|Wednesdayite, The Sheffield Wednesday Supporters' Society|
Logo of Wednesdayite
|Legal status||Registered under the Industrial and Provident Societies Acts 1965 - 78|
|Membership||1,500+ (as at August 2010)|
|Affiliations||Supporters Direct, Football Supporters' Federation|
- "Wednesdayite" is also a term commonly used to refer to any supporter of Sheffield Wednesday F.C.
- 1 Profile
- 2 History
- 3 Good causes and community initiatives
- 4 Current Directors
- 5 Patrons
- 6 References
- 7 Further reading
- 8 External links
"Wednesdayite" is the trading name of Sheffield Wednesday Supporters Society Limited, an independent football supporters trust which previously owned a 10.07% of Sheffield Wednesday Football Club, making it one of the largest single shareholders of Sheffield Wednesday PLC.
As a democratic members' organisation, Wednesdayite's mission statement is:
"To develop and maintain a democratic, effective and influential role for Sheffield Wednesday fans in the running of the football club; and to strengthen the bonds between the club and its community.."
Wednesdayite operate a number of services with the aim of benefiting Wednesdayite members, Sheffield Wednesday fans and the wider community, including free football coaching schemes for local schools, the Wednesdayite Lounge matchday bar, the Wednesdayite Away Coach, the Wednesdayite Car Park, regular social events and the SMILE Tickets scheme - enabling people to attend football matches at Hillsborough that would not normally be able to attend. In addition, Wednesdayite operate their Matchday HQ in a branded trailer in the North Stand car park, and are responsible for the 'We Are Wednesday - Forward Together' Big Flag that is seen surfed on the Kop for all home games and some away.
The Owls Trust
Previous to 'Wednesdayite', the Sheffield Wednesday Supporters' Society functioned under the name of 'The Owls Trust' which was originally set up in 2001. At the time, Sheffield Wednesday club directors Dave Allen, Keith Addy and Geoff Hulley bought an amount of shares in the club equal to 36.7% of the total share capital of Sheffield Wednesday PLC, from investment company Charterhouse.
The purchase of more than 29.9% of any company triggers a mandatory bid for the remaining shares in company law, however to avoid making such a bid, a portion of those shares equal to 9.46% of Sheffield Wednesday PLC were donated to the fledgeling fans' trust.
The organisation angered the then chairman of Sheffield Wednesday, Dave Allen, as well as many Wednesday fans, by being perceived to support a takeover bid by Ken Bates. However, the organisation - in particular its chief executive John Hemmingham and chairman Jim Harrison - maintained that it was not supporting a takeover, but was supporting the principle of allowing potential investors, including Ken Bates, access to relevant documents in order to formulate an educated bid for the company. This feud resulted in the trust being evicted from their offices in Hillsborough.
Hemmingham eventually quit in March 2005 when Bates took control of Yorkshire rivals Leeds and offered him a job as "Head of Membership Development". The move reportedly saw Hemmingham receive death threats, and many fans believe that Hemmingham's actions vindicated Allen.
Rebirth as Wednesdayite
In light of previous perceptions of the organisation, The Owls Trust received a number of candidates for its board elections in May 2005 and once elected the new board rebranded the organisation to a much more fan-friendly name of 'Wednesdayite' in August 2005. Jim Harrison was replaced at this same time as Chairman by Darryl Keys, a former merchant banker with responsibility for Sports Finance.
Since the rebranding the trust grew massively in size, although they still attracted a lot of controversy. Despite regular attempts to communicate with the club's directors (as dictated by the members who voted massively in favour of working with the incumbent board) many in that board were still hostile to Wednesdayite.
Whilst Wednesdayite's 10.07% shareholding was regarded as a valuable asset for a supporters' trust by the Government initiative, Supporters Direct and their member trusts, the Society courted a lot of controversy with the Sheffield Wednesday board and sections of fans.
In September 2005, the former Sheffield Wednesday Chairman, Dave Allen, offered to buy Wednesdayite's share of the club for around £330,000 (which would be put back into the playing squad budget). However Allen refused to address a Wednesdayite members' meeting to discuss this purchase and additionally it was not made clear how any ensuing Capital Gains Tax would be paid to the Inland Revenue, which would possibly leave the Supporters' Trust in tens of thousands of pounds' debt. Wednesdayite members democratically voted in favour of rejecting the offer.
Allen claimed to have increased this offer to £500,000 (from the initial £333,000), however no ballot of members took place regarding this offer, due to the previous rejection.
