An open letter to the Mariners Trust

Cod Almighty | Article

by Richard Hallam

28 July 2017

The Mariners Trust have asked their members to help them decide on the trust's future direction. Richard Hallam shares his response.

Dear Mariners Trust,

‘The future of the Mariners Trust’

I'm writing to give you my thoughts. It needs to be recognised that Grimsby Town Football Club PLC is a company controlled by Mr. John Fenty. His shareholding essentially gives him complete control over everything the club does. There is realistically no current opportunity to change this. JF has ploughed a lot of his own money into the club and understandably he does not wish to relinquish this control.

However without supporters the club is nothing. We are its customers and as such the club should listen to what we want. Some of us want success at all costs, some of us would prefer the club to be fan-owned even if that meant being non-League. Most of us sit somewhere in the middle.

When the club does things we don't like such as participating, apparently enthusiastically, in competitions such as the EFL Trophy, which many of us fear is the thin edge of the wedge towards a Football League akin to the money-driven Premier League we protest. When our supporters trust appears to be "going along with" this, we get angry.

Like many organisations which have grown organically from a common goal which has been - at least partly - achieved, the Mariners Trust is now questioning the reason for its existence.

My opinion as to what should happen next is exactly that: opinion. My opinion is formed from my perception of what has happened and what is happening. My personal priority is promotion from the fourth flight in 2017-18. Not at all costs, but I like many fans will tolerate a lot if we're sitting pretty come New Years' Day.

The word “sustainability” is bandied around. I recently compared Forest Green Rovers with Town. Forest Green blew £6 million from 2014-2016, while we made a profit of £6,000. We are sustainable in my book. The guile of Russell Slade and Wilko will be what takes us up, alongside our magnificent support (note that that was not in quotes).

The seat on the board

John Fenty may like the idea of collective responsibility for the board of directors, but it's not a prerequisite. Fenty could if he wished allow the Mariners Trust director to publicly and vocally express their dissent on behalf of the trust’s membership, and I think he should. Allowing this would release the pressure that many trust members feel: that our representative is toeing the party line. Openness about the pressures that the club is under would bring fans, Mariners Trust members and the PLC together and alleviate the suspicion that it's "all about John." John quite clearly wants success too.

Part of me distrusts the board and John Fenty and part of me does not. Help me believe that our voice is being heard and I’ll support retaining our representation on the board.

The saga of the new stadium is another case in point. Part of me thinks its all about John getting a slice of a lucrative housing development; part of me does not. The solution? Openness. There are upward of 10,000 Town fans who'll back you to the hilt if we believe that the stadium plans are in the best interests of GTFC. That's a lot of local voters in every ward of the NELC council if we're onside!

The Mariners Trust and the Club itself

Committees, committees, committees. Egos, differences in opinion and how did we end up here? I run a business and it's survived for 13 years. I'm quite good at some of the things I do but my team are better. My business could survive without me but it couldn't survive without them. I'm going to say it: there are some members of staff at GTFC and some members of the Mariners Trust board that the club/board would be better off without. There are many more that are brilliant.

In many cases neither are going anywhere; that’s the way life is, so we have to put up with what we've got. I'll have to leave the PLC to its staffing choices but as far as the Trust is concerned I have a view.

I don't think the Trust needs more members on its comittee, I think it needs less. Committees are crap at making decisions and having a voice. Leave the PLC to run itself and focus on what the members of the Trust want. I've no problem with the Trust fundraising on an ad hoc basis or supporting the club with ad hoc needs. But I do not believe that it should become a free source of labour for what is essentially a private enterprise. By becoming too entwined within the day-to-day operations of the PLC it becomes part of it.

I feel that the trust, and in particular its board members, are over worked. I believe that the trust should as a priority employ a paid member of staff whose priorities should be to focus on communicating with the membership and supporting the good work of the trust board. This post might be part-time, it might not be particularly well paid, but I believe that there would be a lot of applicants and that it would be 'the making' of the trust.

The trust should meet monthly. It should poll its members' views regularly and it should very publicly tell its members what it is doing. The trust should be clearly very separate to the PLC, but where its members want it to be, it should be very supportive.


Richard Hallam

A Mariner

Thanks to Richard for sharing his response to the Mariners Trust consultation. 

Let us know what you think but more importantly, let the trust know. The consultation closes at 9pm on Tuesday 1 August