Supporters’ trusts in football are more vital now than ever before

Ben Shave from Supporters Direct writes about the achievements of supporters’ trusts and how they shouldn’t be underestimated.

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Ben Shave is a Development Officer at Supporters Direct

Some of the defining images of the recent Premier League season were provided by Blackburn Rovers.

Steve-KeanFinally relegated after a 1-0 defeat by Wigan on April 7th, the club have been held up by all and sundry as an example of how not to do it, both on and off the pitch.

Understandably, supporters have spent much of the season voicing their displeasure, with one group invited to meet the sports minister Hugh Robertson next month.

This will provide a welcome platform to air some considerable grievances, but the very fact that a government minister feels the need to involve himself in football reflects the plethora of problems that have plagued the national game for many years.

Since 1992, there have been 92 instances of insolvencies in the top five divisions of the English football pyramid from the Premier League down to the Conference Premier. According to Deloitte’s latest annual review of football finance (published in June 2011), the net debt of the 20 Premier League clubs stood at £2.6 billion (2010’s figure was an even more eye-watering £3.3 billion).

Recent research by Dr John Beech of Coventry University places the figures in stark context, and illustrates the often-crippling price of remaining at the top table. Recent history is littered with examples of unsustainable spending, reckless (mis) management, and lack of regard for the importance of football clubs to their local communities.

A profound disconnect between supporters and clubs is an almost inevitable result. There are no simple solutions to these problems, but since 2000, Supporters Direct has been working to counter football’s most rampant excesses.

 


See also:

Rangers: How journalists and administrators failed the fans 20 Mar 2012

What will happen to Rangers? 5 Mar 2012

Rangers FC: How a market leader went bust 22 Feb 2012

Community ownership must be the focus of Miliband’s Labour 25 Sep 2011

Lessons from the NFL: There is a better way of running our football clubs 6 Feb 2011

Best league in the world? Liverpool saga highlights desperate need for reform 17 Oct 2010

Let’s hope the World Cup really was the beginning of a better future for South Africa 18 Jul 2010


 

With a stated mission “to promote sustainable spectator sports based on supporters’ involvement and community ownership”, SD promotes the value of supporter ownership and stakeholder models of governance to sports fans, empowering them to set up supporters’ trusts.

Like SD, these are registered as community benefit societies, regulated by the Financial Services Authority and owned by their members. More than 300,000 people in the UK are members of a supporters’ trust.

The supporters’ trust movement has made inroads at all levels of the game, as well as in both codes of rugby and ice hockey. Currently there are 25 football clubs owned or controlled by their supporters’ trust, including AFC Wimbledon, formed by supporters after the original Wimbledon FC was relocated to Milton Keynes in 2002. Within nine years the club won five promotions and returned to the football league.

In addition to ownership, supporters’ trusts have also been able to leverage influence via minority shareholdings and directorships. In 2001, the Swansea City supporters’ trust was formed, with assistance from Supporters Direct, in response to the club’s financial crisis.

As well as raising an initial £50,000, the Trust convened the consortium that would eventually purchase the club. Today they retain a 20% shareholding and a director on the board – just one of over 60 trusts to play a key role the decision-making process at their club.

In total, supporters’ trusts have raised over £30 million since 2000, a significant return on the £4.5 million worth of funding that SD has received. Research undertaken by SD has indicated that as well as having an unrivalled understanding of football’s social and community value, supporter involvement and ownership has a number of tangible business advantages too.

Since 2000, many of the arguments raised by SD and the supporters’ trust movement have become part of the mainstream debate – with the need for financial stability and the involvement of supporters at their clubs now a widely-accepted premise.

It is now a question of when, not if. The latest example of this was the recent vote by football league clubs to introduce Financial Fair Play regulations – a long-overdue attempt to change the financial landscape, and to make clubs more sustainable.

In short, football is a better place when clubs listen to their most important stakeholders, and include them in discussions about the future. In their 2011 report on football governance, the select committee for the department of culture, media and sport declared:

“The examples of bad ownership are sufficiently numerous to point to systematic failure. A case can be made that rather than tighter regulation, a more fundamental ownership change is required.”

