History of the Trust Movement
A Supporters’ Trust is a formal, democratic and not-for-profit organisation of fans who attempt to strengthen their influence over the running of the club they support.
Supporters Direct was established, with Government-funding, to encourage the formation of supporters trusts to promote democratic supporter ownership. Supporters Direct encourages the formation of supporters’ trusts as Industrial and Provident Societies (IPSs), and assists with their formation, legal and running costs.
There are over a hundred supporters’ trusts across England, Wales and Scotland and the majority of these are affiliated to football clubs, however trusts also exist for Rugby League and Rugby Union.
Supporters’ trusts are often founded in response to a financial crisis which threatens the future of a team, as was the case at Chesterfield, Lincoln and York. Supporters’ trust involvement has reportedly ensured the survival of 13 different clubs entering into administration. The first trust established was at Northampton Town in January 1992.
Supporters Direct is a government initiative, funded by public money. Their aim is to help people “who wish to play a responsible part in the life of the football club they support” and they offer support, advice and information to groups of football supporters.
Supporters Direct exists to:
- Promote and support the concept of democratic supporter ownership and representation through mutual, not-for-profit structures
- Promote football clubs as civic and community institutions
- Work to preserve the competitive values of league football in the United Kingdom and promoting the health of the game as a whole
In order to promote and achieve this, they work to bring about the following objectives:
- The Formation of Supporters’ Trusts as IPSs to ensure democratic, transparent representative bodies for supporters at their clubs
- The democratic representation of Supporters’ Trusts on Football Club Boards
- The ownership of shares in clubs by Supporters’ Trusts and the pooling of individually held shares in a club under the influence of the Trust
To assist Supporters’ Trusts in this, they work to ensure:
- The identification and dissemination of best practice between Trusts
- Increasing influence of Supporters Direct with the governing bodies
- High profile for Supporters Direct and Supporters’ Trusts within the media and cognate organisations
- Over 100 Supporters’ Trusts across England, Wales and Scotland
- 61 Supporters’ Trusts hold equity within their football clubs
- 39 Football clubs have supporter representation within the boards of their football clubs
- Supporter ownership at 4 football league clubs (Brentford, Chesterfield, Rushden & Diamonds and Stockport County)
- Supporters’ ownership at 8 non-league clubs (York City, Exeter City, AFC Wimbledon, AFC Telford, Newport (IOW), Enfield Town, FC United of Manchester and Clydebank)
- Supporters’ Trust involvement in saving a club at 13 clubs
- Supporters’ Trusts have brought around £10M of investment into the game on the basis of 750K over 3 years to support the work of Supporters Direct – over a 5-fold increase on that initial funding.
- Over 95,000 people have joined democratic not-for-profit organisations dedicated to fostering enhanced relationships between clubs and their communities and providing direct experience of the importance of citizen activism and democratic involvement in the delivery of key local services.
Supporters Direct has been in intense liaison with the Trusts at York City, Lincoln City, Chesterfield, Exeter City, Notts County, Bury to name but a few. In all these instances, the club has to-date survived the process of administration and in all of them, the Supporters’ Trust has been a crucial feature of that survival. In some, they have provided significant funds towards the reconstruction of the business. In others, they have mobilised the supporters and the local community and generated interest in the club that has convinced local businesses and individuals to come forward.
Without the efforts of Supporters Direct, there would not now be 92 professional clubs in England and Wales. It’s been said that if one club were to be liquidated, it would start a domino effect – a major reason why this has not yet happened is through the efforts of many Supporters’ Trusts advised by Supporters Direct.
Clubs In Crisis
In 1996 when Brighton & Hove Albion were facing serious problems, a group of their fans decided to create a website to act as a “watch list” of clubs experiencing similar problems. Without the mobilisation of fans across the country using the Internet, their football club would have gone out of business. The aim of the Clubs In Crisis site is to ensure that when any other football club comes into a crisis, they can generate support and help from fans around the world.
If the football club you love and support is in financial trouble, has directors with dubious intentions, or if your home ground is being sold from under your feet, you can let them and everybody else know, raise the profile of your plight and generate support.
Please note – a Club In Crisis is not a club where your chairman won’t put his hand in his pocket for another £10m player!
Trusts in Scotland
Click here for links to all of the supporters’ trusts operating in Scotland.
Trusts in England & Wales
Click here for links to all of the supporters’ trusts operating in England and Wales.