Handbook:Develop an effective working group and launch the Trust
1.8 Rationale for a launch
It is essential to publicly launch your Supporters’ Trust. There are no set rules, but a successful launch will provide the following:
- Credibility – convince doubters that supporters can effectively organise in a professional manner
- Democracy – provide a mandate for the Trust to exist and a vote for the working group to become the Steering Committee to take the Trust forward to the first AGM
- Accountability – to ensure the supporters ratify the constitution
- Community interest – raise the profile of the Trust locally using local media
- Regional interest – raise the profile of the Trust by linking your Trust aims to the wider Trust movement
- Set the agenda - ensure the Trust is at the forefront of new and imaginative ideas to benefit the club
- Increase membership – more members means more influence and a greater claim that the Trust is the voice of the supporters; use the launch momentum for a membership drive
- Generate funds – through donations and membership
- Establish some realisable objectives – for instance, acquiring a shareholding, obtaining a supporter-elected director on the club’s board
- Start with a success – hit the ground running and announce achievements; this could, for instance, be an acquisition of shares or even reaching a target membership figure – such as ten per cent of the average home gate.
1.9 First Working Group Meeting
Following the open meeting you should have a group of volunteers ready to take the Trust idea forward. The size of the working group can vary: some groups have started with as few as four members; other groups have had over fifty activists. Crucially, the effectiveness of the working group depends on how well it is organised. For the first working group meeting it is advisable to ask a representative of Supporters Direct to attend.
At the Wimbledon Supporters’ Trust first working group meeting there were over 55 volunteers. Given the size of the meeting, members were split into two sub groups – one group concentrated on amending the Trust constitution to fit the local circumstances at Wimbledon; the other group concentrated on strategic issues. Within each sub group members were asked to address a number of issues. In addition to amending and finalising the constitution, the ‘Constitutional’ sub group concentrated on the Board Membership Policy, co-options procedures, and finalising an election system. The ‘Strategy’ sub group developed a plan of action for the Trust to raise the profile of the organisation, develop publicity, mobilise the community and deal with financial aspects.
1.10 Nominate roles for working group
At the first working group meeting nominate a co-ordinator for the group and ‘Acting Officers’. Ideally the co-ordinator should be one person, however, if there is more than one candidate for the place then rotate the position at each meeting.
The Acting Officers should occupy the key positions on the working group, which include: Chair, Secretary, Treasurer, Media Spokesperson, Club Liaison, Supporters Direct Liaison and Fundraising. Depending on the size of the working group, other positions could include: Web Editor, Legal Officer, Publicity, Junior Supporters’ Representative and Community Representative. Each position could be developed and new volunteers recruited to help. Each Acting Officer is responsible for the particular role they are assigned to. Although they should be encouraged to enlist help from other working group members, they should report back at every Working Group meeting with updates on developments.
1.11 Project management for the working group
Meet regularly - at least once every two weeks - and keep minutes. Establish and circulate an agenda for each meeting with a ‘Matters Arising’ section to ensure continuity of work.
To function effectively, the working group needs to maintain its skills profile by recruiting new members. It needs a mixture of activists, who are prepared to put in the hard and often time consuming work such as leafleting, and professional expertise, such as marketing and web editing. Getting the right blend of personnel will be crucial to the effectiveness of the working group.
CCUIST was established on 5th May 2001 with the objective of increasing the involvement of the community in the club. The working group had a policy to maximise their skills base. The founding members literally drew up a list of ‘skills’ that the working group would require; these included marketing expertise, webpage editing, insolvency practice etc. Each member of the working group then headhunted the people possessing such skills from amongst the fan base. The result was a strong and effective working group that enabled the Trust to establish considerable momentum in a short period of time.
It is also crucial to continually upgrade the skills base of the working group to ensure it has the resources to function effectively. One way of achieving a good skills profile in the working group is to make meetings open to new members. The only requirement for attendance should be that they are active and prepared to put in the necessary effort.One effective way to maintain communication between the working group members, and to enable ideas and information to be circulated between each meeting date, is by use of an email group. Feel free to contact Supporters Direct for advice on this. For members who do not have Internet access, ask a member of the working group who does have access to be a co-ordinator. The co-ordinator can pass on relevant messages and keep others in the loop.
