Maybe it’s just me but Supporters Trusts sometimes have a bit of a dour image. You know; earnest middle-to-late aged people huddled together discussing serious issues like an increase in burger prices as if the world depended on the outcome.
It’s true of course that our Trust bods are involved in areas of the club where a frivolous approach would not be right. Our performances on the club boards of directors, how we press for Fan Led Review reforms, or how we play our part overseeing the Stacey West Investment Bond are examples of matters that we take very seriously.
For a fan supporting your club is about enjoyment though. I like to think our Trust board are tuned into that and contribute to the fun our members and Imps supporters generally have throughout the season.
Each month we put out our RICT Player of the Month poll and from humble beginnings we now get hundreds of people having their say. It’s also that Player of the Year time again, and, in partnership with the Lincoln and District Football Supporters Club, we have run an on-line vote where our fans can reward who they think has been their stand-out performer.
Our stand in the Fan Village is well known. We give our freebie stuff, sell Imps books and posters, have collectable programmes on show, and are a base where local entertainers like magicians and ballon modellers who we’ve hired can operate from.
A recent Imps-players anagram competition went down well. We had loads of entrants who worked out, amongst others, who ‘Team Joy’ and ‘A Green Polo’ were.
On a more basic level the RICT stand is just a place to come to for a chat about the club and we’re delighted to chew the Lincoln City fat with anyone and everyone. Call and see us if you haven’t already.
Finally, and with an about-turn from fun to forlorn, we were all saddened to hear of the passing of Lou Bird, a programme seller at the ground for many years. She was a lovely character and a friend of many and will be sorely missed.
The Trust has a number of important roles to fulfil at the football club. We clearly set out to be a voice of the fans in the boardroom but we are asked to do much more than that. Equally we want to make a meaningful contribution to the governance of Lincoln City and the operations that are led by the board and staff.
The governance structure of the club is quite extensive. An Executive Committee group (Exco) meets regularly and the full Board of Directors assemble quarterly. Then there are a range of committees who oversee specific areas include financial planning, football strategy, social and ethical matters, and so on. Our very own Mandi Slater, who represents the Gold Members of the Trust on the full board, is a skilled member of the Audit and Risk group who assess the financial implications of all club planning.
As a former chair of Lincolnshire Cricket I had a lot of involvement, especially in my last year there, in the welfare of players and officials in one area of the game in our county. Quite a few issues needed dealing with which led to a lot of changes. I was appointed as Safeguarding Champion at Lincoln City based on these experiences and I attend Safeguarding Group meetings representing the board of directors.
Safeguarding measures at the club are comprehensive and meet and exceed all the necessary standards. Under Clive’s boardroom leadership and Liam’s strategic and operational abilities you, quite frankly, wouldn’t expect anything else.
A new safeguarding element is being introduced though. From the previous cricket experiences I describe above and from developing trends in mental health challenges we are setting up a team of Mental Health First Responders at the LNER stadium. Employees at Lincoln City and associated personnel will have the opportunity, should they need it, to speak privately to a trained MH responder. This may be enough, to talk, or expert assistance can be provided to suit a person’s situation.
The ‘team’ are currently being trained by a local councillor with a course having been devised specifically to embrace general mental health issues but also those that can be faced in a large sporting organisation. I’m proud that the Red Imps Community Trust have had involvement in the setting up of this additional safeguarding measure over and above all those that already exist. We’ve all seen the statistics about the numbers of people who will be affected by mental heath difficulties and of course we are aware of the tragic increase in suicides especially amongst young people.
If this new work prevents even one person connected with our club from suffering in this way, then this new initiative will have been well worth it.
My wife and attended the funeral of Lincoln City President John Jennison yesterday at the Church of St Peter and Paul in Pickering in North Yorkshire. He loved the club, was a lovely man, and will be sorely missed.
John was a good friend of the Red Imps Community Trust and was a superb ally all those years ago when the club’s future was in doubt. He’d quietly encourage us to stick in there and, when the going got really tough, he assured us we mustn’t change tack because he agreed with our strategies.
In October 2003 John, sitting in the directors’ box, had a heart attack as a dramatic game against Huddersfield reached its climax. The match-day medics and Polly my wife, then a nurse, tended to him while Charles his son and others looked on of course deeply concerned. Two days later we visited him in the County Hospital where amazingly he sat up as chirpy as anything, thank heavens. John always had a bond with us after that terrible event in addition to the Lincoln City bond we’d always had.
John was a former President of Pickering Town, his home-town club. He helped them a little bit despite his passion for the Imps. In my time at Ashby Avenue, Lincoln United’s and Pickering’s paths crossed one season in the Northern Premier League East Division. When we played them there one windswept Tuesday night John, Charles, and daughter-in-law Adele came along.
It was far from a classic and the Whites scraped home 2-1. The whole night was one of football chatter and good humour. At half time, with a crowd of about 250, it was Adele and I won the first two prizes in the club raffle, which John found hilarious.
A hugely popular man with an equally popular family, John, as I say, will be missed as the twists and turns of life at Lincoln City continue. Suffice it to say he was an important part of the club over four decades and no-one will forget that.