posh Fans Initiatives. A new, monthly e-newsletter was being circulated to members.
The Secretary, John Henson, reported that the Trust was the second biggest shareholder in PUFC, with 1,410 shares. Board members continued to attend regional meetings, while also travelling to the Supporters Summit conference near Burton.
In addition to the retirement of Paul Froggitt, the Trust was sad to receive the resignation, on health grounds, of long-standing board member Paul Little. Both had contributed hugely to the development of the Trust.
Before the end of the year the Moy’s End terrace was demolished in readiness for the development of a new stand and the adjacent STEM Centre, thus reducing London Road to a three-sided ground for the duration of the contract.
This record of 2013 should not pass without a brief mention of an invaluable new reference book, The Official History of Peterborough United FC, written by long-time Trust member Mick Robinson and Andy Groom
2014: Significant progress off the field
Despite an unsuccessful 2013/14 League One campaign, there were numerous examples of progress off the field during 2014.
On 13 January The Posh Supporters’ Trust applied to Peterborough City Council (PCC) for the London Road Stadium to be listed as an Asset of Community Value (ACV). If approved, this would give community groups such as the Trust (a) the right to know about the proposed sale of important land and buildings, such as the stadium, and (b) an option to make a bid for the asset under the “Community Right to Bid” scheme, with sufficient time allowed for a proposal to be prepared. The stadium owner, PCC, would have to notify the Trust and PUFC of its intention to sell. If the Trust wished to make a bid, an expression of interest (EOI) in buying on behalf of the community would need to be made within 6 weeks; a further 4½ months would be allowed for an offer to be submitted. During this time the stadium could not be sold to a third party; there would be no obligation for the vendor to sell to the community. The designation of London Road Stadium as an ACV would give additional assurance over the longer term future of the stadium and the opportunity to be involved in decisions about its future. When the application was finally approved on 4 July, London Road joined 14 other football stadia designated as ACVs, including Old Trafford, Anfield and Ewood Park, Blackburn.
A major objective was achieved when the Trust launched a museum section on its website. Its sections on team photos, shirts, books, programmes, fanzines, Trust newsletters, tickets, season-ticket covers etc have proved very popular with Posh supporters.
The Trust continued to monitor the discussions between PUFC and the City Council (PCC) regarding the redevelopment (or otherwise) of London Road Stadium after the completion of the new Moy’s End Stand. It was understood that PCC would pay £1m to “retro-fit” London Road End at no cost to the club. This would enable PUFC to enter into a 25-year lease with an all-seater stadium, as required by the Football League if Posh gained promotion to the Championship. The longer-term aspiration is for London Road End to be developed in partnership with a third party, e.g. a hotel, to develop a behind-the-stand facility.
The Trust continued to campaign, alongside Supporters Direct, to improve the governance of football in the UK. While Parliament agreed that change was necessary, little progress was made to obtain a fair deal for lower-league clubs, owing to the Premier League’s refusal to allow the redistribution of media money that would help to safeguard the existence of smaller clubs.
Sadly Paul Little passed away on 3 July. He was an active and valued member of the Trust Board for 9 years from 2004 until he retired in 2013 owing to ill health. His ideas and detailed analysis of projects were highly valued.
A long-planned restructure of the Trust board saw Barry Bennett step down as Chairman after almost five years in the role, to be replaced by John Henson, one of the original founder members. Ray Cole became the new Secretary, while Barry Bennett took over responsibility for membership.
On 22 November the long-awaited 2,600-seater Moy’s End Stand was opened for the home game against Swindon Town (unfortunately won 2-1 by the visitors). Given the opportunity, 1,700 home supporters used the new facility, which was officially named the Motorpoint Stand, after a local car dealership. Four days later London Road itself was named The ABAX Stadium, following the signing of a 5-year deal with a Norwegian company that manages car fleets.
In the league, another exhilarating start was followed by a slump, but the return of the “Mac Attack” – Aaron Mclean and Craig Mackail Smith – gave fans some hope for 2015.
