Analysing the club – what Supporters’ Trusts are for

On a previous blog post I tried to look at the reasons why many fans choose not to join a supporters’ trust (ST) at large clubs. The main conclusions drawn from this are that fans don’t know what STs are for or they can’t see what difference they can make to a club unwilling to engage with an ST (or fans in general) in the short term. When looking back on the history of STs it is clear that this is widely true – fans only really begin to get involved with STs and the running of their club when things start to turn sour.

At some clubs where there has been widespread mismanagement for a long period the STs are becoming more and more bold in the criticisms of their club management. This week the best two examples are from Championship clubs Leeds United and Birmingham City.

When Ken Bates takes over the running of your club you tend to get a little worried. A string of high profile muck ups by Mr Bates at Leeds has seen attendances drop and prices increase. At the same time he invested in ground improvements to try and get more revenue outside of match days. Leeds United Supporters Trust (LUST) took the time this week to see what sort of state Bates has left the club in for GFH Capital who recently took it over.

Some of the more interesting conclusions show that despite a £17million investment into non-match day revenue streams there has yet to be any return. Also that total debts are nearing £19million which was almost the amount which forced Leeds into administration the first time nine years ago. Take a look.

Birmingham City went down under a bit of a cloud. Despite their wonderful League Cup win the club were relegated from the Premier League in 2011 and their owner Carson Yeung was arrested for money laundering. At the moment there are various consortiums from around the world looking at taking over Birmingham and the Birmingham Supporters Trust – the Blues Trust – has taken a look at the latest set of accounts. The trust first highlights some of the positives in the accounts – an increase in profits of day-to-day running, a healthy sum in the bank with most of the bank overdraft paid.

However they highlight the worrying aspects of the finances – mainly the fact there are loans into the club which have no terms of repayment, the ridiculous sum which is being paid to an unknown director and the loss of revenue which is about to happen (which admittedly isn’t the owners fault).

What both these examples show is that STs can be a voice to criticise the club and bring up important issues. These can be, and have, picked up by local and national media and highlight the problems at the club even if the ST is not in talks with the club. So even if a club isn’t speaking to the ST the ST is not idle – it is a safeguard.

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