1.12 Establish a timetable for the launch
Set a date for the launch and work backwards to establish a realistic timetable. If you have allowed enough time for planning, the event will be more likely to go smoothly. Begin booking the venue and planning the evening as soon as possible.
There are no hard and fast rules, but as a minimum allow at least two home games for leafleting and at least a month (preferably six weeks) for publicity to take effect. Try to schedule it in the football season while peoples' minds are still focussed on football to ensure a good turnout – Thursday is often a good day, as there is generally little football scheduled.
The timetable for establishing a Trust varies according to the circumstances at the club. At Leicester City, supporters were faced with the real prospect of the club going out of existence due to an £82 million debt and the club being placed into administration. The Foxes Trust was established in record time - 18 days from first public meeting to registration. This fast track option was possible because the threat of the club going out of existence galvanised supporters very quickly, and also because a small, but committed working group had put the mechanisms of forming a Trust in place before the meeting.At Rotherham United, supporters faced a different set of circumstances. The football team had been performing well and there was no imminent danger of the club going out of business. However, the supporters had virtually no say in matters relating to the running of the club. The Rotherham United Supporters’ Trust (RUST) working group had to promote the Trust idea and mobilise membership slowly but surely, spreading the word and gradually communicating the message over the course of an entire year. This ‘slow burner’ approach meant that the working group had to accept an extended timetable to ensure the initiative was established on solid foundations. RUST have since gone on to have a supporter director appointed to the board of the football club.
1.13 Establish a website
Develop a website as soon as possible and keep it regularly updated with news and events so supporters can contact the Trust for more information and find out more about the organisation. One of the first priorities of the working group should be to agree on and register a domain name, and find a web editor from among the working group to maintain the site.
Browse other Supporters’ Trust websites for ideas concerning layout and also useful links on the contacts page. Site placement and advertising is an important factor for any website. Link the Trust website with the websites of other supporter groups at the club, local newspapers, other Trusts around the country, and with the Supporters Direct website: http://www.supporters-direct.org. Once your site is ready, announce its launch on the Supporters Direct email group (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/supporters-direct/ and/or http://groups.yahoo.com/group/supporters-direct-scotland), and to local press outlets. The Supporters Direct website can then include a link through to yours.
1.14 Publicity and communication with the media before the launch
The media spokesperson should coordinate communications to ensure the Trust maintains a coherent and disciplined view. It is important that the Trust avoids sending out mixed messages and divided opinions. A detailed section on using the media effectively can be found in section 2.5 of this Handbook, but some initial points to make are:
- Get sympathetic contacts points with local media – with television, radio and newspapers, and keep them fully informed. Develop relationships with news and sports editors and ask if someone from the supporters’ group can write a fans’ column, or try to get the local paper to back the Trust and run regular updates, or even print membership forms.
- Issue regular press releases – press releases offer an excellent method of issuing the Trust’s views in a disciplined and timely manner (see section 2.5). Follow press releases up with phone calls to sell the story. Issue press notices approximately a week in advance of any meeting. Also be reactive and able to issue press releases relating to particular events at the club.
- Contact local Members of Parliament – try to involve them in Trust issues and get supporting statements you can use in press releases.
- Contact local Councillors – try to harness their support and lobby them to raise Trust issues in the local council chamber.
1.15 Agree a Trust constitution in principle
The Working Group needs to discuss which type of constitution the Trust should adopt. There are two constitutional templates Supporters Direct can advise on: the Industrial and Provident Society (IPS), and the Company Limited by Guarantee (CLG). As a general rule, Supporters Direct recommends the Industrial and Provident Society as the most suitable constitution for Supporters' Trusts. We have established a set of ‘Model Rules for a Football Community Mutual’, i.e. a model constitution, which is available on request from Supporters Direct. The vast majority of existing Supporters’ Trusts have opted for this form of structure because of its community orientation, democratic ethos and robust regulatory framework. The attributes of each structure are set out below:
The working group needs to decide on which form of structure it should adopt – IPS or CLG - before the launch. Depending on which structure is decided, register or finalise the Trust constitution. The best way to do this is to assign the task to a sub-committee of about three people who can recommend the best structure to the rest of the Committee for ratification.
- Community orientation – intrinsically part of the framework of the Trust.
- External Regulation - the Financial Services Authority will not register rule changes that conflict with the requirement to operate for the benefit of the community.
- Robust Constitution - crucial rules such as the Objects, Powers and Application of Profits, may only be altered if there is a 75% majority in favour.