2015: Another eventful year
Eight years after his first coming and four years after his return to London Road, team manager Darren Ferguson finally left Peterborough United on 21 February as another promotion bid faltered. His replacement, on a caretaker basis until the end of the 2014/15 season, was the Academy Manager, Dave Robertson. A succession of wins proved to be a false dawn and Posh finished in ninth spot. During the summer the Chairman decided to hand the position to Robertson, but after a disastrous start he wielded the axe, appointing Graham Westley (best known for three successful spells at Stevenage Borough), with Grant McCann as his assistant. At a fans’ forum in November MacAnthony admitted he had made a mistake: “I was lazy,” he said. Immediately results improved and Posh, looking like promotion challengers rather than no-hopers, moved into the play-off zone; the transformation was assisted by astute moves in the transfer market.
Ten weeks before the General Election Supporters Direct launched its own manifesto to reform British football. This focused on numerous issues identified in the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee Review of Football Governance 2013, which recommended sweeping changes, though sadly many of these have so far been blocked. As an elected member of SD, the Posh Supporters’ Trust’s own Peter Lloyd continued to work tirelessly towards increasing supporter influence, power and ownership.
The saddest event of 2015 was the death on 27 April of Chris Turner, former centre-half, captain, manager, director and chairman of Peterborough United. Three months later a friendly match between Posh and Cambridge United raised £566.73 in aid of Glennfield Care Home, where he spent the last years of his life. By November an appeal was launched to raise £80,000 for a statue to commemorate Chris’s contribution to the club. By the end of the year over a third of this sum had been raised.
The Trust’s on-line museum continued to expand, with fifteen sections ranging from badges and books through to team photos and tickets.
Off the field the Posh chairman advised that work on the London Road End terrace would be unlikely to happen while Posh remained in League One. The club held discussions with Peterborough City Council about (i) its rent and (ii) the possibility that PCC could contribute towards improving the London Road pitch during the summer and the training ground car park at Castor.
During 2015 long-serving Trust directors Ray Cole and Geoff Callen left the board, but both continue to serve the Trust in connection with the on-line museum and Gold Bond respectively. They were replaced by Kim Cozens, Frank Harburn, David Martin and Nicky Ormond, the largest influx of new blood for many years. At the AGM in October the Trust’s “nest-egg” showed a further increase, thanks once again to the income from Walter Moore’s Gold Bond. Though Darragh MacAnthony is in his tenth year as chairman of Peterborough United and we hope will remain for many years, the Trust will always require a healthy bank balance just in case it ever has to launch a campaign to purchase the club or act as an honest broker in saving it. That is its raison d’etre. This truth was perhaps underlined by Mr MacAnthony’s claim (at the fans’ forum) that he had turned down a bid for the club that would have meant a relocation of the club outside the city. He considered that work on the London Road End terrace would to happen while Posh remained in League One. Graham Westley closed the night by thanking the fans for making him feel so welcome, prompting a standing ovation from the fans. All proceeds from the evening went to the ‘Chris Turner Statue Fund’.
Also in 2015 the PFA introduced across the whole of the Football League a Community Player of the year for each club, so after seven years the final winner of the PST’s Community Award went to Jack Baldwin. The other winners of the award since its inception were Aaron McLean (2008/09), Joe Lewis (2009/10), Tommy Rowe (2010/11), Craig Alcock (2011/12), Grant McCann (2012/13) and Mark Little (2013/14).
2016: Never a dull moment
The old adage that “there’s never a dull moment…” can be applied to most football clubs and supporters’ organisations. Peterborough United FC and The Posh Supporters’ Trust are certainly no exceptions. The first match of 2016, a 3-2 victory at Bramall Lane, Sheffield, could not have been better, but turned out to be a false dawn.
In February the Posh chairman, Darragh MacAnthony, promised to find a new owner for the club if promotion was not achieved within 18 months. But a week later, while answering questions from supporters on social media from his home in the USA, he tried to dilute the impact of this revelation: “My statement was intended to show my confidence in our team; it wasn’t a threat to quit or an attempt to get people to persuade me to stay”.
Mr MacAnthony backed Graham Westley and his playing squad to “come good” after a run of poor form and results, adding that the much-maligned manager would still be at the club in the summer even if the bad run continued. Two months later, on 23 April, Westley was sacked after only seven months in the post. His assistant, Grant McCann, was given two matches as caretaker manager and then, following back-to-back wins, became a popular choice for the vacant job with a four-year contract. Once again the club’s promotion bid petered out, with Posh finishing 13th in League One.
