Update from Martin Weiler, Trust Chair

It is now six months since I took up the position of Trust Chair so a good time to reflect and provide an update on what has been going on.

Martin Weiler presenting the Trust Young Player of the Year Award to Archie Collins

Martin Weiler presenting the Trust Young Player of the Year Award to Archie Collins

There is certainly a very different feel now compared to the gloomy days of October and November. Our charge up the table has really raised spirits. Many congratulations to Paul Tisdale, his backroom staff and all the players.

It has been a particular pleasure to see how well our own home grown players have been performing with Captain Jordan Moore-Taylor, Christy Pym, Ollie Watkins and Ethan Ampadu all making outstanding contributions.

The first major decision by the Trust when it took over as owners of the Club in 2003 was to retain an Academy. What a wise decision and full credit to Julian Tagg for leading the way on this.

So it’s very appropriate that the Trust makes the award for Young Player of the Year. I had great pleasure in presenting Archie Collins with the trophy at this season’s Gala Ball (pictured above).

The Club continues to make enormous strides off the pitch too. The news this week that contracts have been signed and the redevelopment is going ahead is a fantastic boost for everyone.

sjp-new-standThis is only the fourth major infrastructure change at St James Park in nearly 125 years of football here.  Previously we have had 1908 (first Grandstand), 1925/6 (covered Cowshed/replacement Grandstand) and 2000/1 (covered Big Bank, new Main Stand). Now we will have a new Grandstand and for the first time ever the away end will be covered. A truly historic step. A massive thank you must go to Director David Lee who has led the Redevelopment project and all the rest of his team. The Trust has been kept involved at every stage and has been very proud to support the way forward.

The redevelopment of the stadium sits along a series of other exciting initiatives which show the ambition and growth of the Club. These include the new state of the art 3G pitch at the training ground, the new Heritage Lounge at St James Park and the award of a lease to our Football in the Community charity to develop a sports and education hub at Warren View Exmouth.

Given all this it is essential that the Supporters Trust itself continues to evolve and grow. The Trustees have been focussing on how they can best do this and agreed priorities include building the membership, better communications, good governance and encouraging more volunteers.

We have been pursuing a number of initiatives to increase membership. We have launched our new Corporate Membership Scheme and are delighted with the number of local businesses who have already signed up and who are gaining from the publicity we are providing. Win-Win. Many thanks to Trustees Paul West and Elaine Davis for all their work on this.

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It is wonderful to see that the club has once again received the Family Excellence Award. Encouraging families is a priority for the Trust and we are really pleased at the progress being made by the Junior Grecians – all of whom become Junior Trust members. Big thanks to Trustee Clive Harrison for his superb efforts here.

 

 

Another area of membership focus is with students. Julian Tagg and I attended the first annual meeting of the University Grecian Society. They have a remarkable 492 members – the fifth biggest Society on the campus. I am due to have follow up talks with their new Committee and encouraging Trust membership is high on the agenda.

We know we have to get better at Communications and have set up a new Communications Working Group under Pete Martin. They have already agreed a series of initiatives which should improve lines of communication. We also hope to appoint a new IT, Web and Social Media Officer in the next few days.

The Trust is often approached by the media to give interviews and we have given several of these. I also got the chance to write the David Wheeler column in the Express and Echo which seemed to go down well.  We will continue to look for more opportunities to spread our message and raise our profile.

Governance work may not be glamorous but it underpins everything we do. Your Trust Board, led by Laurence Overend and Pete Holding, continues to look at our own governance and that relating to our relationship with the Club. We already have in place a Club Trust Agreement and are now working on the documents that support this.

We are also working with the Club on its Business Plan as required by the AGM resolution. It is fair to say that this has taken longer than hoped but we have an interim plan in place and have targeted pre season for the full plan. The discussions have helped us think about the future and how we best plan to deliver our ambition.

It is important we link in with the wider Trust movement and a couple of us attended a regional meeting organised by Supporters Direct at Bath City. Bath is about to become Trust owned and it was interesting to meet filmmaker Ken Loach there – a strong supporter of the Trust ethos.

We have strengthened our own Trust Board with the recruitment of a new Secretary Graham Deasy and the co-option of the previous Secretary Nick Hawker.

But we have also recognised that we need more help with all the work we are doing. Hence the call for more volunteers to assist us. We have had several responses to our plea but if you can help us out then please do get in touch. It is generally remarkable how much volunteering goes on at Exeter City and we plan to celebrate this during National Volunteers Week (1-7 June 2017).

Grecian Archive LogoOne area with an outstanding volunteer input has been on our Heritage work and the development of the Grecian Archive. Supporters and students have joined together to provide a real treasure chest of City history. And thanks to a Heritage Lottery Fund grant we now have the products of the History of St James Park project including the wonderful new film about the ground. The Trust’s History Group, led by Trustee Paul Farley, has also ensured we remembered the City victims in the Exeter Blitz 75 years ago this month.

 

As we head toward the end of the season it is worth reflecting on all this and the many other things we do that set us apart from most other football clubs. For every home game we select a Trust member to be a Director for the Day. Trust members can apply for tickets for major cup finals too. Massive thanks to Trustee Neil le Milliere who co-ordinates these draws – a unique service.

We also involve members in many other ways. We had a vote on the Checkatrade Trophy options with an overwhelming wish to return to the previous format. The Club subsequently voted for a reversion to the L1 and L2 only competition.  We have had Forums attended by the Club and Trust Chairs and the first team Manager. We have a match day stall where members can discuss issues with us and buy Trust merchandise including our ever popular badges.

So there is so much to be proud of at our Trust owned Football Club. There has never been a better time to be a member and help drive things forward. Please help persuade more people to join us and do think about other ways you can help.

We own our football club! We are Exeter!

Martin Weiler, Chair, Exeter City Supporters Trust

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