A FORMER director of St Mirren has taken legal advice after receiving a stadium ban for raising concerns over 'secretive' plans for a regeneration project including a well-being centre on club land.

Alan Wardrop, a lifelong Saints fan who made the step up to the club's board in July 2016 after championing land ownership has raised concerns about how democratic the club is after the chairman John Needham told him that he would not be permitted access to the club stadium "with immediate effect and until further notice".

And he told of his shock over how he was asked to help the board with the supporters club he manages - while receiving the ban.

Mr Wardrop, the membership manager of the 1877 Club is refusing to co-operate with the board request to assist with the 1877 Club which he hosts in advance of St Mirren's home game with Hearts today (Saturday).

"They cannot ban me and then say can you help," he said.

The ban came after the man that some fans call 'Mr St Mirren' spoke out over concerns that the social care charity Kibble was abusing its partnership with St Mirren to develop a wellbeing centre in Ferguslie Park.

Kibble – which cares for children with complex needs at sites across Renfrewshire – wants to build a £13.4 million wellbeing hub next to the SMiSA Stadium.

But there were concerns that St Mirren land was earmarked for the project without permission - while seeking £2m of public money by way of grant from the Scottish Government.

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Mr Wardrop resigned from the fan-owned board at the end of last year after discovering the plan being pushed by Paisley-based Kibble, who three years ago bought a 27 percent stake to become part-owners of the club.

He accused Kibble club board representatives, Jim Gillespie and Mark Macmillan of having a "conflict of interest" by failing to disclose to directors, shareholders and fans of the bid to build the centre that the care charity would run on club land in Paisley while it appeared to wrongly have St Mirren's stamp of approval.

As the dispute emerged, Kibble said the drawings showing the project would be on club land were an error.

After the Herald revealed the dispute, it emerged the club has told Mr Wardrop that he he had been banned from the stadium and the former director has now consulted his solicitor over the matter.

But he said that he will not attempt to go to the game as "I don't want to cause a scene".

He said: "I have spoken to my solicitor about this. But i know I can't get in for the game."

The Herald:

Part of the 'St Mirren' regeneration plan

He said the club chairman had also asked if he could provide an up to date membership list for the 1877 club together with "access to the mailbox and email address by return in order to facilitate the use of the club by members on Saturday".

But he is refusing to co-operate in disgust at how he has been treated.

"It does mean that club members may not be able to get to the club," he said. "There are 240 members of the club. What they have done to me in banning me is totally unfair. This could happen to any supporter."

He added: "I can't believe that after all I have done for the club that they could ban me. It is unbelievable. It is one of the most horrible things anyone has done to me. I have been on the board and this is how they repay me. It is disgraceful."

Formerly one of four representatives of the St Mirren Independent Supporters Association (SMISA) on the board having played a big part in helping the club moving into fan ownership, Mr Wardrop has been seeking the removal of Kibble representatives on the board.

Kibble is one of two that has "significant control" of the club according to Companies House with more than 25% but not more than 50% of the shares.

St Mirren became fan owned in the summer of 2021, when SMISA bought out the remaining shareholding of chairman Gordon Scott to become majority (51%) owners of the Buddies in what it called "a historic day".

The Herald:

Happier times:  The St Mirren Championship-winning board. They are from left to right David Nicol, Gordon Scott (chairman), Mr Wardrop,  Chris Stewart and Tony Fitzpatrick,

The move to fan ownership of the Paisley club came after Kibble became part-owners in March, 2020.

SMISA said the deal helped to safeguard the future of the club – formed in 1877 – by placing it in the hands of its supporters, "the people who care for it the most".

Mr Wardrop was previously credited with making fan ownership possible by teaming up with SMISA to initally begin a buyout process in 2016.

When SMISA became majority shareholders, they asked Mr Wardrop to remain on the board as one of their representatives and he willingly agreed.

Mr Wardrop was the mastermind behind the 1877 Club in the main stand of the SMISA Stadium and has also contributed several items to the mini-museum inside the club from his personal collection of memorabilia.

When he announced he was quitting the board, a SMISA spokesman said: “Everyone at SMISA would like to thank him for all his time and effort on the board, both before and after he agreed to become one of our representatives.

“Everything he ever did was undoubtedly with the best interests of St Mirren at heart.”

But things change when a project called "the St Mirren Masterplan" appeared.

Applications for public funds described it as an "innovative partnership" with "St Mirren Football Club’s Charitable Foundation cited as one of the three partners with Kibble and the council. But the foundation has sent a letter to Kibble saying that they had no knowledge of the project when the application for funds was sought in June "much less that its name would be associated with any submission for government funding".

It said it only found out through a third party in October, after a second stage bid and that it is carrying out an investigation into what happened.

It has called for a "full explanation surrounding the application process" and why there were "material misstatements and representations in support of Scottish Government funding".

In seeking election to join the SMISA board Mr Wardrop says that he and many others, "no longer have trust and confidence in Kibble’s directors serving on the board of St. Mirren FC" and that he put forward his application "on the basis I wish to remove them".

It comes three years after Police Scotland launched an investigation into financial irregularities at the club, which is currently sitting sixth in the top tier of Scottish football.

The Herald:

Alan Wardrop with Johnny Cochrane's Scottish Cup Medal

The club alerted police after concerns surfaced over commercial agreements, sub contracts and possible non-payment of tax and national insurance.

The Scottish Premiership club then called in forensic accountants to carry out what they call a "thorough review of a number of areas of its operations".

Police Scotland said a "thorough investigation" was carried out and "no criminality was established".

Renfrewshire Council initially applied for a £2.65m grant for what was titled the "St Mirren Regeneration and Well-being Masterplan" through the Scottish Government's Regeneration Capital Grant Fund in June, last year.

The proposal documents stated the project was due to start on April 3, this year and finish on March 3, 2025.

Project details put to the Scottish Government confirm that Kibble produced a business plan for the well-being centre on the derelict site which would support vulnerable young people and "provides evidence" that it is "financially viable".

Mr Wardrop, who is an SMCF trustee and a retired financial advisor, says the application was not disclosed to other SMISA club board directors and no prior agreement was secured before the funding application was initially sought in June, last year and it was only discovered in September, when a second stage submission was made.

As the row developed, St Mirren confirmed that neither the club or the charitable foundation had been engaged prior to the submission "as this was very early stages of the process".

The club said the row was a "storm in a teacup" and insisted that the wellbeing centre would be built on one of several long-term derelict sites in the Ferguslie area, and not on land owned by St Mirren.

The Herald:

As disquiet about the project began to surface, an email sent by Mr Gillespie on Monday and shared with candidates standing for election to the board of SMISA said that the council "wrongly shaded in an area of land owned by St Mirren" and gave a "categoric assurance" that club land would not be used.

A spokesman for Kibble said when the concerns surfaced: “Mr Wardrop’s allegations are based on the entirely false premise that there was ever any intention to build on land owned by St Mirren. There simply was not, as has now been confirmed by Kibble, the St Mirren FC board and Renfrewshire Council.

“Indeed, Mr Wardrop was a member of the board of the St Mirren Charitable Foundation when it discussed and expressly supported the decision to move to Stage 2 of the funding application process.

“We made a very early-stage, exploratory funding application for a much-needed Wellbeing Centre on one of the many vacant, derelict sites in the Ferguslie Park area.

“The unfortunate error on the part of the council in shading an area of land next to the stadium has led to ill-informed speculation, which has since been clarified.”

Renfrewshire Council said that the application was "non-specific on the exact location of the proposed development" but that it did show a site plan with an indicative location, to the north of St Mirren’s stadium".

St Mirren was approached for comment.