What is a Supporters’ Trust?
A democratic, not-for-profit organisation of supporters, committed to strengthening the voice of supporters in the decision-making process at a club and to improving the links between the club and the community it serves.
Who are Supporters Direct?
- Supporters Direct arises from 3rd Report of Football Taskforce in 1999. Announced at Labour Party Conference 1999. Officially launched January 2000 and began work in October 2000
- Supporters Direct campaigns for the wider recognition of the social, cultural and economic value of sports clubs
- Supporters Direct aims to create the conditions in which supporters can secure influence and ownership of sports clubs
- Supporters Direct provides guidance and support to groups in more than 20 countries throughout Europe
- Supporters Direct promotes the value of supporter ownership to sports fans, empowering them to set up supporters’ trusts or become members of existing trusts.
What is the role of Supporters Direct?
Supporters Direct helps fans to form Trusts by offering them advice on what form the Trust should take and how to get it off the ground. One person is allocated to assist each new Trust. SD pays all the legal costs of setting up a Trust and provides small start-up grants to cover room hire, advertising, printing etc.
How does a Trust differ from an independent supporters’ association?
There are two main differences – organisational and aspirational. In terms of organisation a Trust is a registered society under the Co-operative and Community Benefit Societies Act 2014., registered by the Financial Conduct Authority, to which it must submit its annual returns. Members have limited liability and the full force of the law can be brought to bear on anyone who misappropriates the funds. As for aspiration, the “big idea” at the heart of a Trust is: “Why always be criticising, when we can be participating in the running of the club – or even owning it ourselves?” As an incorporated body a Trust is able to own shares or property and thus aim to have a significant shareholding or even ultimately own the entire football club. The fans who set up CFSS (the Trust at Chesterfield) were expecting a long slog to acquire a small shareholding, but six days later they owned the club. A Trust can act quickly and respond as the situation changes.
Are Trusts usually formed when a club is in crisis or facing closure?
Many are, and the most spectacular successes and growth are usually at a club in crisis, where fans fear that their club could become extinct. That acts as a rallying call and people make greater sacrifices than one would normally expect.
But many clubs are not facing extinction. Their crisis is “the future”; who knows what tomorrow may bring – a new owner, massive debts, relegation?
Football is an eventful sport and clubs rarely have a period of settled calm when nothing serious happens to them. In those cases a Trust is an insurance policy against that day, should it ever come. At Posh there would be a sense of crisis until a new owner takes control of the club and the Posh Supporters’ Trust is working strenuously behind the scenes to safeguard its future.
How many football clubs have a Supporters Trust?
- Supporters’ trusts have now been established at over 190 football clubs.
- Supporters of nearly 70% of clubs in the top five divisions of football in England, and the top four divisions in Scotland have established supporters’ trusts.
- Over 250,000 supporters are members of supporters’ trusts.
- Over 90 supporters’ trusts now have shareholdings in their clubs.
Do Supporters’ Trusts have a real influence at their Clubs?
- Ownership: 22 football clubs are in ownership or are majority controlled by Supporters Trusts.
- Over 60 supporters’ trusts have at least one director on the Board at their Clubs.
Do fans who are directors make a difference?
Of course, much depends on the skills of the director elected and the respect he or she commands from fellow board members. The key is to make sure that the director is seen as a constructive player in the life of the club and not as someone who simply objects when required. He or she should always be in touch with officers of the Trust, websites and other fans to know what the prevailing view is. It is not enough to sit at one end of the table and say “the fans won’t like it”. It is necessary to explain why they have that opinion, what the consequences would be and how the board’s objectives could be achieved in a way the fans would like. Equally the director has the job of explaining the board’s views to the fans.