When Dee4Life directors pledged to do everything in their power to seek answers about the proposed new stadium development, it was made clear that diplomacy would have to be exhausted before a different course of action would be pursued.
Over the past year, we have been guided by legal advice and have asked for nothing beyond what FPS agreed to when they bought the club 10 years ago. We have sought help from intermediaries and offered to go to arbitration to establish a framework for fan representation. We produced a proposal that highlighted the ways we can help the club in return for them fulfilling their legal obligations. We demonstrated our willingness to work alongside the club and provided financial assistance for projects. Most recently, we requested a Q&A session so that outstanding stadium issues could be addressed.
We have worked hard to find an amicable solution but, with the club still failing to answer the perfectly reasonable questions put to them, we feel now is the time to appraise you of all that has happened to date.
In December 2022, we nominated Trust director Kenny Valentine to sit as our primary representative on the club board. The response, signed ‘Dundee Football Club Limited’, made clear this was regarded as a hostile act. Much of the anger appeared to be linked to the fact that a Dee4Life director had, while acting in a personal capacity, responded to the Camperdown statutory consultation by noting that they opposed the plan as it was presented at that time. We had restated Dee4Life’s position – support for the development subject to assurances about the risks facing the club – in our official response to the same consultation.
We immediately sought legal counsel and were advised to resolve the situation privately. Our lawyer wrote to the club noting that the concerns expressed were clearly those of an individual, reminding them that we had acted within our entrenched rights, and offering to meet with company secretary Lindsay Darroch to discuss next steps.
While it would have made our lives easier to outline every detail with you, we were advised that any public fallout would jeopardise any chance of progress. We ultimately took the view that to go public would be to fail our members by making it less likely that they received the answers they sought.
While discussions were ongoing between lawyers, Kenny met with club GM Greg Fenton and received confirmation that Dundee would be playing at Dens Park the following season. This didn’t answer all our questions, but it did address fears that we would be groundsharing for 2022/23.
Over the months that followed, some progress was made. Despite the language used in their response back in December, the club had not said they wouldn’t agree to a Dee4Life rep on the club board and, at this stage, the direction of travel seemed to be towards this happening.
Kenny and I (Dee4Life Chair Keith Winter) held robust and constructive discussions with John Nelms, emphasising why increased engagement was positive while pushing back firmly but professionally where appropriate.
An example of this came when we launched a survey in response to the club’s season ticket launch. Two hundred of you took the time to complete the survey and to ask other questions. Despite having agreed to provide answers to FAQs, the club then said they would prefer to answer them on the club’s channels so that all fans could be addressed simultaneously. We still await these answers.
By this time, we had finalised a formal proposal outlining how we saw a relationship between the club and the Trust working and this was sent to Dundee directors once the season ended. We called for several measures intended to increase engagement and communication, along the lines outlined in the club’s own Customer Charter. There were also examples of the ways in which we could help the club as part of a mutually respectful partnership.
While there was agreement in some areas – including willingness to take part in a Q&A – there was significant disagreement in others. Whereas discussion on the board place were of the ‘when, not if’ variety a few months ago, there now appeared to be a hardening of the club’s position. This culminated in us being told that attempts to have a Dee4Life rep appointed would continue to be resisted.
Over the past year, we have made clear that we sought a reset in relations with the club but the supposed actions of “individuals associated with Dee4Life” were repeatedly cited as reasons for the club’s reluctance to engage. With no movement on the board place we requested the Q&A that John Nelms had indicated he was willing to take part in. The response we received offered only a further meeting rather than direct discussions about the issues we had raised. We had previously been offered a Q&A with Tony Docherty but it would have been inappropriate to take part in this while we seek answers to the Camperdown questions.
It has been frustrating not to be able to share all we have been doing with members, but it was necessary that discussions remained confidential while there was a chance of diplomacy succeeding. We also had to be able to evidence the steps we had taken to resolve the impasse in a professional and amicable manner. Our aim was to be above reproach in all that we did.
For obvious reasons it isn’t in our interests for the full legal advice we received to be in the public domain but, to summarise, the only way to enforce Dee4Life’s entrenched rights would be by raising legal action against the club. We don’t have inexhaustible funds but the majority of our reserves are ringfenced for legal action if it is ever required to fight a very clear threat to Dundee’s existence.
Our primary focus over the past year has been to fulfil the pledges we made at the last AGM and for fans to receive the information they deserve. The board rep nomination was a means to an end for us – that end being to get answers to the stadium questions and to ensure this kind of situation does not arise again. With club directors now explicitly saying they will block this move and with John Nelms now apparently unwilling to take part in a Q&A, it is now time to consider next steps.
We will be meeting with Dundee’s two constituency MSPs over the next few weeks to ask for their assistance in resolving this situation. We will update you on these talks and anticipate laying out the options available to us and recommending a course of action ahead at our AGM in November, at which point members will be able to vote on the direction we take.
We note today’s media reports about the imminent purchase of Dens Park by FPS and will consider the implications for the club as we obtain more information on the matter.
Keith Winter (Chair)