In February Mr MacAnthony had also spoken of his desire to buy the stadium back from Peterborough City Council within two years: “We are paying £700-800,000 in dead rent money every year and that’s too much for us. That’s not a criticism of the City Council, as they have been very supportive, but I should have tried harder to buy the ground when I first took over.”
Towards the end of the 2015/16 season many Posh fans welcomed Mark Tyler back to London Road as goalkeeping coach and an able back-up keeper. He had been at Luton Town for seven years making 257 league appearances for the Hatters.
The first half of Posh’s 2016/17 season was marked by inconsistency that kept the club hovering just inside the play-off zone or struggling to stay in touch. But the year ended with the prospect of a wonderful away day at Stamford Bridge in the FA Cup Third Round in January.
2016 saw great progress in raising funds for the Chris Turner Statue Appeal, whose target was £80,000; the Trust played its part by donating £5,000.
One highlight of 2016 was the sponsorship of the Posh v AFC Wimbledon match on 22 October by the former Trust chairman, Peter Lloyd. As a director of Supporters Direct and a resident of the area near Wimbledon FC’s original home at Plough Lane and AFC Wimbledon’s current stadium in Kingston-upon-Thames, AFC Wimbledon’s first visit to London Road was a perfect choice of game for Peter to sponsor as a celebration of his 50 years as a Posh fan. The only dampener was the result, a Posh defeat.
It was all-change at the Supporters’ Trust AGM on 28 November, with the retirement of three long-serving and dedicated board members: Keith Jennings, Walter Moore and Geoff Callen. John Henson stepped down as Chairman and took Barry Bennett’s post as Secretary, while Barry moved to Treasurer/Membership. Ray Cole is the new Chairman, to be assisted by John Lawrence (taking Walter’s mantle as Gold Bond Manager), Ken Storey (Trust Stall Manager) and Frank Harburn (Publicity & Social Media). Ray announced inter alia the launch of five new sections in the magnificent on-line museum: Cult Heroes, The FA Cup, Match Reports, Player Profiles and Mr/Miss Posh. But perhaps an even more important item of news was the re-establishment of an “action plan” to prepare the Trust to take an active role in the future ownership of the club, if the current owner decided to sell and move on. While the current Posh chairman has brought welcome stability to the club over the last ten years, Supporters Direct has, with Government backing, been developing new forms of full or part ownership of football clubs by supporters or communities. Like an insurance policy, one hopes that the action plan will not be needed.
2017: Steady progress…and a statue
On 14 January 2017 Peterborough United travelled to Swindon for a League One match. What was special about that? The answer: the Posh support that day included the club statistician, Mick Robinson, who was attending his 900th straight match home and away. Mick, who has co-written two books about the club, last missed a game in May 1997, when Matthew Etherington made his Posh debut away to Brentford. We salute Mick for his dedication to the club and his membership of the Trust from the beginning.
On the field Posh finished the 2016-17 season disappointingly in eleventh position 38 points behind the runaway leaders, Sheffield United, but also 11 points behind the play-off positions. Given the continued backing of his chairman, Grant McCann assembled a strong-looking squad for 2017-18 that started well, but faltered in the autumn when Junior Morias sustained a long-term injury. However, by the end of the year, with Posh hovering just below the play-off zone, maintaining interest in the FA Cup and boasting free-scoring strikers in Jack Marriott and Danny Lloyd (fed by Marcus Maddison), there was still hope of finishing in the top six.
Perhaps the highlight of 2017 was 1 September 2017, a much-anticipated day in the history of Peterborough United. A large crowd gathered outside the ABAX Stadium to witness the unveiling of the statue to the late, great Chris Turner by his widow Lynne. Since he played 364 times for Posh and was also its captain, manager and chairman, he deserves the accolade “legend” beyond any possible doubt. Among those present were many who played alongside him or under his managership, including such firm favourites as John Cozens, Bobby Barnes and David Gregory. The driving force behind this important project was the indomitable Adi Mowles.
In 2017 the size of the Trust board (six) limited its ability to achieve all it wanted to do. Nevertheless, it was represented at all the monthly meetings between the club and the supporters’ groups. Once again it increased its gross asset value – now over £145,000 – thanks as always to the Gold Bond scheme. The ‘Smile’ Scheme was resurrected. The Posh on-line museum was expanded even further, making it even more valuable for Posh fans eager to learn about the history of their club. Looking ahead, the chairman, Ray Cole, announced a new vision for the Trust, exemplified by the following strap line: “Connecting club and community – safeguarding the future of Peterborough United by ensuring all fans have a voice”. The need for the Trust to exist remains as real as ever, while three new faces on the board will help the Trust achieve its new objectives.
