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Greenock Morton FC AGM- 18th April 2024


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(Photo-Russell Gordon)

Greenock Morton FC AGM- 18th April 2024

By Russell Gordon

 

This year’s AGM of Greenock Morton FC took place in the Douglas Rae Lounge at Cappielow Park supported by Dalrada Technology last night, 18th April 2024, held by Directors Graham Barr, Michael Harkins, and Sam Robinson, with Club Secretary Alistair Joyce.

There were four apologies from the board, and a further one from the assembled shareholders, but one notable absentee was Chairman John Laird.

The meeting started with one point of order, raised by former Director Gordon Ritchie, who voiced his concerns about the legality of the meeting, given that it was being held over ten months since the date of the audited accounts. Graham Barr quipped in retaliation to Mr. Ritchie’s concerns that this was an oversight, putting it down to the lack of legal expertise on the club board since Mr. Ritchie’s recent departure. Mr. Ritchie responded by pointing out that this is the responsibility of the current board of directors, not former ones, and that he wasn’t comfortable with the legality of the meeting. Mr. Barr accepted this wasn’t ideal, but that the meeting would carry on regardless.

Graham Barr opened with the Director’s Report, addressing the club’s second surplus in a couple of years, which was owed in no small part to cup draws against Celtic at Celtic Park and Rangers at Ibrox in consecutive seasons, while also thanking Dalrada for their annual six-figure contribution to the club.

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Graham Barr (Photo- Greenock Telegraph)

On the park, it was noted that Morton narrowly missed out on another six-figure sum in prize money, such was the tight finish at the top of the Championship last season, with only a couple of points separating Morton in fifth from second placed Ayr United.

It was accepted that the team’s form has fluctuated this season, with a terrific mid-season run sandwiched between two poorer runs at the beginning and end of the campaign- this was put down to the club’s small squad proving problematic for the manager when injuries and individual loss of form hit.

On a more positive note, the club have bought a flat in the local area which will be used for players arriving from further afield and will rely on MCT for the preparation of the flat. Talks are ongoing with members of the current squad about contract renewals as the manager prepares for next season.

Off the park, the club’s backroom operations were discussed, with Sam Robinson regaling a discussion with Alloa Chairman and SFA President Mike Mulraney, who previously described Morton as the mirror image of his club, in that Morton are a full-time football team with a part-time operation in the background, while The Wasps were a full-time operation supporting a part-time football team. It was revealed on releasing the club’s strategy for the future in February that addressing this is a priority, and that Morton will be focussing on commercial revenue and the launch of the Business Club, with the club having the intention of being open and transparent in how they operate.

It was accepted that while there has been great progress in recent years, there is still a long way to go.

Moving on, Michael Harkins went into more details on the club’s finances with the Financial Report. For the financial year ended 31st May 2023, the club posted a profit in the region of £70,000, with Morton making around £200,000 from their visit to Celtic Park in January of that year. Income for the year was around £1.5 million, with outgoings of just over £1.4 million.

Morton made slightly more from their visit to Ibrox than they did from the Celtic match, and expect to make a profit close to £200,000 in the current financial year, which ends on 31st May 2024.  The club have received roughly £750,000 from MCT contributions, and turning over such modest profits under community ownership is a positive compared to annual losses of c. £300,000 under the previous regime.

We moved onto one proposed amendment to the Articles of Association- given that MCT had worked closely with Motherwell’s Well Society, and a lot of the wording was copy and pasted from Motherwell’s articles, a reference to “The Well Society” slipped through the net and appeared on Morton’s Articles. The proposal to correct and change this to “Morton Club Together” was passed unanimously.

Next on the agenda was the re-election of Graham Barr to the board of directors, which was passed without any contest. There was no further business raised so the meeting was formally closed before a less formal discussion on matters relating to the club.

I’ll not name check anyone asking questions as it wouldn’t be right to do so should they not be happy.

First up was a question about contract renewals, which was met with a predictable answer that discussions are ongoing with some of the squad, but many are understandably biding their time to see if other offers come along and it would be inappropriate to comment on private negotiations.

Another question was raised about the accounts relating to a period of almost a year ago, which isn’t so relevant to the club’s current position. Michael Harkins answered this by confirming it is a legacy issue with the club’s accountants, and going forward he’s hoping for accounts to be audited in August.

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Michael Harkins (Photo- Greenock Morton)

Regarding the flat the club had purchased, while the imminent arrival of Jordan Davies from Connah’s Quay was alluded to, the question was put about more “exotic” signings, which were brushed off as unlikely but not out of the question.

We then moved onto my own favourite subject of stewarding, as I queried the treatment of a friend of mine who supports Dundee United last month by the head steward, and Morton’s approach to the complaint. Happily, with the General Manager in attendance, this was addressed this morning after the meeting.

Another shareholder cited his own problems with the head steward, and the treatment of his grandson by her. The GM preferred to concentrate on the stewarding team rather than one individual, perhaps understandably, but with the individual driving the team, it was pointed out that privately looking at her actions could prove a solution to the problems.

Reserved seating in the stand was also brought up, and perhaps most alarmingly, problems with disabled provisions for the Hearts cup tie last month, with part of the section required for the away club’s staff.

Moving on, the question was raised about the club’s youth academy. With the academy costing in the region of £100,000 a year, a third review in four years is taking place after the SFA deemed it to be one of the poorest in the country. Michael Harkins was adamant that changes will certainly be made on the basis of the findings of the latest review.

With Morton’s fortunate cup draws in recent times, it was asked what contingency plans are in place for an early exit from cup competitions that doesn’t involve a trip to one of Glasgow’s big two. Sam Robinson stated that the club budget to be knocked out of the cups at the earliest possible stage and finish eighth in the Championship, and emphasised that this is why Morton are making improving commercial revenue a priority, as well as building MCT membership, and using the value of community ownership to push the Morton brand. He also confirmed a new sleeve sponsor will be announced in the near future.

The club’s player of the year event was also brought up, and in particular the pricing. While the board said that sales are going well and they expect the event to sell out, they did say it would be reviewed going forward. I could be wrong, but I took that as an acceptance that they scored a bit of an own goal with their pricing policy and will learn their lesson next year.

My next query was on a similar subject to my first, this time about the away fan experience at Cappielow, and more pertinently to Morton fans, how that impacts us on our travels, given that away grounds haven’t been terribly welcoming this season and Morton are regarded in most circles as having the worst facilities in the division.

This was put down to cost more than anything, but it was accepted that away fans do get a raw deal. There were no promises for improvements going forward, and the TV studio makes things difficult for TV games, but the availability of the west side of the Cowshed was noted.

To wrap things up, there were questions relating to the proposed community hub, and whether the club could seek UEFA funding- an unlikely source in my personal opinion, and about whether the club look at similar sized clubs, especially given Dale Pryde-MacDonald’s links to Ross County. Graham Barr said that the club are now spreading their wings a bit wider, having previously relied on a small pool of sponsors.

He also said that the club want to improve their regular crowds rather than depending on positive results bringing out bigger crowds, and are working on that.

I’d normally like to finish with a conclusion, but will leave it to the reader to make their own decisions off the back of this account, as I had no real positive or negative feelings on the evening’s discussions. Over to you.

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Great summary as ever Russell, many thanks for that! I was a bit surprised however that upgrading Cappielow wasn't one of the main agenda items, as this will require significant investment in the near future. Would have been interesting to know what the plans are for this, and perhaps more importantly, how it will be financed. 

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