In July 2007 Wednesdayite were accused in part of being responsible by Dave Allen for the collapse of a takeover by former Everton director Paul Gregg due to their 10.07% shareholding, a claim which Wednesdayite denied. In the months and years that followed, Wednesdayite balloted both members and non-members to gauge opinion on their shareholding across the entire fanbase; and held a vote to decide if members would be willing to listen to offers from any new investor.
Members voted in favour of listening to offers and Wednesdayite, on 2 October 2007, also pledged their shares to a scheme backed by the Sheffield Wednesday Shareholders Association to listen to any offers from new investors willing to achieve a 51% shareholding in the business.
Geoff Sheard Bid
On 13 February 2008, Wednesdayite Chairman Darryl Keys revealed that the group had been approached by different parties with regards to the processes involving the sale of their shareholding. One of those parties was later revealed to be Geoff Sheard, who was said to be fronting a 'Swiss-based trust' and was said to be at an "advanced stage" in steps to buy the club. Wednesdayite membership significantly increased during the period with all members promised that they would be able to take part in any future potential vote deciding whether to sell the shares.
Both Wednesdayite and the Shareholders Association announced they had met with Geoff Sheard on the afternoon of Monday 21 April 2008 to discuss how their respective shareholdings figured in a potential takeover by Sheard's group.
Due to the length of time taken to complete a takeover of the club, speculation mounted amongst the Sheffield Wednesday fanbase as to the role of Wednesdayite's shares in a possible takeover, the identity of consortium members and whether the funds of the group could be legally verified under UK money laundering laws. Wednesdayite issued several statements on their website which were picked up by the press. Wednesdayite's openness in addressing the unfolding situation (whilst all other parties, including the club, remained silent on the subject) saw support for the group grow.
Frustrations led to Sheffield Wednesday themselves appointing financial company Deloitte and Touche to vet potential bidders and facilitate any purchase of an undisclosed tranche of shares, speculated to be at least 10% of the clubs' shares belonging to board member Geoff Hulley and possibly including a further 10% belonging to former director Keith Addy. However, it was believed that due to Geoff Sheard's preference to not go through the club's preferred Deloitte and Touche process, he approached former Chairman, Dave Allen, and Wednesdayite individually.
On 1 July 2008, Wednesdayite received a formal bid from Geoff Sheard, acting for a 'Swiss-based trust'. Wednesdayite immediately referred the correspondence to legal advisors in preparation of a ballot of members on whether to accept the offer for the shareholding. To keep members and the fanbase aware of what was happening, Wednesdayite subsequently published a list of Questions and Answers regarding the bid. It was also announced that Dave Allen had agreed to sell his 10% stake in Sheffield Wednesday PLC to Sheard's group.
Wednesdayite announced on 17 July 2008 that they would formally ballot members to decide the fate of the shares. It was also revealed that the former Home Secretary and Wednesdayite Patron, David Blunkett, has been advising the group with regards to the ballot.
Notice of a Special General Meeting of Wednesdayite was given on 23 July 2008 and ballot forms sent out to all eligible members. The Special General Meeting took place on 6 August 2008. Members were sent detailed supporting information alongside the ballot forms, and the Wednesdayite board recommended members vote 'Yes' to both resolutions:
- Resolution 1: An amendment to Rule 2 iv which currently reads ‘to increase the shareholding in the club as is deemed appropriate and to help safeguard minority interests. The 5,037,017 ordinary shares in Sheffield Wednesday Plc should not be sold or otherwise transferred’. Following amendment it is proposed for Rule 2 iv to read ‘The Society members are free to determine whether the Society holds any shares in the club. Where the Society owns any shares in the club, any decision to relinquish any such holding must be made in General Meeting’.
- Resolution 2: To sell the Society’s holding of 5,037,017 shares in Sheffield Wednesday Plc to Geoff Sheard in accordance with the Society Board’s recommendation and the conditions included therein.
Resolution 1 was passed with a 97.4% majority in favour and Resolution 2 was similarly passed by a majority of 92.1% with a turnout of 77.7% of all members voting. Wednesdayite promptly contacted Sheard, to ask if he would like to continue with the purchase in light of the result.
On 6 October 2008, Wednesdayite withdrew their previous offer to sell shares to Geoff Sheard and his consortium, citing the length of time taken for the takeover to be completed and the lack of verifiable funds. Despite this, Wednesdayite stated they would still be open to revisiting the situation if Mr. Sheard could verify funds - however this would have to result in another member vote taking place.
