Thomas wants elected supporter 'to challenge' the Cobblers board

Cobblers chairman Kelvin ThomasCobblers chairman Kelvin Thomas
Cobblers chairman Kelvin Thomas
Kelvin Thomas has made it clear the appointment of an elected supporter to the Cobblers board of directors is not just a symbolic gesture.

The Town chairman revealed on Tuesday the club will be holding a democratic election among the fanbase to elect a supporters' representative to join the board.

The process will be open to all supporters of the club, with any interested parties simply asked to compete their nomination and submit it by October 5.

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Supporters will then be able to cast their vote for who they want to represent them online or by hand at the home game against Mansfield Town on October 16, with the winner announced shortly afterwards.

Cobblers co-owner and board member David BowerCobblers co-owner and board member David Bower
Cobblers co-owner and board member David Bower

Whoever that may be will be invited to become a director and Thomas says they will be encouraged to be fully involved in the decision making processes at the club, and to challenge the other board members on the running of the club, and its future.

"We want somebody who wants to be involved," said Thomas. "This isn't just us saying 'we are going to have a supporter on the board'.

"This is somebody we want to include in conversation.

"Everybody on the board will have a vote and will be one of five, but that's not the important bit for us.

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"The important part for us is there will be that input, involvement, and we want somebody who can attend all meetings.

"We want somebody who feels they can influence things.

"The truth is, do I think this will change things dramatically? No, I don't.

"I don't think we are out of touch with our fanbase, I don't think we don't communicate with our fanbase in general.

"But will it help us? Will it help us get our message out to the fans? I think it will absolutely help, and that is what we are looking for that person to do.

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"We are also not looking for that person to change themselves as a fan and come into the boardroom before games or whatever.

"I think I would prefer them not to change, I want them to still be a fan, to be out there talking to the fanbase and interacting with them, just like they normally would.

"The person that the fanbase is going to vote for will be a person who is already connected to the fans, and we won't want to lose that connection, we want it to survive."

Whoever wins the vote will not be the first supporter to have seat on the Cobblers board, but will be the first since Thomas and his associates David Bowler and Mike Wailing took control of the club in November, 2015.

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Prior to that, there had been a designated member of the NTFC Supporters' Trust sit on the club's board between 1992 and 2013.

Now a supporters' representative is returning to the board, Thomas explained firstly why it has taken six years of his leadership to go down this route, and also why he has decided against resuming the previous relationship with the Trust.

"This was something we discussed, and it is commonly known that we have never had a Supporters Trust representative on the board," said Thomas.

"That was prior to us taking over at the club.

"We did discuss it at that time (in 2015) with the council, but we didn't feel comfortable at the time that we knew all of the players in the club, in terms of who was at the respective organisations, etc.

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"We just felt it was better to go alone at that point, and we still feel that was the right decision."

And on the new move, Thomas admitted the difficult relationship between the club and the Trust has not been ideal, but that if a Trust member were to win the vote, then they would be welcome with open arms.

"We now come to the point where we feel it is time to have representative on the board," said the chairman.

"But we can't shy away from the fact that, especially in the past couple of months, we have had some challenges in our relationship with the Trust.

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"So what we felt was that we don't want to dictate who is on the board, so if we went to the Supporters Trust we would be dictating who is going on the board.

"There was a recent poll (conducted by the Chron) where only six per cent of the fanbase felt the Trust represented their views, so automatically you are almost alienating 94 per cent of the fanbase.

"We have spoken to other clubs, and there are clubs with Trust members on board, there are clubs who run by a Trust majority, there are others with no representation and some with independent representation from fans.

"So we just felt this was a chance for the fans, whether they like the Supporters Trust or don't like them, to be represented.

"So in our opinion, this was the fairest way of doing it.

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"We have no issue who comes on the board, and if they are a member of the Supporters Trust then we have no issue with that, and we will welcome anybody.

"But we welcome them with the view that it is an independent supporter who has been democratically voted for by the rest of the fanbase.

"We have communicational issues or perhaps disagreements with the Trust in the past, but a lot of that is noise for us.

"People are always going to disagree with the way we think and what we do, but with this we can't be accused of not going through an independent process, or a lack of transparency.

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"It is a democratic process, and whoever gets the most votes comes on the board.

"This isn't about any particular group, it's not about the Trust, it's not about the disabilty group, it's not about any of the travel clubs, it's about the club as a whole and its best interests.

"We will welcome whoever the supporters feel is the right person for the job, and I think it is a bold step by us.

"We accept the risk that there could be somebody coming on the board who hates us, but we like that challenge.

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"We want somebody to challenge us and say 'can we do this?', 'can we do this better?'

"So we don't all have to get along, it helps of course and we will always be respectful, but we do want that challenge."