How it all began
On Tuesday, 29 February, 2000 Stuart Duncan read an online article on the BBC website entitled Palace put faith in fans. The article explained how Crystal Palace fans were concerned about the future of their club, it being millions of pounds in debt, and had decided to explore the possibility of forming a Supporters’ Trust to rescue their club.
Supporters’ Trusts in those days were a totally unknown quantity unlike today, Stuart recognised the parallels between Crystal Palace and Greenock Morton. Both had debt that they couldn’t service and were in danger of going into administration. Morton at this time was being run into the ground by the then owner Hugh Scott. Having written to the Crystal Palace Supporters’ Trust the previous week Stuart received a copy of the Crystal Palace Trust brochure on Saturday 4 March 2000 which outlined the Trusts aims and objectives.
Prominent on the front page was a picture of David Hopkin, ex Morton, holding aloft the FA Cup. Stuart wondered if the concept of Supporter shareholding if not ownership was a better option for Greenock Morton. He talked to some prominent supporters, among them the late Garry Millar. Garry saw the benefit in the idea and before he knew it Garry had Stuart at the Greenock Telegraph to explain how the concept worked. Garry, although not wanting to get involved himself, was quick to mention names to Stuart whom he thought would help get the Trust off the ground. And so began a journey that was to end with Trust becoming the second biggest shareholder at Cappielow and one of the first in Scotland to become recognised by the Financial Services Authority.
Meanwhile the situation at Cappielow was deteriorating rapidly. On Thursday 15 June Duncan McNeill the Labour MSP called for a Scott free Morton in the Scottish Parliament. On 21 September 2000 the situation went downhill, Greenock Morton Football Club went into administration with Kroll Buchler Philips appointed administrators and the clock was ticking.
Save the Ton was formed and the race was on to keep the club afloat until such times a new owner could be found. Meanwhile Morton stalwart Allan McGraw launched his Ton Share Plan. The hope was that wealthy supporters would contribute £2000 each and that money would be used to purchase the shares in GMFC. Money from the Share Plan was deposited in the Trust bank account as no other account was available at the time. On Thursday 18 January 2001 the fledging Supporters’ Trust that now consisted of Stuart Duncan, Jim McColl, Aileen Sellar, Iain McColl, Brian Farren and David Brown organised a meeting in Greenock Town Hall for all Morton supporters to come along and listen to administrator Graham Martin explain what administration means. It was also an opportunity to join the Trust. Also at that meeting were Allan McGraw and Duncan McNeill MSP.
Organising the Supporters’ Trust was no mean feat as no such organisation existed in Scotland and no one had done it in Scotland either. But things were taking shape in England where a groundswell of support was gathering pace and a lawyer called Kevin Jaquiss of Cobbetts of Manchester was drawing up a set of rules that could be presented to the Registrar of Friendly Societies for his approval. Stuart had already been in contact with other like-minded fans South of the border and had formed a good relationship with fans from the Celtic Trust who were attempting to do the same.
On Wednesday 24 January 2001 Stuart phone Kevin Jaquiss of Cobbetts for advice on how to get the Trust set up. This was to lead to a meeting in Edinburgh with Kevin and Sean Hamill of the Celtic Trust to try and agree a way forward for fans in Scotland to pursue their desire to form a Supporters’ Trust. At that meeting was Gordon Davidson of Paul and Williamson of Aberdeen who had offered to act on behalf of supporters in Scotland to have them registered as an IPS.
Meanwhile on Thursday 19 April the headlines in the Greenock Telegraph announced a Secret group in bid for Morton. A group of businessmen were being brought together by Professor James Pickett at the behest of Allan McGraw whose Ton Share Plan had not taken off as expected. With the Save the Ton campaign in full swing and the meeting of the business men, Morton supporters were hopeful of progress being made. The Supporters’ Trust was also gaining support with people joining the now launched Loan Note Fund to purchase shares in the club. Money was rapidly being ploughed into the Trust bank account as people saw the advantage of having a strong supporters representation in the form of shares. With this in mind Professor Pickett invited a representative of the Trust to join the secret talks being held with the businessmen.
Meanwhile the Trust were having talks with Graham Martin, the Morton Administrator, with a view to using Morton in the Trust’s official title, The Greenock Morton Supporters Society’ Ltd. Mr Martin wasn’t too keen in giving the Trust the use of the name. That he wanted to leave in the hands of the new owners. This delayed the Trust becoming registered with Companies House and getting approval from the Registrar of Friendly Societies. Later once the Trust was formed and others joined them both in Scotland and England it became apparent that this approval was not required.
The meetings with the businessman were becoming more fractured with each having their own idea as to how run Morton Football Club, even before they purchased it! The administrator was now setting deadlines for when money required to be paid into the bank if the consortium, which now included the Supporters’ Trust, were to purchase Morton Football Club. The Trust had committed to paying £35932 into the account in return for 46637 shares, the equivalent of 4.56% of Morton Football Club. Unfortunately none of the businessmen matched the Trust commitment to saving Morton and the Trust were left the only show in town. At this time Professor Pickett made a call to Douglas Rae who came to the rescue and bought Morton Football Club along with the Supporters’ Trust. Yes folks don’t forget that both Douglas Rae and the members of Supporters’ Trust purchased Morton.
Finally on Tuesday 26 March 2002 a letter arrived from the Financial Services Authority approving the registration of the Greenock Morton Supporters’ Society Ltd as an Industrial and Provident Society.