Fighting For The Club's Future
Following the final collapse of the Sheard bid, significant changes took place at the club, with Lee Strafford firstly joining the club board and then quickly becoming Chairman. Strafford's plan to revitalise the Owls hinged on engaging with the fanbase, and as such Wednesdayite were welcomed into the club in ways that mere months ago had seemed unthinkable. Going into the 2009/10 season, Strafford stated to a Wednesdayite members' meeting that he would like to see all Wednesday fans be a member of Wednesdayite, and permitted Wednesdayite membership to be included as an option on season ticket forms.
However, as the political situation continued to unravel at Hillsborough, Strafford eventually resigned as Chairman and with the club facing winding-up petitions from HMRC amid rumours of the club going into administration or worse, Wednesdayite lent their voice to the growing protest movement amongst Wednesday fans, working closely with the Shareholders Association and Time To Go under the Save Our Owls banner.
In December 2010, Milan Mandarić took over as chairman of Sheffield Wednesday with Wednesdayite handing their 10.07% shareholding to the Mandarić family trust as part of the takeover. When Wednesdayite members were balloted on the issue of gifting the shares, 97.9% voted in favour.
A New Dawn
With the disbursement of the Society's shareholding came the opportunity to carve a new path for Wednesdayite in a post-political era. Wednesdayite changed their mission statement and shifted the emphasis from seeking positive change within the SWFC boardroom to seeking closer ties with the club in order to deliver a better matchday experience for fans, to mutually benefit both supporters and the club, and to reach out to the wider community with the SWFC brand.
At the 2011 Society AGM, Wednesdayite Vice-Chair Eddie Hoyland presented a vision of a future for Wednesdayite as a supporter's club first and foremost, embracing community, matchday and commercial operations to bring benefit to all the main stakeholders in SWFC in the years to come.
Good causes and community initiatives
Good Cause Funds
Upon the formation of 'Wednesdayite', a number of good-cause funds were set up to allow donators to choose the purpose of their donation. The funds set up are:
- 1) Community Fund (To aid the Society ’s community objectives, ranging from assistance to disadvantaged fans to helping young footballers at the Club Academy),
- 2) Facilities Fund (To improve the match day experience for the fans at the Club through the investment in fixed assets such as catering facilities, a new scoreboard or bar areas),
- 3) Squadbuilder Fund (To assist the improvement and competitiveness of the playing squad at the Club as and when required),
- 4) Shares Fund (For share purchase to increase the Society ’s shareholding in the club)
Whilst these good cause funds are still in operation for any possible future use, Sheffield Wednesday indicated that they would not accept donations for specific purposes and therefore any monies collected remain in their respective bank accounts - with the exception of 'Smile Tickets', of which Wednesdayite use the funds to purchase matchday tickets at full retail value from the Sheffield Wednesday ticket office to continue the scheme. As of Milan Mandarić's takeover of the club in late 2010, the Shares Fund no longer now accepts donations.
Wednesdayite attempted to force the club to accept donations for specific purposes by tabling a resolution for this at the 2006 Sheffield Wednesday PLC AGM. However the votes of the then board members, who held a combined controlling 30%+ shareholding in the PLC, ensured the resolution was rejected and no donations were accepted up until the change in ownership of the club in 2010.
With Smile Tickets, Wednesdayite provide matchday tickets to disadvantaged people who would not normally be able to attend games. They are able to provide this scheme through generous donations from members and supporters, together with the support of the club to maximise the Society's ticket-buying power. For every adult Season Ticket the Society purchases through the initiative, Sheffield Wednesday have pledged to honour the current offer of providing a free ticket for under-8's, meaning that tickets will be purchased for both adults and children.
The tickets will be awarded on a match-by-match basis to qualifying applicants who meet specific criteria, with emphasis on providing a matchday experience to long-term sick children and also to unemployed adults who would not be able to attend a match due to their circumstances.
For 2011/12 the SMILE scheme provided matchday tickets for 27 fans to enjoy a Hillsborough experience (7x adult, 3x U18, 3x U13 and 14xU8). In addition to the ticket itself, the recipients and their families are Guests of Honour at the Wednesdayite Lounge and are escorted to the game by Wednesdayite volunteers.
Primary Schools Coaching Scheme
Another highly regarded community initiative facilitated by Wednesdayite is the Primary Schools Coaching Scheme, of which former Sheffield Wednesday coach Steve Adams provides free curricular-time football coaching under the Wednesdayite banner to Primary Schools and Special Needs schools throughout the community. Wednesdayite secure grants on an annual basis to provide this service, which has so far coached over 8,000 children from over 20 schools.
