The fans organisation which owns one of Scotland's oldest football clubs has voted in favour of bringing in an independent auditor to look into a land 'scandal' involving care charity Kibble who are part owners.

Questions have been raised about the bid for £2m of public money for the Kibble charity's 'first of its kind' Scottish care centre after leaks confirmed that despite denials an application to the Scottish Government for funding showed that land earmarked was owned by St Mirren, without their permission.

The vote came as one St Mirren Independent Supporters Association (SMiSA) member questioned the legality of the deal at its annual general meeting because the finance bid to the Scottish Government was made as part of an "innovative partnership" with "St Mirren Football Club’s Charitable Foundation which said it did not know its name was being used.

The Herald previously revealed that St Mirren director Alan Wardrop resigned in a row over a conflict of interest as Kibble which is behind the project is part-owner of the club while there were concerns over a failure to inform about the bid for Scottish Government regeneration funds.

A solicitor for Mr Wardrop, who remains banned from the St Mirren stadium after he raised questions over the bid has now called on the club board to withdraw a denial statement and issue an apology as it emerged a location map showed the charity's plan was earmarked for club land in Paisley. He said any failure would be considered in respect any future proceedings.

The Herald: Alan Wardrop

Kibble has repeatedly insisted since the row erupted that the map plan of the land was not produced by them and that instead, they envisaged the building being placed on one of the many vacant sites in the Ferguslie area of Paisley.

It has now emerged that the row over the £13.4m project has spilled into the annual general meeting of SMiSA which is the majority owner of the club and has called for an investigation.

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An official record of the meeting states that SMiSA board member Alex Dillon asked those at the AGM if bringing in an independent auditor to investigate the situation was something they would want. Around 75% backed it.

The record stated: A majority in the room raised their hands in [agreement].

But it said that Mr Dillon later said that it was "not a guarantee" that it would happen.

An email from the SMiSA board to members says they will now approach club directors and Mr Wardrop for their version of events and look for "supporting documented evidenced before deciding the next course of action".

It added: "We do note an overwhelming majority of SMiSA members at the AGM indicated the need for further clarity of the background to the funding application."

While the meeting was attended by the SMiSA representatives on the St Mirren board, including St Mirren chairman, John Needham, neither of the two Kibble representatives, Jim Gillespie and Mark Macmillan were there.

Mr Wardrop questioned the legality of the bid for public funds while concerns surface over the charity abusing its relationship with the Scottish Premiership club.

Mr Wardrop accused Kibble club board representatives, Mr Gillespie and Mr Macmillan of 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. It appeared to wrongly have St Mirren's stamp of approval.

The Herald:

Land registry documents showed that the land plotted in the public funding bid (left) mirrors land that is owned by St Mirren by way of the red border (right)

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 despite denials, St Mirren land was earmarked for the project without permission - while seeking £2m of public money by way of a grant from the Scottish Government.

In the ensuing row, an email seen by the Herald on Sunday from Mr Gillespie 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.

As the dispute emerged, Kibble said 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".

The spokesman for the charity went on: "There simply was not."

The Herald on Sunday revealed that the council does not agree that areas of land indicated on a submitted map were produced in error and say the area earmarked in the application to Scottish Government was pinpointed by Kibble.

St Mirren's board insisted that the application was "unspecific" as to the precise location and that it was "not on land owned by St Mirren."

But leaked emails from council managers have told a different story - with a diagram submitted to the Scottish Government for public funding showing that land proposed to be built on was, in fact, on St Mirren land.

At a heated AGM, St Mirren director and retired chief operating officer of ScotRail Alex White said he had challenged the finance application last year when it became clear it was a "Kibble application that was going forward" under a St Mirren name.

He said the Kibble directors on the board apologised and that it was suggested that the foundation should be spoken to about their name being associated with the bid.

"We were not satisfied with the communication around it," he told members. "We made it clear it was not the way forward for us. "

He said at no point were they expecting St Mirren land to be used.


The Herald:

Later a SMiSA member cited the Companies Act and said the Kibble directors' actions were a breach of a section over a board member's conflict of interest. He said a vote would normally take place to remove the directors involved.

Mr Needham said it wasn't done and it would have had to be done at an extraordinary general meeting.

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, who has been seeking the removal of Kibble representatives on the board lost his bid to become one of three new SMiSa board members in an election.

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 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 initially begin a buyout process in 2016.

Mr Wardrop was previously credited with making fan ownership possible by teaming up with SMISA to initially 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.

Video: How St Mirren became a fan-owned club... featuring interviews with Mr Wardrop and Mr Needham.

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.

But things changed for Mr Wardrop 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".

On the stadium ban, Mr Wardrop SMiSA members at the AGM: "I think it is disgusting the way I have been treated, as a fellow St Mirren supporter like you.

"I have learnt why I was banned, I thought it was because of my comments I made at the Herald.

"They were clearly directed at Kibble directors who in my belief are not acting in the best interest of this football club."

Mr Needham responded: "Anyone is free to make a comment on the club as fans.".

The Herald:

Council officer communication over the land deal before the row (above) and after (below).

The Herald:

But he said action was taken after he had "gone to the Herald and "amplified all that" meaning that "people in this club were tied up responding to that".

"If you criticise the club, you have to back your criticisms with evidence," he said.

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 and it was only discovered in September, when a second stage submission was made.

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,

Plot drawings submitted as part of the application to Scottish Government confirm that the land earmarked was owned by St Mirren.

According to the grant application submitted in September, the sale of the land "has been agreed" and that the land ownership would transfer on January 2023.

According to submissions to the Scottish Government, the project aimed to develop 10 acres of land - the equivalent of around five football pitches - and create a well-being centre "which will support inclusive growth in the Ferguslie Park area of Paisley, an area consistently ranked in the top 10 most deprived... data zones in Scotland".

The St Mirren board 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".

They insisted they had not been expected to offer its land as part of the project.

They said any sale or transfer of its land "would require to be subject to a robust process" including being professionally valued, recommended by a majority of the directors and approved by club shareholders as part of a legal agreement.

A spokesman for Kibble said: “As we now have stated repeatedly, the map which sparked this entire, unfortunate and unnecessary episode was not produced by us. The shaded area which purported to show the proposed location next to the stadium was simply not our doing.

The Herald:

Part of the 'St Mirren' regeneration plan

“Instead, we envisaged building a much-needed facility to help vulnerable children on one of the many vacant sites in the Ferguslie area.

“As was made clear repeatedly by SMiSA directors at the meeting, Kibble has played a significant role in strengthening the finances and operations at St Mirren FC and looks forward to this relationship continuing for many years to come.”