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Batchelor Seeks Trust of Fans

John Batchelor again assured the fans and the community that the future of York City Football Club was safe in his hands

The assurances were provided to Supporters' Trust representatives who met with Batchelor at Bootham Crescent on Wednesday. The meeting was friendly and constructive. Both parties have agreed to meet on a regular basis in the future.

The Supporters' Trust agreed a number of practical initiatives whereby the fans and community can have some input into the future running of the Club. However, despite receiving assurances from Batchelor that all is well, many of the fans' questions remained unanswered and some of Batchelor's key promises to the Supporters' Trust are 'on hold'.

Batchelor has now informed the Supporters' Trust that his previous promise of at least two Trust representatives to be appointed as directors of the Club immediately following his take-over will now be 'on hold' until after the 'transition period'. The transition period, the conditions of which have not been clearly communicated by the Club or any other party, is expected to last for at least six months and probably longer.

Batchelor did reiterate his promise of 25.1% ownership in the to be transferred to the Supporters' Trust and that he hoped this would be completed sometime in the near future.

Sophie McGill, spokesperson for the Supporters' Trust, commented on the outcome of the last two meetings:
"John has reaffirmed his commitment to change the culture of the Club so that it embraces its relationships with the fans and the community. However, at this stage various aspects concerning the operations of the Club, Bootham Crescent and the development of a new stadium remain unclear. In addition, certain promises made to the Trust remain unfulfilled at this stage.

McGill explained the obligations of the interim Board of the Supporters' Trust:
"The Supporters' Trust is here to represent the fans and the community. We are committed to being open and honest. We have asked John the questions that many other people in the City have also being asking. Whilst we have received John's assurances that there is no need to be concerned, we have not received clear answers to many of those questions."

The meeting with Batchelor followed on from one held the previous week at which the fans tabled about forty key questions to try and clarify what is going on at the Club. The Supporters' Trust has sought to clarify various matters covering the following inter-related areas:

- The current and future ownership of the Club;
- The so-called 'transition period';
- The current and future ownership of Bootham Crescent;
- The nature of the agreement with Persimmon Homes;
- Directors of the Club;
- The operations and management of the Club; and
- Development of a new stadium.

In many respects, given the continuing involvement of the 'old' directors (Messrs Craig, Swallow, Webb and Easby) on the Club's Board, Batchelor and the Club appear not to have been more open and transparent about various matters because of confidentiality arrangements.

On a more positive note, the Supporters' Trust has been offering to help the Club and Batchelor re-build relationships with the fans and the community and a number of practical initiatives have now been agreed. This includes:
- A regular monthly meeting between the Supporters' Trust Board and Club directors at which any issues can be addressed;
- A regular meeting of a Commercial/Marketing Working Party to be attended by Club and fan representatives. Ideas about the improving the Club's operations will be explored and initiatives can be put into practice by the Club and/or the Supporters' Trust (where appropriate); and
- Through the Supporters' Trust, a consultation process with the fans and the community in relation to the facilities and design aspects of the proposed new stadium.

These practical initiatives were welcomed by Robert Havercroft, an attendee at this week's meeting:
"The Supporters' Trust was not just about saving City, it was always going to be a body through which the fans can have a practical input into the running of the Club. Whilst the Trust still wants delivery of the original promises, we are pleased that some form of practical process for fan involvement has now been agreed."

During the past few weeks many people have expressed their concern about the lack of transparency and openness surrounding recent events at the Club. Many people have expressed concern that their Club may be left homeless at sometime in the future. Batchelor has assured people that such concerns are unwarranted. The relationship with City of York Council is being handled by himself, stadium plans are progressing and the funding for a new stadium, whilst not yet in place, is not dependent on proceeds from the sale of Bootham Crescent.

John Batchelor's "fresh approach" and positive results on the pitch have helped to develop confidence amongst some people that all is well. However, there remain a substantial number of people who, whilst still maintaining a positive outlook, have some concern about the future of the Club. These different perspectives are also reflected within the thirty fans comprising the Supporters' Trust Working Party. Next month, in accordance with its Rules, the Supporters' Trust will hold elections to appoint a new Board to run the Trust's operations. All eligible members have the opportunity to stand for election and/or vote for the candidates. In the meantime, the initial group of fan volunteers continue to lead the work of the Trust on behalf of the fans and the community.

Robert Havercroft expressed the importance of the Club to the City and surrounding area:
"In some respects a football club is not like an ordinary business. York City Football Club is an asset to the area and the fans, schools, local businesses and the community are key stakeholders. The Supporters' Trust is here to help build a better future for the Club. We hope that this brighter future will be delivered by John Batchelor in conjunction with the fans and the community."

Discussions between the Club and the Supporters' Trust will continue at the regular meetings now arranged and Supporters' Trust representatives are looking forward to helping the Club with the initiatives as described above.

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