Wednesdayite provide a number of usually discounted facilities for members to maintain a social atmosphere and build up links in the community.
Services include the Wednesdayite Lounge matchday bar, the Wednesdayite Away Coach, the Wednesdayite Car Park, as well as regular football-themed social events. In addition, Wednesdayite operate their Matchday HQ in a branded trailer in the North Stand car park, and are responsible for the 'We Are Wednesday - Forward Together' Big Flag that is seen surfed on the Kop for all home games and some away.
The Society also maintains a strong presence online, with a popular website and busy Facebook and Twitter feeds (as of summer 2010, Wednesdayite's Twitter following was the largest of any Supporter's Trust and larger than all but 6 official club Twitter accounts in English football. Wednesdayite also send out a weekly member's email.
Wednesdayite operate on a democratic basis with directors voted onto the society board at an AGM each year. Directors work on a voluntary basis and do not draw any salary from the organisation. Likewise, directors will not benefit from any proceeds of sales.
Current directors are:
- Nigel Short (Chairman)
- Eddie Hoyland (Vice Chair)
- Dave Barlow (Community Director)
- Richard Davies (Director - Communications)
- Paul Holmes (Finance Director)
- Darryl Keys (Director)
- Jeff Williams (Services Director)
- Neville Wright (Director)
Like lots of similar societies and organisations, Wednesdayite have patrons, who currently include:
- Rt. Hon. David Blunkett M.P.
- "Wednesdayite aims and objectives". Retrieved 2011-10-03.
- "Wednesdayite Member Services". Retrieved 2011-10-03.
- "Supporters Direct Members". Retrieved 2007-03-10.
- "Fans get stake in Owls". BBC News. 2001-03-01. Retrieved 2008-07-22.
- "The Takeover Panel Rules". Retrieved 2007-03-10.[dead link]
- "Allen hits back in fight for Owls". Retrieved 2007-03-10.
- Lawrence, Amy (2004-11-07). "The Guardian - Down among the debt men". London. Retrieved 2007-03-10.
- "Yorkshire Post - Owls fan's switch sparks death threats". Retrieved 2007-03-10.
- "Indy Media". Retrieved 2007-03-10.
- "Wednesdayite Survey Results" (PDF). Retrieved 2007-03-10.[dead link]
- "Supporters Direct Mission and History". Retrieved 2008-07-21.
- "Allen blasts fans as takeover collapses". Retrieved 2008-07-21.
- "Owls chief angry as buy-out fails". BBC News. 2007-07-20. Retrieved 2007-03-10.
- "Sporting Life". Retrieved 2008-03-09.
- "Wednesdayite - Takeover Latest". Retrieved 2008-03-09.
- "Wednesdayite Membership Update". Retrieved 2008-03-09.
- "Sheffield Wednesday Takeover Speculation". Retrieved 2008-07-21.[dead link]
- "Wednesday seek buyer". Retrieved 2008-07-21.
- "Wednesdayite Announce Ballot". Retrieved 2008-07-21.[dead link]
- "Wednesdayite: Notice of Special General Meeting". Archived from the original on 2008-08-03. Retrieved 2008-07-23.
- "Wednesdayite: Wednesdayite ballot a landslide for Sheard". Retrieved 2008-07-23.[dead link]
- "Wednesdayite: Update on Takeover". Retrieved 2008-11-17.[dead link]
- "Statement from Wednesdayite - 30th November 2010". Retrieved 2011-06-17.
- "Wednesdayite Good Cause Funds". Archived from the original on 2008-06-16. Retrieved 2008-07-21.
- "Wednesdayite 2006 Sheffield Wednesday PLC Annual General Meeting Comment". Retrieved 2008-07-21.[dead link]
- "SMILE Tickets". Retrieved 2011-10-03.
- "Wednesdayite Schools Coaching". Retrieved 2011-10-03.
- "Wednesdayite: About us - Directors". Retrieved 2011-10-03.
- "Wednesdayite: About us - Patrons". Archived from the original on 2008-02-14. Retrieved 2008-03-09.
- Sheffield Star (20 November 2006) Wednesdayites sing their tribute to two fans who died in car crash.
- Warnock, Neil. (3 March 2007) Michael Vaughan's the toast of our family - even if he is a Wednesdayite. Section: Football; Page 80.
- Yorkshire Post (28 September 2007) Wednesdayite invited to Hillsborough for Owls talks.