east STIRLINGSHIRE have a new owner - supporters’ network The ShireTrust.
At a monumental meeting last week, 60 fans gathered to decide the club’s future.
They elected to use shares, gifted by former director and benefactor Spencer Fearne and absorb them into the Trust and to take control of the football club.
Mr Fearne’s 46 per cent stake in the club, combined with the shares already held by individual members of ShireTrust makes up a majority and puts the Trust in charge of the future.
Ian Ramsay, chairman of ShireTrust, told The Falkirk Herald it was “an important meeting for the club, and for the Trust. This was all about securing the club’s survival.”
He added: “One of the fundamental goals of the Trust was to take control of the club, and it’s unfortunate that opportunity usually comes at a time when things aren’t so rosy.
“The decision had already been taken by the ShireTrust committee but we wanted to test the water with the fans - and they backed us.
“The fans have to play their part because there was no point in us taking the available shares if the fans wouldn’t support us - and now is the time for them to do so.”
The meeting gave its’ unanimous backing to buy up Spencer Fearne’s shares. They should be transferred in the next month.
Ownership of the Shire is divided in two, and different shares are held. Shiretrust will have control of the footballing side of East Stirlingshire FC with the majority of the ‘A’ shares.
Shareholders who purchased ‘A’ shares hold a stake into the football side of the business. ‘B’ shareholders have a stake in the club’s main asset - the former pitch Firs Park - and will benefit from the intended sale.
A pre-application for planning permission to build on the now derelict site was submitted to Falkirk Council last month.
It is for a residential development with associated works including access, servicing and landscape.
The earliest date for submission is Thursday, August 11, 2011.
This summer had been expected to see a major re-vamp of the Shire’s operating procedures with Tadek Kopszywa taking on secretary duties and Les Thomson overseeing the club commercially.
One revamp that wasn’t expected was of the management team. Jim McInally and Davie Nicholls walked away from the club within a week of steering the Shire off the bottom of the Third Division.
Interviews are underway after the club received more than 20 applicants to the post and the club is hopeful of making an announcement on the hotseat next week.
Paul Hay has also turned down the option of staying with the club after his contract ran out.
It makes next term an increasingly tough proposition for the club whose average gate last season was 319 at Ochilview.
“We know there are tough times ahead, and that as a result of this development the Trust will have to make changes too,” said Mr Ramsay, Trust chairman for the last seven years.
“But these are interesting times too. We stepped in to secure the club’s survival once we learned Spencer wasn’t coming back and though we won’t be challenging for titles, what was important was to secure the survival of the club.
“We believe the rough financial outlook is not good, so we have to make improvements in that before moving the club forward and that will also come with the hopeful future sale of Firs Park.”
Foxlane Garden Centre have helped matter though after being confirmed as the Shire shirt sponsors for next season.