In their October response, the DCMS welcomed:

“The committee’s focus on increasing the ability of supporter-owned clubs to raise funds and increasing the opportunity for supporters’ trusts to achieve a share in their clubs.

“A solution to provide funding for the long-term future of Supporters Direct and other high-profile supporters group representative bodies should not be beyond the skill of the football authorities, working closely with the bodies concerned.”

Whilst the subsequent response from the Football Association, Premier League and Football League contained a number of positive points, it failed to address many of the structural problems outlined above. As any supporter of the Premier League clubs who attended our recent Premier League supporters’ trust meeting could tell you, the issue of football governance remains very much on the agenda.

 


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45 Responses to “Supporters’ trusts in football are more vital now than ever before”

  1. Josh Gilbert

    Supporters’ trusts in football are more vital now than ever before, writes @SuppDirect’s @SDBen: http://t.co/An9PaVBV

  2. Political Planet

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  3. leftlinks

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  4. Shamik Das

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  6. Oliver Deed

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  7. Christopher Peacock

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  8. Sir Bill Taylor

    RT @leftfootfwd: Supporters’ trusts are more vital now than ever before, writes @SuppDirect’s @SDBen: http://t.co/jBehkNZg #rovers?

  9. Big D

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  10. Michael Costello

    Supporters’ trusts in football are more vital now than ever before, writes @SuppDirect’s @SDBen: http://t.co/An9PaVBV

  11. BevR

    Supporters’ trusts in football are more vital now than ever before, writes @SuppDirect’s @SDBen: http://t.co/An9PaVBV

  12. Jane Mundon

    Supporters’ trusts in football are more vital now than ever before, writes @SuppDirect’s @SDBen: http://t.co/An9PaVBV

  13. rob crean

    Supporters’ trusts in football are more vital now than ever before, writes @SuppDirect’s @SDBen: http://t.co/An9PaVBV

  14. Jonathan Hartley

    RT @leftfootfwd: Supporters’ trusts in football are more vital now than ever before http://t.co/RKU8hzQP

  15. Edward Jones

    In the same way that workers need trade unions, football fans need supporters trusts. #Representation
    http://t.co/blsKZkzE

  16. Ernest Legrand

    Supporters' trusts in football are more vital now than ever before … http://t.co/REv8QKhk

  17. Kev Howland

    Supporters’ trusts in football are more vital now than ever before @SuppDirect’s @SDBen: http://t.co/X2HTYYWK

  18. FASC

    Supporters’ trusts in football are more vital now than ever before, writes @SuppDirect’s @SDBen: http://t.co/An9PaVBV

  19. Anonymous

    Gee, it’s almost like there are parallels…

  20. stacey hawkins

    Supporters’ trusts in football are more vital now than ever before, writes @SuppDirect’s @SDBen: http://t.co/An9PaVBV

  21. Dan Crawford

    Supporters' Trusts are more vital now than ever before says @suppdirect's @benshave for @leftfootfwd: http://t.co/ouV5iVSK

  22. John Davidson

    Supporters’ trusts in football are more vital now than ever before @SuppDirect’s @SDBen: http://t.co/X2HTYYWK

  23. Supporters Direct

    Supporters' Trusts are more vital now than ever before says @suppdirect's @benshave for @leftfootfwd: http://t.co/ouV5iVSK

  24. FASFE

    Supporters' Trusts are more vital now than ever before says @suppdirect's @benshave for @leftfootfwd: http://t.co/ouV5iVSK

  25. shrewsTRUST

    Supporters' Trusts are more vital now than ever before says @suppdirect's @benshave for @leftfootfwd: http://t.co/ouV5iVSK

  26. Blue & Gold Trust

    Supporters' Trusts are more vital now than ever before says @suppdirect's @benshave for @leftfootfwd: http://t.co/ouV5iVSK

  27. wg

    Wow – a piece on Left Foot Forward berating football clubs on “unsustainable spending” and “reckless (mis) management”

    After 13 years of the most unsustainable spending and mismanagement by a Labour government – you couldn’t make it up.

