Dons Trust Secretary David Hall explains why a resolution for the Dons Trust Special General Meeting next month matters to every fan, and why it is essential for our return to Merton.
Last summer , the Dons Trust Board (DTB) consulted with DT members about a proposed Community Share offer, a new way of raising funds for major capital projects. The income raised by the scheme was to be mostly earmarked to keep The Cherry Red Records Stadium up to Football League standards and avoid any threat of being demoted.
In the event, we were able to pay for the new Nongshim Stand in other ways, and after extensive talks with the regulatory authorities we were able to avoid having to carry out significant changes to the East Stand. So the DTB shelved the Community Shares proposal, although they knew that its time would, sooner or later, come again – a time when we would need access to significant funds to help pay for a new stadium in Merton.
Scroll forward to today, and first the good news: since the autumn, progress on a potential return to Wimbledon has been such that the DTB has accepted the Football Club Board’s recent recommendation that we should start preparing now for the time when we may need to have new funds ready to finance aspects of the new stadium project.
The not-so-good news is that, before we can launch a Community Share Scheme, we have to make some changes to the Dons Trust constitution. And before you either doze off or flip to the next page, let me explain why this needs to be flagged as “really important”, and why your vote will matter.
THE CHANGE – AND WHY WE NEED TO MAKE IT
The only type of shares we can issue under the DT constitution (largely unchanged since 2002) are membership shares. What we would like to do is to be able to issue also a type of share whose purpose is to raise finance for community benefit. These are known as Community Shares. So we need to ask DT members, through a formal voting process, to agree to a proposed amendment that will enable the DT to do this. And, because the amendment is constitutionally quite significant, to implement it we need at least 25% of current DT members to vote, of whom at least three-quarters must to do so in support of the amendment.
THE REALLY IMPORTANT BIT
A Community Share issue is our best way of collectively raising funds from the community to help us return to Merton. There are a number of reasons for this, but the main ones are that it puts our position of supporter ownership of the club at the least risk, it is fairest to supporters investing, and it is cost- effective for the club. Sums approaching £5 million have been raised from Community Share offers at the likes of FC United of Manchester, Portsmouth and Wrexham, and the money keeps coming in.
The DTB plans to discuss the constitutional amendment resolution at the SGM on 7 May, and we’re exploring ways to enable DT members to register their vote online. We’ll let members know the options shortly. There will be plenty of communications in the next few weeks about the resolution, and later about the Community Shares proposal itself. We want to make sure that everyone has the opportunity to remind themselves – or indeed find out about it for the first time – of how Community Shares work, what it means for individual investors and, perhaps most importantly, how such an offer ensures that our club remains in the hands of its present owners: us, the fans.
THE SGM RESOLUTION IN A NUTSHELL
- The DT Constitution needs to be amended before the DTB can launch a Community Share scheme.
- Only current DT members can vote for or against the resolution to amend the DT Constitution.
- For the amendment to be passed, at least 25% of DT members must vote for or against the amendment, and 75% of those voting must vote in favour of the amendment.
This article was originally published in the Exeter City matchday programme.