Burnley fans group Clarets Trust appoints youngest ever chairman following death of Peter Pike

The Clarets Trust – a group set up to represent fans interests in relation to Burnley Football Club – has appointed its youngest ever chairman.

By Dominic Collis
Tuesday, 24th May 2022, 4:35 pm

Twenty-one-year-old George Poole, who grew up in the Ribble Valley, takes the mantle from late chairman, the much-respected Peter Pike, at a time of great upheaval for the club following relegation from the Premier League and continued uncertainty over the long-term financial prospects under new American owners ALK Capital.

Sports-mad George, who is currently working for Global Cycling Network during a year out from studying Politics and International Relations at Bath University, said it was a challenge and honour to take over from Peter Pike who died last December.

Numbering only 200 members, one of George’s aims is to grow membership of the Trust, particularly younger ones, when fan representation is more important than ever.

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George Poole (21) the new chairman of the Clarets Trust following the team at İstanbul Başakşehir in the Fatih Terim Stadium during the club's Europa League adventure in 2018

"Before I joined the Trust two years ago I hadn’t even heard of it,” George explained. “Now we’re already seeing a lot more followers on social media.

"It’s daunting but also exciting to be made chairman because of these unprecedented times the club is currently going through. The last few years of seeing the Clarets compete in the Premier League and Europe have been a dream, but we now have a new reality.

"Sean Dyche has been at the heart of that and obviously he’s no longer at the club and of course we have the new owners and all the uncertainty over how the club was bought and the debt issues it faces having now been relegated to the Championship.

"Fans are understandably anxious and have a lot of questions for the club chairman Alan Pace but I’m not sure these have been answered yet. That’s why it’s more important than ever to have the Clarets Trust so we can put these concerns directly to the club.”

Times are indeed uncertain for the Clarets, with a huge debt unfamiliar to fans during the steady hand on the tiller chairmanships of Barry Kilby, John Banaszkiewicz and Mike Garlick, now hanging like an East Lancashire cloud over Turf Moor.

Burnley face having to to pay back a significant proportion of a £65m. loan taken out as part of ALK Capital’s leveraged buy-out.

The club’s accounts revealed the repayment clause, that also confirmed the impact on the Clarets of the leveraged buy-out that transferred ownership to Alan Pace’s ALK Capital group. The club’s cash reserves had reduced from £80m to £50m, while Burnley have collected £102m of debt.

ALK Capital took out the loan from MSD Holdings to finance the buy out but the club’s accounts reveal that the repayment schedule would be brought forward from 2025 if they drop into the Championship.

George added: “Clarets Trust is the biggest non-majority shareholder at the football club. When ALK took over they actually offered to buy us out but we declined because the shares offer us a seat at the table.

"Before the pandemic, the Trust would meet once every few months in person. We are now having a mixture of Zoom meetings but will be having our main meetings at Turf Moor still which Alan Pace has said he will attend.

"I think one of my aims is to modernise the Trust and get a lot more eyeballs on it. Aside from reporting fans’ concerns to the club, I’d also like to see the Trust help fans practically out in the community.

"In these difficult times we’re living in, it’d be nice to help under-privileged fans get to see some games and run some similar events where we can make a physical difference to people’s lives.”

Defiantly optimistic, George said that he believed relegation should not be seen as all doom and gloom but could be treated as a chance to refresh, not just for the club, but for the fans too.

"Obviously we’re going to be getting a new manager in, which is exciting, and a lot of players are likely to leave so we’ll be seeing some new faces. I think next season will be good for the fans where hopefully we’ll see a few more wins than we’ve been used to.

"As Chris Boden (Burnley Express) put it recently, it felt like the club had been dying a slow death on the pitch, so hopefully we can see some performances that will put a smile back on fans’ faces.”

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As for the financial future, the only glimpse fans can gleam currently is what Alan Pace told the local press in January, 2021.

“I would tell you the way that we have done this, I am absolutely positively certain, it has never been done in the same way ever before, and has everything to do with making the fan base comfortable that this is the most sustainable form of what we could have done - bar none.

”I think people will realise that over time, we can’t speak about it for a whole bunch of reasons, but if I was in front of a number of fans at any given time, I can put my hand on my heart, look them in the eye and say ‘you should be proud of the way that this club has done what it has done, and you should be happy with knowing where it can go and will go, with the structures that have been put in place.

”You’re taking a mortgage - you don’t think twice about taking a mortgage for your house. But, it really does depend on which mortgage you take, how much you take, and what’s the structure and interest rate.

”Those are minor points, but it also depends on who you take it from, and what you do. All those things have a play, but hopefully someday people will look back and say this was pretty incredible."