MINISTERS MUST ENSURE REPORT MARKS ‘NEW ERA’ FOR SUPPORTERS
++ Clubs must implement proposals for structured dialogue on
strategic issues including finance, governance and ownership
Supporters Direct (SD) today welcomed publication of the Government’s expert working group report on supporter ownership and engagement as a “step forward” with the potential to mark the start of a new era of meaningful dialogue between supporters and football clubs if the recommendations are implemented effectively.
The report contains a number of recommendations which are designed to assist supporter ownership including opportunities to bid in an insolvency process, and additional funding set aside to help supporters’ trusts to prepare an ownership bid, where they have the consent of the owner.
The group also endorsed SD’s proposals for community owned sports clubs (COSCs) which would reward supporter owned clubs with tax breaks.
SD, which was part of the group tasked with making recommendations to Government, said that the new guidelines must be implemented by football’s governing bodies within the spirit in which they were intended.
The new regime of “structured dialogue” with supporters must mean the new bi-annual meetings with trusts include meaningful information and effective discussion of finance, governance and ownership. SD said it hoped ministers would regularly monitor progress made by clubs.
SD said the changes could help relationships both at local level between supporters’ trusts and their clubs, and at national level between Supporters Direct and the football authorities.
SD pledged to continue to lobby in the areas where it would ideally have liked the report to go further to improve club governance and to make supporter ownership realistic whatever level a club is playing at.
The report was launched by the Government today at AFC Wimbledon, the League 2 club formed and owned by its supporters’ trust. On the platform with the Sports Minister, Brian Burgess, Chairman of SD, said:
“The Government must keep pressure on the football authorities to ensure that this marks the start of a new era of meaningful dialogue, both at local and national level. It is a welcome step forward in a long-term process of reform, aiming to reconnect clubs with their communities.
“We’d like to thank the football authorities for their constructive engagement with the issues, which we look forward to building on. We are expecting the structured dialogue between clubs and supporters’ trusts to be properly structured and be accompanied by suitable information to discuss the major issues of finance, governance and ownership.
“We also welcome the positive assurances from the Minister of Sport to maintain pressure on the football bodies, and other government departments, especially the Treasury.
“If the Government is serious about supporter ownership, we need their support to encourage supporters to save for, invest in and succeed as community owned sports clubs. That means help with tax breaks and support to implement our COSC proposal.
“Ultimately the success of this report will be measured by the number of supporters who feel empowered to either take ownership or secure a greater say in the governance of their beloved club.”
For further information call James Mathie on 07932 040 186
Notes to editors
About the Expert Working Group
The report follows ten meetings of the group over the course of twelve months and is available here
The Expert Working Group member organisations are:
- Supporters Direct
- Football Supporters Federation
- The Football Association
- The Premier League
- The Football League
- Portsmouth Supporters Trust (Expert Witness member of Group)
- Swansea Supporters Trust (Expert Witness member of Group)
- Wrexham Supporters Trust (Expert Witness member of Group)
- AFC Wimbledon Supporters Trust (Expert Witness member of Group)
Additional expert witnesses attended meetings and their presence is recorded as an annex in the final report.
The group was independently chaired by Joanna Manning-Cooper, who was Director of Marketing and Communications for England Rugby 2015, organisers of the Rugby World Cup. She is a Portsmouth FC Season Ticket Holder, member of Portsmouth Supporters Trust and a community shareholder in Portsmouth FC.
For information about structured relationships you can view the joint discussion paper submitted by SD and the FSF
About Supporters Direct
SUPPORTERS DIRECT (SD) is the national umbrella body for supporters’ trusts in England, Wales and Scotland, in football, rugby league and potentially other sports. SD is also working with supporters’ groups in more than 25 countries across mainland Europe.
MISSION: to promote good governance in sport and enable the development of sustainable clubs based on supporters’ involvement and community ownership.
GROWTH: Supporters’ trusts are established at more than 190 clubs, representing 70% of clubs in the top five divisions of football in England, and the top four divisions in Scotland
MEMBERSHIP: More than 400,000 people are members of supporters’ trusts
FINANCE: Supporters’ trusts have now brought in over £50 million of new finance for their clubs and communities
OWNERSHIP: More than 40 clubs in the UK are in ownership or in control by supporters’ trusts, including Football League clubs AFC Wimbledon, Exeter City, Newport County, Portsmouth and Wycombe Wanderers.
BOARDROOM: More than 70 supporters’ trusts have directors on the boards of their clubs, including Premier League Swansea City FC.
STAKE: More than 100 supporters’ trusts have a shareholding at their club.