  28. TrustSTFC

    Supporters’ trusts in football are more vital now than ever before, writes @SuppDirect’s @SDBen: http://t.co/An9PaVBV

  29. Anonymous

    Oh yes, so unsustainable that the debt was lower before the Bank’s crisis than the Tories had left it, and there had been years of full employment.

    Demonstrably, you certainly CAN make up “facts” to suit your ideology.

  30. Ed's Talking Balls

    For someone who repeatedly claims to have no truck with Labour, you don’t half spend a lot of time defending their record on here.

    And as for the football analogy, let’s see. Lots of clubs spend more than they take in and thereby run up deficits leading to serious financial difficulties. Yep, that does sound familiar. So you’re right, there most certainly are parallels.

  31. Paul Gardner

    RT @leftfootfwd: Supporters’ trusts in football are more vital now than ever before http://t.co/Uq0jsMZU

  32. wg

    Remember Liam Byrne – “There is no money left”

    Gold reserves sold cheaply, pensions trashed, billions in PFIs – I suppose I’ve made up those facts as well.

    I am now convinced that Labour deliberately tried to bring this country to its knees – you certainly couldn’t have come up with a better blueprint.

  33. Anonymous

    Yes, there are. And you’re the overpaid ones. Funny that!

    And that’s because you’re so far to the right that you refuse to be in touch with reality. I certainly don’t defend Labour to rational people. I don’t /need/ to.

  34. Anonymous

    Ah yes, so a tiny fraction of the damage Thatcher did, and you have to blame the centralists. Sad. For that matter, Cameron will have done more “damage” in a few months. (And without ANY benefit)

    Moreover, it’s typical that you can’t take even a bad joke, you take your work of destroying the 99% so very seriously. You /are/ a bad joke. One where the punchline involves real punching, of poor people.

  35. wg

    I’m no fan of Thatcher.

    And, of course, your full employment fact looks a bit sick.

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/7947766.stm

  36. Anonymous

    Then why are you supporting her tactics?

    And gee, it’s almost like you’re mot reading what I typed. It was, in fact, full for some years before the banker’s crisis. Given unemployment is now headed for *3* million, under the right…

  37. Josh Cleary

    @blackmac79 FYI if u haven't seen already – Supporters trusts in football more vital than ever @SuppDirect’s @SDBen: http://t.co/VuCYFnUV”

  38. Christine Whyte

    "RT @FCKev: Supporters'€™ trusts in football more vital now than ever b4 @SuppDirect @SDBen: http://t.co/oJ7RBwsR" Disconnect must be fixed!

  39. Toby Mills

    @blackmac79 FYI if u haven't seen already – Supporters trusts in football more vital than ever @SuppDirect’s @SDBen: http://t.co/VuCYFnUV”

  40. Supporters Direct

    "RT @FCKev: Supporters'€™ trusts in football more vital now than ever b4 @SuppDirect @SDBen: http://t.co/oJ7RBwsR" Disconnect must be fixed!

  41. Blue & Gold Trust

    RT @leftfootfwd: Supporters’ trusts in football are more vital now than ever before http://t.co/VARBXySW

  42. Blarg1987

    PFI was a conservative policy adopted by New Labour, which really isn’t centralist but a tad to the right.

    Pensions were trashed by several groups, pension holiday’s companies took at CEO’s who raided company pension funds for annual bonuses, hence why CEO payhas skyrocketed.

  43. afcbst

    Good article on why Supporter's Trusts are so important at this time http://t.co/fl7vFeix

  44. afcbst

    Good article here on why ST's are so important at this time #afcb http://t.co/fl7vFeix

  45. Rangers decision sparks wider debate on Scottish football | Left Foot Forward

    […] See also: • Supporters’ trusts in football are more vital now than ever before 26 May […]

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