In a month in which the wee Jambos lifted the East of Scotland shield the FoH Board have been working hard on your behalf. In this month’s member blog we provide an update on the AGM, FoH finances and also take a look at how a version of fan ownership currently operates at FC Barcelona.
Members should have now received confirmation that the Foundation’s Annual General Meeting will take place at 2pm on Thursday 3rd December at Tynecastle Stadium. All formal papers will be sent to members at least 14 days in advance. Among other things, the confirmation of our AGM date also begins the election process for the next FoH member to join the Board following Ian Murray’s departure in the summer. The nomination period is now closed (further details and the process are available here)and we looking forward to a successful and exciting election process. We will update members on this very soon.
Last month we launched the first ever Heart of Midlothian fan tribute strip in association with the Club. Almost 2,000 strips have already been pre-ordered and both the Club and the Foundation have been absolutely delighted with the response it has received. Here are just a few of the comments received on the FoH Facebook page in the last month:
“What an honor to have our name beside club legends! Well done every pledger. We kept the heart beating” – Ross Warner
“Another amazing idea and gesture from the best run club in the world!! Proud to be a Jambo” – John Crossan
“I love this!! What an amazing piece of memorabilia to show your grandkids one day.” – Lorraine Wiseman
The shirts will be in-store from 15th November 2015 and can be pre-ordered online at www.heartsdirect.co.uk or in person at the Hearts Club Store on McLeod Street.
On Sunday 11th October we hosted another successful member plot ceremony at Tynecastle Stadium. The event was attended by members of the Hearts squad and Ann Budge as well an excited group of FoH pledgers. Over 300 plot certificates have now been issued to members and we will be sending out 150 invites per month going forward, with ceremonies arranged based on acceptances. As mentioned in last month’s blog, if you have reached the 1,000 point level you can expect to hear from us soon but please do be patient. Members will be invited in the order in which they hit the required level of points.
FoH October Plot Ceremony
Contributions continued at a level consistent with previous months in September, with a few one off payments (including pin badge donations) increasing average donation per member to over £16.20. With member numbers continuing to hold above 8,000 this means we remain well on track to deliver the BIDCO agreement on time and in line with plan. The Board will continue to look at initiatives aimed at growing the membership in the coming months. You can also play your part in the push for pledges by encouraging fellow supporters to join our movement and become part of creating history.
Match day stall
We’ve been in our usual location at the Tynecastle reception this month at the Aberdeen and Kilmarnock games. More fans than ever before have popped in to pledge, pick up a pin badge or just simply to chat directly about anything Foundation or Hearts FC related. It is never a chore to field your questions and we’ve also received useful suggestions and feedback. Last month one fan insisted on paying £70 for one pin badge, re-emphasising how much he loved his club and point blank refusing to take any change. An amazing gesture. We will never take such trust and commitment for granted.
Total donations from pin badges at our stall has now exceeded £2.5k. Thanks to all who have bought one so far. A limited number still remain and will be available before the Ross Country game.
FC Barcelona: A fan ownership case study
We mentioned in our August blog that a key task for the Foundation’s Governance committee is to research successful fan ownership models. FC Barcelona is widely regarded in the football world as the poster-child for the fan ownership/non-profit governance model. Its affairs have been in the spotlight recently, with the election in July of a new club president. This section of the blog looks in more detail at the club’s structure. The information provided is a factual summary and is not in any way an avocation of the model adopted by FC Barcelona or a suggestion that we intend to adopt this model or any element thereof. We will include a look at models operated by other clubs in future blogs in order that members can share in and comment on our ongoing research.
Like Hearts FC and the Foundation, FC Barcelona is a legal entity, separate and distinct from its members. It has over 175,000 registered members (socios), including around 24,000 who live outside Catalonia. The annual adult membership fee is currently €177. This entitles the member to benefits such as a free tour of the stadium, discounts in the club shop, a copy of the club’s bi-monthly newsletter and eligibility for season tickets (which are historically cheaper than in the UK). All profits and surpluses stay within the club.
With such a large membership, the club’s constitution does not provide for annual and other general meetings of members. Instead, there is a members’ representative body called the “general assembly”. This is made up of approximately 3,000 members. Most of these are drawn at random from the full membership, but a small number of places are also reserved for veteran members and members chosen by the board of directors of the club. The term of office as a member of the general assembly is two years.
General assemblies meet annually and are able to vote on a range of issues. These include (i) approval of the annual accounts, (ii) approval of the annual expenditure budget, (iii) setting the membership fee, (iv) proposals to incur significant borrowing commitments or enter into certain material transactions, (v) changes to the constitution, and (vi) first team shirt sponsorship.
The main democratic right of the full membership is to elect the club president and board of directors. The board is made up of a minimum of 14, and a maximum of 21, directors. A system of block nominations is used, whereby each of the candidates standing for election as president must put forward their own list of board candidates, who automatically join the board if their candidate is successful. Under Spanish law, the directors may have to provide a bank guarantee against financial mismanagement. This makes it potentially difficult for rank-and-file members to stand as candidates. Voting to elect the president and board is by secret ballot, with members of the club voting in person at a designated polling station.
Directors (including the president) have a six-year term of office, and the maximum continuous term is 12 years. At any time, 5% or more of the club members, or 50% of the assembly delegates, may call for a vote of no confidence against all or some of the board members. To be effective, the vote of no confidence must be passed by a two-thirds majority of the votes cast. If the vote is passed, the censured directors must stand down.
Presidential elections at FC Barcelona are very high-profile affairs. Candidates participate in televised debates and woo supporters with big promises to sign superstar players. In the recent 2015 presidential election, voting took place at Camp Nou, and, on election day, the club went to great lengths to create a party-like atmosphere at the stadium for members, friends and family. Over 47,000 members voted, and flashbulbs popped as players, ex-players and famous fans posed in front of the ballot boxes. The winning candidate, Josep Maria Bartomeu, stood for election on a platform which included plans for a stadium redevelopment which would increase capacity to 105,000.
It has to be said that, as a model of fan democracy, the FC Barcelona structure is not without flaws. The main shortcoming is an over-concentration of power in the president. Although the president is democratically elected, there is insufficient transparency and accountability to members once he or she is in office. The general assembly of members has no formal influence over many areas of club policy, and, at board level, there is no independent oversight of the president’s activities, as the other directors are beholden to him for their seats on the board. Consequently, most recent presidents have tended to exercise a high level of personal control over the club’s management.
Nevertheless, the model is largely effective in practice. Members do exercise real influence. The club’s affairs are widely debated and candidly discussed, and members are not slow to make their dissatisfaction with a president known. The model consistently delivers a successful football team on the field, and it has enabled the club to develop into the fourth largest football club in the world.
As ever, all feedback and comments on this month’s blog are welcomed. Please use the comments section below to share your thoughts.
A reminder if you have not yet seen our ‘Keeping the Hearts Beating’ video mentioned in previous blogs this can now be viewed here. The video tells the story of how the fans of HMFC saved the Club and we hope all members view it with pride.