On behalf of the Board of Directors I want to start by thanking you for your tireless support. Your backing in these unprecedented times has been truly remarkable. The last few months have been extremely challenging for everyone and your backing has not, and will never be, taken for granted.
Following the recent appointment of three new Directors to the Board, a new Head of Football Operations and with around a month to go until the start of the new season, it now seems an appropriate time to bring you up to speed on some of the work that has been going on ‘behind the scenes’.
It is clear that the pandemic and the early ending of last season have had a very significant impact on the Club. We’ve spent a substantial amount of time and effort in the past six months dealing with a number of challenges we will face in the coming season and planning for the long term. Yet, despite those challenges and testament to your backing, we’ve been able to provide Lee and David with the resources to put together a squad that we believe is capable of taking us back to the Championship.
Falkirk is a community club and we believe strongly that you, the fans that support it, should have the chance to be part of the ownership structure. This applies to every fan and not just a wealthy few.
To that end a number of supporters were asked earlier this year to bring forward proposals for the creation of an Official Falkirk Supporters Association, which would allow supporters to accrue a significant shareholding in the club. The model, which is still a work in progress, would allow supporters to sign up and would result in the new association gaining representation on the Club’s Board. All parties involved in discussions believe this approach has a real chance of achieving change in the medium term, while boosting the Club’s finances in the short term. There will be more to say on this very soon but I would emphasise that this group will operate independently from the club and will be led by you the fans.
However, we do not believe that increased fan ownership in isolation is the complete answer. We’ve spoken with leading researchers and experts in the subject of fan ownership and to other clubs who have gone down this route. Everyone acknowledges that whilst there are benefits, there are also pitfalls – not least with bringing in new external investment as and when needed.
For this reason we think that attracting a level of new external finance is an important part of our future ownership structure – but critically, this external investment must not purely be about money, it needs to bring value-adding expertise and the type of people who share our desire to return this Club to the Premiership. We believe that to achieve our ambitions we will require external investment.
Our vision is to create a balanced ownership structure for Falkirk where no individual or group has a majority shareholding in the club. This avoids the potential for any one shareholder group to ‘bulldoze’ through their plans for the club. However, this creates other challenges. Not least, the need for different stakeholders to work together to create the platform for success that we all want to see. The ability to collaborate and for everyone to pull in the same direction is something that has been missing from the club for some time but we are committed to rectifying this.
Any discussion or debate around investment or shares in the football club focuses attention on the Major Shareholders’ Group (the MSG). Whilst it’s true that the MSG’s collective shareholding is currently more than 60% of the share capital, they are extremely supportive of our plans to bring a new and more balanced ownership structure to the club which in turn will significantly dilute their current shareholding level. We can also confirm that some of the major shareholders have decided that this is the time for them to sell their shares in the club.
At the upcoming AGM shareholders will be asked to vote on new Articles of Association for the Club which will, amongst other things, enshrine supporter representation on the Board and remove all references to the Major Shareholders Group (MSG). The latter point was done at the request of the MSG.
A key component of our plans is the raising of fresh finance to help fund our push back to the Premiership. In support of this we are planning a new share issue which will be open to every fan, and which will generate additional funds for the Club.
More immediately, we are delighted to announce that we have reached an agreement in principle with new stakeholders who wish to make a significant investment in Falkirk FC. Phil & Carrie Rawlins are US based investors with extensive expertise in football and business. Phil is the Founder and Life President of the MLS club, Orlando City. Phil is also a former Director of his hometown football club, Stoke City; of which during his time on the Board at Stoke the club rose from Division One to the English Premier League. Carrie spent the first 12 years of her career as a consultant with Deloitte & Touche and subsequently became an angel investor and board member of several small businesses in the USA. Additionally, while being semi-retired, Carrie & Phil have spent the past few years consulting with football leagues and clubs around the world through their company – Sleeping Giant Consulting. The Rawlins’ live in Colorado with their two teenage children.
Phil and Carrie have been working for several months on a potential investment in a football club in Europe and particularly Scotland. As a Board, we have spent significant time getting to know them and ensuring that our respective ambitions for the club are completely aligned. We believe that they bring enormous expertise and connections which will benefit the club but likewise they see huge potential in Falkirk to build a successful community focused club which operates successfully in the Scottish Premiership.
It’s important to point out that the Club is not for sale and the Rawlins’ do not have any plans to be majority owners of the Club. They completely buy-in to what we are striving to do, and our vision of a balanced ownership structure, a structure that is only successful when fans get to invest and support simultaneously with outside investors.
This is an exciting and important development for Falkirk FC. There remains work to do to finalise this deal and we will of course keep you updated as matters develop.
As a board, we believe the changes outlined above will set a solid foundation for the Club. The immediate priorities are clear – promotion to the Championship whilst managing the club’s finances closely through this difficult period.
However, it is important that we plan beyond the coming season. Our ambition is to be a successful, well managed, top-six Premiership football club recognised for playing attractive football with a blend of youth and experience. To do this we need to attract investment from a range of sources which will provide us with a platform for further progression to the Premiership.
We also know that we need to create a new youth system that allows us to find, develop and give young players the opportunity to play in our first team. This is not something that will happen overnight and it will necessitate input from those with significant experience in youth development. As a Board we are committed to delivering on this.
Finally, any organisation operates best when everyone pulls in the same direction. We know mistakes have been made in the past and you have our commitment that we will work tirelessly to learn from these and to right wrongs but also to deliver you a Club that you can be proud of. It won’t always be an easy path, there are bound to be bumps along the way, but there is a very bright future ahead for Falkirk if we all – Directors, staff, players, sponsors and fans – work together to achieve it.
All of the changes we are proposing are about changing the operations, finances and culture at the club to help deliver a winning team on the park, and to bring you, our supporters, with us on this journey. There will be scepticism for sure – but in time we hope you will see that we are committed to returning this Club back to the Premiership and staying there. We ask for your help and support and to join us on this exciting journey.