The idea of exploring community ownership for the Cobblers was first advanced by the board during the summer of 2018, when David Bower and Kelvin Thomas were actively looking to sell the club.
We outlined our thoughts to Trust members at last year’s AGM, alongside guests from Supporters Direct and Wycombe Wanderers FC, and we were granted approval to explore a model which would serve as a ‘rainy day’ insurance policy.
This was followed up by an open meeting of Cobblers supporters in March which enabled fans to have their say on the issue. The meeting was well attended and was supported once more by Supporters Direct (now the FSA) and Exeter City FC, who are 100 per cent fan owned.
We have worked closely with the FSA and our good friends at Exeter and have also held interesting meetings with representatives from AFC Wimbledon and Heart of Midlothian to find out more about the varying forms of community ownership at their clubs.
The Trust board feels that in the present climate – with the football club reluctant to engage, with £5 million debt loaded against it and with the east stand not rebuilt – it isn’t the right time to actively pursue community ownership.
But we are prepared to undertake a 100 per cent model if the club once again finds itself in financial crisis and we also have to prepare for a ‘50 + 1’ membership model, which clubs adopt in the German Bundesliga, should this model, or similar, become a future stipulation for EFL clubs.
Our clear preference though is for a hybrid joint venture partnership with local investors to allow the club to progress in a sustainable manner.
And we believe that any future model should a) introduce an infrastructure foundation to move forward development projects b) encourage a Sporting Club for the town involving Northampton’s principal sports clubs and c) seek a constructive partnership with the town’s planning authority.
We will continue working towards these aims in 2020 in what could be a fast-moving and challenging environment.