2018: Disappointment, New Manager, Proposed Sale of the ABAX
2017-18 Season. Fifty-six days into 2018 Grant McCann’s tenure of the manager’s office ended as Posh lost contact with the League One front-runners. It was a sad conclusion for someone who had been an inspiration on and off the pitch since 2010.
He was replaced by a man whose name had been touted as “the next manager of Peterborough United” for about 20 years: Steve Evans. Never far from controversy, he had enjoyed a successful managerial career, clinching promotions at Stamford, Boston United, Crawley Town and Rotherham United. But when he arrived on 28 February, it was too late to salvage even a play-off place, despite Jack Marriott’s heroics as top scorer in the division. Posh finished in ninth place, 32 points behind second-placed Blackburn Rovers and 7 points below the play-off zone.
2018-2019 Season. Steve Evans’s approach was to make drastic changes to the squad, purchasing new talent with the money obtained from the sale of Marriott and others.
What happened? Let’s put it this way. When Usain Bolt retired from athletics he tried (at the age of 32) to win a lucrative contract with Australian A-League club Central Coast Mariners. He trained with the squad in pre-season, reportedly finding the going very tough – his incredible speed over short distances was not adaptable to the 8-10 miles routinely covered by many players during matchplay. What has this to do with Posh? Well, once again, Posh started 2018-19 like a sprinter, winning their first five league matches, seemingly unaware that a football season is a marathon. But after an indifferent run with too many drawn games they begin 2019 outside the play-off places, but there is still time to turn results around in the second half of the season.
Proposed sale of ABAX Stadium. Towards the end of 2018 a long-awaited event, the return of the football ground to the club, became a cause célèbre when the Trust opted to exercise its legal right to scrutinise the proposed deal. Under the Localism Act 2011 an asset of community value (ACV) is land or property of importance to a local community that is subject to additional protection from development; voluntary and community organisations such as The Posh Supporters’ Trust can nominate an asset to be included on their local authority’s register of assets of community value.
This action attracted criticism from Darragh MacAnthony, Stewart Thompson and Jason Neale, who intend to create a “body corporate” investment company, which would use investors’ money to develop the ABAX Stadium to a state suitable for sustained Championship football. If the current stadium were deemed incapable of development to the desired capacity, they might build a new stadium “in close proximity”.
Sadly, even stronger condemnation came from fellow supporters who may not have appreciated that the Trust represents dedicated Posh fans seeking to safeguard the future of our much-loved football club.
While the Trust welcomes the prospect of the football club and its ground being re-united, the current proposals will see the ground and the club being registered to 2 different entities. The Trust has no reason to doubt the commitment of the PUFC directors to the club, but we are obligated to scrutinise every aspect of a ground purchase, to avoid any complex and convoluted deal such as that which led to the loss of the club’s ground in 2003.
By the end of 2018 the Trust decided not make a bid to buy the stadium. Whilst we had a right to bid with the ACV, it was never our intention to exercise that option, as we would only have considered doing so if it was to help the football club in the event of a crisis. The ACV itself did provide us with more time to further understand details of proposed sale of the stadium. We will continue to have meetings with the Council and the football club to help promote the best outcome for the benefit of the community and the stakeholders.
Elsewhere…The Trust continued to take an active role in promoting the club’s interests by: participating in PUFC Supporter Liaison Meetings; attending the club’s kit launch, open training and day events; sponsoring Posh Ladies; assisting in the club’s Hall of Fame event; continually adding to and updating the Posh on-line museum; signing a partnership agreement with the online betting company Fansbet, which returns 50% of its net profit to supporters’ groups; providing 15 SMILE treats to deserving people, including to customers of three charitable organisations; supporting petitions for Premier League and EFL Championship clubs to have safe-standing at their stadiums; promoting Supporters Direct initiatives to protect clubs, their heritage and facilities.
Sadly the Trust had to give up its stall in the Family Stand, because the club wanted more space back to alleviate queues for drinks at half time in the South Stand. A new position is actively being sought.