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From Stands to the Boardroom

by Gordon Waddell & Gavin Berry

Jim McColl will forever have his name on a little slice of Mortons' history, no matter how many generations of directors come and go. The former IBM executive was one of two signatories, along with Professor James Pickett, on the document that finally took the club out of administration and out of the hands of Hugh Scott, the man who had infamously threatened to close the 'Ton down "just like the shipyards".

Now the club are riding high again under the stewardship of a superb chairman in toffee tycoon Douglas Rae - but they have a strong Supporters' Trust riding side saddle to make sure the dark days of the Scott era are never allowed to return.

Jim, a Morton fan since moving to Greenock from Glasgow 25 years ago, revealed: "We had been interested in setting up a Trust a few years ago anyway and had a couple of meeting with Supporters Direct, but it all came to a head when the club went into administration. When that happened two groups ran in parallel. Save the 'Ton were concerned with raising funds and getting the club through the administration, and at the same time we set up the Trust because we knew that long term the important thing was to get a stake in the club and become shareholders. After a long time in administration, where all the guys in the consortium disappeared like snow off a dyke, Douglas came along and he and the Trust were the only two left. But he said the amount of support from Save the 'Ton was the only reason he put his hand in his pocket. Now he's getting the support in return. He put up 90 per cent of the money and we put up 10 per cent, something like �,000, to purchase the shares from Scott. But the buy-out was fraught. Right up to the last minute of the last day we were negotiating. However, Jim Pickett and I signed the document at eight o'clock at night, the shares were transferred to a holding company we had and, eventually, passed to Douglas and the Trust.

Since his retirement, Jim now spends at least a day a week in his role as supporter/director in addition to his matchday duties. And he's a staunch believer that every club in Scotland should have a similar custodian of the fans interests on the board. He said: "I'm a working director. On match days I'm involved in looking after the hospitality which means I'm in with the supporters but I watch the games from the directors box. It's changed my understanding of what it takes to run a club. If you stand in the cowshed you don't tend to choose to be aware of some things that have to be done. But in principle every club should have a Trust. I would urge the SFA, the SPL and the SFL when they're looking at national club licensing to have criteria that require a club to have a relationship with a Trust. Others have done things differently and there's a hesitancy among some to have fans on board. But some have years of experience in various businesses. When we set up we asked: Who does what? We had accountants, lawyers, industrial managers, structural engineers, policemen, labourers, every walk of life represented."

"The day we won the Third Division in May was the day that finally exorcised the pain and anguish of the last few years. We had been through administration, relegation from the First and Second Division yet we had 8500 people there and everyone knew right then we were on the road back."

This article originally appeared in Mailsport Monthly in December 2003.

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