Towards the end of last year, tensions were running high at Partick Thistle. The fan ownership dispute was hitting its high-water mark as the conflict threatened to spill over into all-out civil war. A section of the fanbase turned on the club board and demanded its removal over the handling of the years-long saga; away from the terraces, relations between the PTFC Trust (the fans’ group that received the shares) and The Jags Foundation (the 1,600-strong supporters’ group that didn’t) were at an all-time low.

The contention centred around the manner in which the Trust received Colin Weir’s 55-per-cent stake in the Glasgow club. Following years of drawn-out talks, TJF felt as though they had been gazumped by the PTFC Trust when the latter were announced as the preferred recipient of Weir’s shares.

What happened next was perhaps the most significant step that the Jags have taken in their journey to becoming a fan-owned football club. The three most influential fans’ groups at Firhill – the PTFC Trust, TJF and The Jags Trust – did the simplest thing they could. They all got in a room, and thrashed it all out.

“The eighth of August,” recalled TJF chairman Sandy Fyfe. “That was when we were told we were not getting the shares. I’ll remember that night for a long time.

“Things didn’t start changing immediately but thanks to Brian [Welsh, the club’s media officer], he pulled the Trustees, The Jags Trust and ourselves into a room. At that point we did realise there was so little between us and we were all doing it for the same reasons.

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“We might have been coming at it from different directions but we were all doing it for the same reasons. I always had faith in Partick Thistle supporters’ ability to deliver this and in the end, it’s in some ways a better outcome than any of us imagined – because it has taken a wider breadth of fan to achieve it. That’s quite a nice thing.”

Fast-forward to the present and the mood music around Firhill could hardly be more stark. The team’s thrilling run through the Premiership play-offs and the fans’ response to the financial difficulties revealed last month have both had a galvanising effect on the fanbase, but so too has the spirit of unity behind the scenes.

Last week, The Jags Trust and TJF became corporate Trustees of the PTFC Trust, effectively putting an end to the dispute once and for all as a significant chunk of the fanbase became part-owners of their club with a few strokes of the pen. The PTFC Trust could reflect on a job well done – they had, after all, insisted from the get-go that they simply wanted to get a deal done to secure the shares so they could pass them on to supporters – but for the other two groups, the rubber-stamping of fan ownership represents a new beginning.

“There’s a harsh reality,” said Randle Wilson of the PTFC Trust. “You can talk all day about fan ownership but if you don’t have the shares, you can’t do anything. Now the shares are with the fanbase and we are all very proud of what we have achieved.”

“It was never about us; it was always about the football club,” concurred Neil Drain, a fellow Trustee. “I think when the major change in the relationships with everyone involved happened, everybody could see that everyone else was just interested in the football club. Once you get that and you realise you all want the same thing, it is just a matter of building trust and addressing technicalities.

The Herald: Representatives from the PTFC Trust, The Jags Foundation and The Jags Trust were in attendance at

“The more the three groups started talking, the more we realised there was a cigarette paper between what we were trying to achieve. It's a proud moment for us because I think The Jags Trust and The Jags Foundation will probably view this as a moment to look forward, that this is the very beginning of the journey.

“For us, it’s more like we have got to this point and we can now let it go, as it were, and get the fans owning the club properly. That’s what we always wanted. The big thing is that we have achieved the ultimate goal – how we got there wasn’t how we had planned it, but the main thing is we have achieved exactly what we wanted to do. I am very proud of that.

“There is now a direct link between the fans, the board, the team – the club as a whole. There is a direct link and to an extent, the club is now answerable to the fans.”

“It’s been a long process,” adds Morag McHaffie, chair of The Jags Trust. “Fans have been involved in working groups for a long time but there was always a stumbling block.

“This is the start of a new era for the fans. Neil and his colleagues have been very open to working with TJF and The Jags Trust, and we actually have worked very well over the past six months – to the point where we have now signed the legal document. It’s a momentous occasion.”

READ MORE: Years of strife erased with a pen as Partick Thistle officially become fan-owned

The spirit of cooperation that has been in effect at Thistle since the turn of the year has seen remarkable progress being made in the transition to fan ownership. More has been achieved in the past seven months than in the previous two years, and the result is that thousands of supporters now have a real say.

“There are now so many Thistle fans that have a stake in the ownership of the football club,” observed Andrew Holloway, a TJF director who was appointed as a fan representative on the club board earlier this summer. “It is fantastic we’re all working together.

“It has been a long road. Do we wish we had acted differently at some points? Probably, yes. Was everyone doing things for the right reasons and with good intentions? Absolutely. And can we all sit down now, enjoy each other’s company, and focus on a job well done to this point? I think we absolutely we can.

“From the club board’s perspective – the fans are core to everything that we do. I’m not saying that they weren’t before but they absolutely are now. The direct link is there. You have got fans on the board and there will be board members in the John Lambie and the Jackie Husband on matchdays. It is not ivory tower stuff and I think that’s really important.”