In 2009 the Rugby Football League (RFL) rang Supporters Direct for assistance in reconstituting one of the best known names in Rugby League as a community owned Club and fast!
Rochdale Hornets, formed in 1871 with 138 years of proud history, had financial difficulties and were on the verge of disappearing into oblivion when the idea of a co-operative rugby league club in the home of co-operation, Rochdale, was hatched.
As Supporters Direct were already working with a number of supporters trusts at Rugby League clubs, it was the obvious choice to register a new Rochdale RL Club using the Model Rules which had also been used by football community clubs such as FC United of Manchester, Scarborough Athletic and Runcorn Linnets.
The call from the RFL was an urgent one with a meeting convened for the same evening between the fans of the Club and a management company, brought in by the RFL to help the fans to run the club in the initial few months.
A draft set of rules, tailored for Rochdale were hurriedly written and printed for signature with a hastily named club, Rochdale Hornets Rugby Football Club Limited - a snappy name dreamt up by the SD legal person who knew nothing about the club. Initially disliked by the new club board it was soon adopted for its quirkiness. They were then driven to the early evening meeting in Rochdale, discussed, agreed and finally signed after a slight correction at Manchester’s Piccadilly train station the following morning!
The Club quickly got on its feet and, as the first British Professional Rugby League Club to be owned and democratically run by the supporters as a community benefit society on a one member one vote basis, they won silverware for the first time in 91 years at the end of the 2013 season gaining promotion to the Kingstone Press Championship and consolidating their place in the 2014 season.
Hornets have registered their stadium as an Asset of Community Value, protecting it from being sold without their knowledge. They are financially stable, employ a full time Chief Executive Officer, have an excellent Heritage room and have run various joint events with fan owned FC United of Manchester. They play for the SD Challenge Trophy against fellow fan-owned Hunslet Hawks and look forward to the next few hundred years as a supporter owned Rugby League Club in Rochdale.
Ryan Bradley, Rochdale Hornets CEO commented: “The co-op model has seen the club stabilise over the last few years and gives us the platform to prosper in the future. We have no ‘fat cats’ taking money out of the club, every penny generated through sponsorship, memberships and the like is re-invested into the club. The members elect a board from their peers to steer the club, meaning the fans are ultimately in charge of it’s destiny- a far cry from many other professional sports clubs where individuals have control over the club with supporters have little/no input.”