Ever wondered but didn’t really know? Well here is a quick guide.
The main objective of all supporters’ trusts is to get the fans voice heard on important decisions that the club makes.
That doesn’t mean who to sign or whether they should go 442 this weekend but the fundamental things which makes up a club – what the club should be investing in, how much they should charge, whether they should take out a loan or not and so on.
Supporters Trusts are formal, democratic and not-for-profit organisations and many have shareholdings in their clubs with a view to eventually force their way onto the club’s board.
Traditionally Supporters’ trusts have been formed in response to a financial crisis which threatens the clubs existence but are now being formed at clubs across the country as a reaction to the diminishing voice of the fans in the game. The first was formed at Northampton Town in 1992 in response to the clubs administration but the movement didn’t really take off until 2000 and the formation of Supporters Direct.
Supporters Direct was formed by the government, with cross party support, in 2000 to encourage and democratic supporter ownership in football. This has seen the rise of completely supporter owned clubs such as FC United of Manchester, Chester FC and, perhaps most famously, AFC Wimbledon.
Currently there are over 170 Supporters Trust’s in the UK and Supporters Direct has also branched out into Rugby League and Union. There are over 40 clubs in the UK supporter representation on the board with a further 22 clubs entirely fan owned.
At the moment most of the Supporters Trusts with fans on the board are in the lower leagues of English football. There are notable exceptions such as Swansea in the Premier League and a few Scottish clubs which are high up their respective pyramid but apart from that most Supporters Trusts are ignored or not allowed to fully question the acts of the board.
With less and less ‘white knights’ being attracted to football to invest in ailing clubs this movement will grow as more and more clubs come closer to financial abyss. Even the traditionally larger clubs are beginning to struggle with Portsmouth FC being the latest club subject to a fan takeover.
With more clubs being accountable to what the fans want there is less chance of unnecessary risks being taken with the future of the club and more investment in facilities which the club needs to grow. Community projects have also been a major feature of STs as they look to reach out to the local community which, in many cases, has been ignored by the previous regime at the club.
Long live supporters, long live Supporters Trusts.