PARTICK THISTLE are facing an angry backlash from supporters after the hitherto-anonymous group that will receive Colin Weir’s majority shareholding were eventually unveiled this morning.

In a statement published on the Thistle website, Three Black Cats (3BC) announced that the PTFC Trust, an existing fan body that already holds a stake of 19.28 per cent in the Championship club, will receive the gift after their proposal was recommended to the club board by 3BC.

The share transfer still requires the green light from the Scottish FA but once it has been received, the PTFC Trust will take on 3BC’s shares, bringing its overall stake to 74.28 per cent.

“People who’ve never met Colin Weir will speculate as to what he would think today,” concluded 3BC’s statement. “The directors of 3BC know exactly what he wanted – for the fans who love the club to be guardians of its majority shareholding, keeping the club stable and safe from being sold against fans’ wishes. He would be quietly chuffed that this has now been settled and his wishes delivered.”

The club itself also announced its relief that the process had moved on following a breakdown in negotiations with The Jags Foundation (TJF), the supporters’ group that were the club’s intended recipient of the shares in October 2021, that culminated in 3BC rejecting TJF’s proposal last week.

“We welcome this morning’s important announcement that the PTFC Trust is the preferred recipient for the majority shareholding in Thistle,” the club statement read.

“After a long period of uncertainty, it’s good that the focus is firmly back on football going forward. The club board has already held a positive initial meeting with the Trust and looks forward to working closely with the fans’ representative body for the good of the club and supporters.”

The announcement should have been heralded as an exciting new chapter for the club and a galvanising moment for the fanbase but instead, it was met with scathing criticism from outraged supporters.

Much of the rancour rests on the fact that the PTFC Trust chose to withhold their identity during negotiations from the very people they were there to represent. The Trust has existed for seven years and “is recognised as the primary vehicle for fan engagement” at the club, according to its Twitter profile: a message slightly undermined by the fact that prior to Wednesday’s announcement, it previous tweet (that wasn't a retweet) was written on 1 January 2020 as it wished its followers a Happy New Year. There has been no attempt to speak with supporters at games to anyone's knowledge.

The PTFC Trust cannot be said to have engaged in any meaningful way with the fanbase. The responses from supporters make that abundantly clear. Put simply, no one knew who they were. It is in stark contrast to TJF – comprised of over 750 members – where engagement has been a clear priority since the new board were elected in April. TJF say that they would have been happy to work alongside the Trust – and remain willing to do so – but that they received no meaningful contact from the fan representatives during a negotiation process that spans over two and a half years.

The PTFC Trust’s membership criteria has been restrictive in the past – fans were required to have held a season ticket for two years and the current season in order to join – but the Trust claims it has spent the past few months “drastically reshaping” itself. All season ticket holders are now members and 3BC says that work is under way to extend membership to non-season ticket holders. By way of comparison, no such criteria applied to the rejected TJF proposal.

Since the PTFC Trust’s inception in 2015 there has been a solitary election, held in 2018. In the Trust’s statement, it promised that with season ticket holders “all having a say, all having a vote, we can truly state that this is the most democratic and most representative solution”, seemingly in reference to those drastic changes of the past few months.

The PTFC Trust is now the de facto largest fans’ group at Firhill after incorporating 1600 season ticket holders into its ranks but prior to Wednesday’s announcement, that accolade was held by TJF. There is now plenty of overlap between the two groups’ members but TJF remains a sizable chunk of the Thistle support, and a common accusation of those directly involved in negotiations with 3BC is that they felt strung along. Negotiations between TJF and 3BC broke down entirely in April but when a new board was elected to the fans’ group, talks restarted. Multiple sources have told Herald and Sport that 3BC’s conduct in discussions with TJF indicate that they were never the intended recipient of the shares. When approached for comment, 3BC has repeatedly declined.

The Trust’s statement makes it clear that it was aware of Weir’s intentions for fan ownership. It sets out three specific criteria: “he wanted the club to have its best interests and integrity upheld by those who truly care about the club; Colin Weir wished for the club to be stable; and Colin Weir wished for the club to be safe from being sold out from under the feet of the fans”. TJF – whose proposal was presumably not deemed to fit these criteria – insist that despite repeated requests to 3BC, they were never informed of Weir’s vision of fan ownership, instead relying on cryptic and blunt feedback to shape their revised proposals.

The PTFC Trust has promised profound change in the way it operates and that is what is required if it is to fit just about anyone’s understanding of  fan ownership. Restrictive membership criteria and its own governance are just two areas that are in need of radical overhaul and until their proposal is made publicly available, we do not know how the Trust intends to address these issues.

TJF’s proposal was ultimately rejected by 3BC, and we can deduce that the PTFC Trust’s offer proved more appealing in the end. But it must be said: for a body that claim to be the voice of the Thistle fans, the Trust’s cheerful announcement is wildly out of step with the support’s angry response.

Three Black Cats has been approached for comment.