St Mirren could become Scotland’s latest fan-owned football club as soon as next year through a unique link-up – the first of its kind in the UK – between the club’s supporters’ trust and one of the country’s biggest charities.
Under plans unveiled today, the St Mirren Independent Supporters Trust (SMISA) would enter a unique partnership with social care charity and leading social enterprise Kibble which would transform how the club is owned and run.
SMISA is already on track for majority fan ownership of the club but is not due to buy out current owner Gordon Scott until 2026. Under the new plans, Kibble would buy 27.5% of Scott’s shares now, with SMISA then taking its own stake to 51% before the end of 2021. It is believed no league team in the UK is owned and run in partnership with a major charity in the way proposed here.
Kibble, based in Paisley since 1840, would bring its commercial expertise to St Mirren, helping bring in new income to be reinvested in the team, while working with the club to create new training and employment options for the young people in their care. Gordon Scott would continue as club chairman, with SMISA and Kibble represented on the club board. As majority owners, SMISA would be able to appoint the majority of future board members.
SMISA’s 1,200 members are being asked to vote on whether to accept the new proposals, with a members’ meeting planned for next week.
SMISA chair and Paisley MSP George Adam said: “St Mirren’s place at the heart of life in the town is precious. We created the Buy The Buds campaign back in 2016 because we knew there could be no one better to safeguard that than the people who will care for it most – the fans.
“The deal unveiled today will deliver that – but it will do it in half the time, for half the cost and crucially, it will help create a stronger St Mirren.
“Kibble can bring new resource and expertise to help St Mirren grow as a business, but more than that, it can help grow the club’s reach into the community of Paisley.
“Over the next few weeks, we’ll be talking to our members about what this means – and hopefully they will be as excited as we are by the possibilities.”
Kibble chief executive Jim Gillespie said: “We are incredibly excited by this important plan for both organisations, both of which were founded in Paisley in Victorian times and are a part of the town’s history.
“The purpose of our proposal is to step up Kibble’s young workforce development programme and improve the future prospects of our young people, including employability options, skills and qualifications. Our executive team has been working on a strategic plan to maximise our opportunities along these lines within St Mirren FC.
“Our plan involves Kibble utilising all of St Mirren’s facilities, including the training ground at Ralston, to provide these opportunities in areas like catering, hospitality and apprenticeships in ground keeping and the various skills required for stadium maintenance.
“The day-to-day running of the football club will still be done by the professionals at St Mirren who do it well, but they will be supported by Kibble’s expertise in areas such as HR, finance, marketing and communications.”
St Mirren chairman Gordon Scott said: “When I took over as chairman and majority shareholder in 2016 it was with the intention of taking the club forward and working with SMISA to create a sustainable and successful fan ownership model.
“This is the right time, the right corporate partner and the right model. The club is in a very strong place right now – financially, in terms of stadium and academy infrastructure, and the people we have employed at all levels of the football club.
“Myself, Tony Fitzpatrick, Kibble and SMISA have spent a long time discussing how this would work, so I am personally very comfortable this deal will be very good for our football club.
“It was also very important to me I was comfortable the SMISA board were capable of dealing with the responsibilities that will come with fan ownership. I think the existing board have demonstrated that they are up to that challenge.”
“Both myself and the current board are looking forward to embracing the expertise and support Kibble will bring and helping ensure a smooth transition into the majority fan-owned era.”