A planning meeting to discuss the 12th Man initiative for next season was held on Monday 19 April at the Priory pub. Kelvin Thomas and David Jackson from Oxford United were there, and there were a total of approximately 30 supporters in attendance.
A review of the success of the fund during the 2009-10 season was given. Over £28,000 had been raised since the fund was established in July 2009, against a year one target of £10,000. This represented about £5 for each person in the average crowd. Five players had been brought to the club, and the activity had attracted widespread support evidenced by the many thousands of badges and wristbands sold to individual fans. A remarkable range of activities had been run and many people and organisations had been involved in raising the phenomenal total.
A signed agreement on the operation of the fund had been completed in September 2009; from the club’s perspective and the perspective of those involved in the operation of the fund this had worked well. The three-person committee of Rob Newton, Neil Carter and Kelvin Thomas had operated successfully and effectively in making payments against sight of club invoices. This had been achieved without any significant loss of confidentiality for the club, and the club confirmed that it was happy with the arrangements.
Looking to the future the main aspects examined were
- Co-ordination - roles and responsibilities, and money management
- Purpose/direction of funding next season
- Club’s perspective and involvement
- Ideas for next season
- Getting more people involved
Under the first topic, we asked
- Does it need an organising group – if so, how should it be set up?
This was discussed in some detail and there was broad though not universal agreement. The prevailing majority view was that a formal committee structure would not be generally welcomed and would risk losing some of the essential spontaneity of the activity. However there were clearly occasions when appeal to a group for opinions on activities, or a co-ordinated approach to providing individuals with practical help and input with their projects for 12th Man would be welcome. The trick was to find a way to provide the necessary support without introducing a bureaucratic approach.
The specific decision taken at the meeting was to develop and strengthen the existing email group to which attendees of the meeting, and indeed anyone with a strong interest in the group could belong. This might develop into a yahoo group or similar to enable members to stay in touch on a regular basis. The email group could help in the areas mentioned.
It was confirmed in response to questions that OxVox in its committee meetings did not routinely discuss 12th Man matters in general, any discussion would be confined to projects it was undertaking itself for the fund and would be recorded in its meeting notes in the usual way.
The meeting was also asked:
- Does it need any changes to financial management – if so, what?
12th Man money went into a dedicated bank account administered by Neil Carter. The balance in the account and the running total raised was reported regularly on websites.
Two points were identified in discussion:
1) the need for transparency, in terms of amounts raised by different activities
2) the heavy workload, and Neil’s need for help, at least from time to time.
These matters would be further discussed outside the meeting.
The meeting also discussed how activities which required up-front payments would be funded. Some activities had been funded by individuals making loans for repayment, or even in some cases donations. However this might not always be possible, and there was a discussion of the idea of retaining a percentage of ‘seedcorn’ amounts in the fund, to enable projects with initial financial commitments to be funded by short term loans. This proved to be a contentious issue with differing views emerging; it was not fully resolved in the meeting, and will require further discussion.
The idea was floated that money in the 12th Man fund could occasionally be used for other purposes than team building e.g. capital items like a ‘ We are the 12th Man’ sign at the Oxford Mail end. There were mixed views on this particular idea among those at the meeting, but more generally it was recognised that there might be occasions when modest sums could be allocated in this way, if there were wide agreement among everyone involved that the purpose was one which helped promote the 12th Man.
The next two topics covered the operation of the fund and the purpose of the funding for next season:
- Do you have comments, issues or concerns about the way it has operated?
- Should it continue as a fund for playing budget expansion, or do you think there is a case for a change of purpose?
No substantial concerns were expressed about the operation of the fund.
The idea was floated of diverting funds raised by 12th Man to a different purpose, the specific idea suggested being the funding of a reserve side, which the club had indicated they were considering re-establishing. However, Kelvin Thomas confirmed that this would not be the club’s preference; if they decided to run a reserve side, it would be funded by the club.
It was agreed after discussion that continuing, as now, to use the 12th Man fund to expand the playing budget was the general preference, and this would therefore be the target for 2010-11.
- *Club’s perspective and involvement
Kelvin and David contributed to the discussion throughout. The club saw its role as a full partner in the activity and was delighted at its success. It would continue next season to provide ‘unique’ items for sale as this season e.g. the squad picture, training ground trips etc.
- Ideas for next season
- Getting more people involved
Pauline Chantler spoke about a possible late summer weekend of events which would include food and entertainment marquee-style. At this stage the idea was in its infancy but could be discussed further; if a successful event were held it could make substantial sums for the 12th Man, as well as giving everyone a memorable time.
A number of new ideas were floated briefly. It was recognised that year 2 of the 12th Man might pose new challenges as the novelty may wear off – some of this year’s activities could be repeated or developed further, while some would be a one-off. As the evening was getting late (and the temperature in the outdoor marquee was getting chilly!) it was agreed that many of the discussions would be held outside the meeting in person or by email.
Everyone attending was thanked for attending what had been a useful meeting.