In October of 1998 a meeting in the Centre Spot saw the forming of an embryonic group that would eventually become known as the Lincoln City Supporters Trust. In those dark days of administration and financial uncertainty, the Trust played a crucial role in helping to stabilise the club. Eventually Trust member Rob Bradley ascended to chairman.
We should never forget the gift of shares that John Reames gave to the club as he stepped down as chairman, shares entrusted to those running the old Trust.
As the years wore on the function of the Trust seemed to change. Rob stepped down as chairman allowing Steff Wright and Ray Trew to take the helm, and although the Trust still played an active role, it’s importance seemed to diminish as the years went on. Over a period of time, belief in the Trust faded away.
Since relegation the Lincoln City Supporters Trust has lurched from disaster to crisis and back again. Damaging court cases, illegal elections and even claims of bank hacking. The headlines tumbled out one after another, leaving the once proud organisation a laughing stock. I’m not here to analyse what went wrong, but I am aware that the fall out from those times still smarts with some to this day.
Rob Bradley worked incredibly hard to bring the Trust back together, but in June of last year he was deemed ‘not suitable’ to join the club board. At the time he spoke to the Lincolnshire Echo, and said:
“The Club Board have subsequently instructed the Trust Gold Member Supporter Director, through whom I had originally approached the club board, to inform me that I would not be suitable to join the Club Board, so I have had to withdraw as a candidate. Whilst I am of course very disappointed to have been told this it also means that, as Trust Chair who has to work with individuals within the Club, under these new circumstances this would clearly be very difficult.”
Rob had worked incredibly hard as part of a working party that put the organisation back together again after the 2014 en-mass resignation of the Trust Board. His work included travelling to France to thrash out deals with people, and tireless effort in bringing everything back together.
“I was originally involved in helping to set the up the Trust many years ago and over the last couple of years have been a part of the ‘working party’ and then the newly launched Red Imps Community Trust, doing my best to lead them through some difficult times. We now have around 400 members and rising which is great news. I would like to thank everyone who has been involved with the Trust for taking the organisation forward.”
Six months on, the Red Imps Community Trust are looking to become more active around the club. What has changed though, and why should fans now place faith in the group?
“There’s a completely new Trust Board, so I guess that’s new. New people, good people who only ask for a chance to prove themselves in this exciting new era for LCFC.”
Those were the words of Trust Board member Peter Doyle when I enquired what was new about the latest incarnation of the Trust. It’s clear they’re looking to get the message out that there has been sweeping changes, and they’ll do it anyway they can.
“Only by people like you giving an opportunity to prove ourselves (can we get the message out). The past is indeed the past. I assure you the “past” is behind us, as you eloquently relate in your blogs all things LCFC are not stuck in the past. I have a number of ideas, alongside my fellow Board Members, to show how the new Trust are supporting the local community.”
Although things have been quiet on the Trust front up until recently, they are incredibly proactive at the moment. They’re looking to introduce a memorial wall at the ground, and recently had a very successful race night too. Fund raising is at the forefront of their mantra.
“Fundraising has been on going this season to date: We made a £7k+ Gold Membership payment. The race night raised circa £1,600k with additional £600.00 of prizes won by the people who attended, all being LCFC related and redeemed via the Club Shop. All bar/food takings on the night go direct to LCFC.”
One particularly bitter discussion has been regarding the flexibility of the old Trust when it came to fund raising. They could debate for weeks over how to raise money, and in the same time things such as the Fan Player Scheme and Cowley’s Campaign raise great amounts of money with very little red tape. When I put this to Peter, he suggested that the new Trust may be different again.
“My role on the Board is to be more proactive than reactive. The fact we are having this conversation proves this . “In it to Win It”, together. New people are on board. Give us a chance.”
It certainly seems to be the rallying cry from the new faces involved. However, many fans find it hard to move on from the dark days, when some Trust board members seemed more interested in ‘hob nobbing’ in the board room and enjoying hospitality, when instead their focus should have been getting amongst the fans they have the honour to represent at board level.
“We have a representative on the LCFC Board, Steve Tointon, who attends all games and is available to speak to supporters and answer any questions that people may have. We also meet as a group at three match days per season, where we hold a meeting with the main board and manager and have an open forum Q&A.”
That will go some way to appeasing those who have a distrust of the organisation, but the shadow cast by the actions of some former members does still hang over the new faces. How does Peter feel that things can move on?
“We are actually seeking new Gold Members of the Trust at £1,200 for a five year period that also includes 1,000 shares in LCFC. Regarding any comparison with previous Gold Members, I can’t comment as I am new to the scheme and as such had no dealings with them.”
Of course it shouldn’t be forgotten that the Trust have a million shares in the Lincoln City Holding Company, and a further 70 thousand in the club itself. With a place on the board as well there isn’t particularly a question of relevance, the Red Imps Trust still has a role to play in the club in the future.
I have always been a firm believer in the idea of a Supporters Trust having representation on the board, and it saddened me to see the decline and destruction experienced a few years ago. The hard work put in by Rob Bradley and the working party has brought some semblance of order back, but whether there is scope for them to shed the tainted past is something else entirely. Yes, it a new board and it a new brand, but in the eyes of many the Trust is still the lumbering beast that lurched from crisis to crisis in the months after relegation.
If the sincerity of Peter Doyle and Tom Robinson is any indication, then there is reason to give the Trust another chance to reassert itself as a relevant and effective body, and whilst it will often be judged on fundraising alone, I think there is more to be had from supporter representation on the board than mere financials.
Peter is keen to ensure that the spectre of the past doesn’t continue to haunt those working hard today.
“I only ask for an opportunity to be judged on the present and not the past. UTI.”
For more information visit http://www.impstrust.uk/