- Effective and versatile - experience has shown the model to be adaptable and powerful in varied circumstances.
- Not For Profit motive - Safeguards against ‘carpet bagging’.
- Growing Supporters’ Trusts movement – offers additional ‘political’ weight and influence in the wider world of football.
- Community of Mutuals - offers opportunities for additional funding and partnerships with other co-operatives. Provides affinity with other organisations committed to benefiting the local community; and offers a reassurance to the supporters and the club of the community orientation and not-for-profit objectives of the Trust.
- Start-up Grant funding - Supporters Direct pay for legal costs and expenses subject to eligibility criteria.
- Limited liability for members - no need to put your financial security on the line; members are protected.
- Financially responsible - Effective in circumstances where significant sums of money have to be raised by public offer.
- Little regulation by external authority – although there are set rules for submitting statutory documents to Companies House, such as Annual Returns, the submissions are not regulated. This could leave the Trust vulnerable to, for instance, transformation into a profit-making vehicle if members decide to cash in, or introduce a new class of privileged membership.
- Adaptable in aims and objectives – the constitution can be changed very easily and quickly without being subject to external regulation.
- Less bureaucratic – easier to run than an IPS as there are not so many requirements.
Limited liability for members.
- Constitutional requirement not to return profit to members.
- Constitution is not robust – there are no safeguards against carpet bagging.
- By default not a community vehicle – in comparison with IPS. However, the democratic aspect can be written into the constitution.
1.18 Registering the IPS Constitution
Using the Industrial and Provident Society Model Rules, the ‘constitution sub-committee’ needs to amend the template constitution by actually writing the changes on the document itself. Each one of these written changes needs to be initialled by at least four of the sub committee members. The four people who make these changes need to sign the back of the Model Rules, and become the first four founding board members of the Trust.
From a procedural perspective it is wise for the sub-committee type out a list of all the amendments they plan to make on a separate document and circulate this to the working group for ratification. Once ratified the sub-committee can then go ahead and make the initialled changes on the Model Rules by hand. Once this stage has been reached, contact your Supporters Direct Development Officer who will put you in contact with recommended solicitors to go ahead with the final part of registration of the rules with the Financial Services Authority.
For eligible supporter groups that register their Supporters’ Trust using approved IPS Model Rules, Supporters Direct will cover the costs of registration. See Appendix 7 for the Supporters Direct funding policy.
1.19 Registering the CLG Constitution
Supporters Direct recommends using the IPS model for your Trust constitution, but if you do decide to set up as a Company Limited by Guarantee, contact Companies House on 0870 3333636. Briefly, Trusts can buy a ready-made company from a company incorporation agent, and then re-name the company with the name of the Trust, or Trusts can incorporate a new company. The Companies House booklet Company Formations has further details, and is available by calling the above number.
1.20 Opening a bank account
To allow your Trust to take membership fees and donations as soon as possible, a bank account needs to be established. To ensure transparency it is good practice to have two or three signatories on the Trust account.
The Co-operative Bank offers a special On the Ball Banking account, which offers the following assistance for newly formed Supporters’ Trusts:
- 24 hour banking
- Suggestions on how to raise funds
- Bespoke financial packages
1.21 Creating and distributing application forms
The working group needs to develop a clear and easy to understand application form to enable members to join. This should contain the following information:
- Contact details for member
- Signature of the member and specifying the amount to be paid
- Section for loaning money if necessary
- Section for donating money and/or shares
- Section for handing over proxy voting rights
- Registered name of the Trust and trading name if appropriate
Supporters Direct have copies of a number of different application forms used by various Trusts. Please contact us if you would like copies, or see Appendix 2 for template application form.
Application forms – a note on data protection:
Not-for-profit organisations do not need to register with the Information Commissioner for data protection, but can be investigated for an abuse of data protection law and like any other organisation, are legally bound by the eight principles of good data protection, which state that data must be:
- Fairly and lawfully processed
- Processed for limited purposes
- Adequate, relevant and not excessive
- Not kept longer than necessary
- Processed in accordance with the data subject's rights
- Not transferred to countries without adequate protection.
Trusts are at liberty to use data collected only for things that members have given permission for. This obviously covers mailing out information on the Trust. Passing on or selling data to a third party without specific permission of members is an abuse of the membership agreement.
If Trusts do wish to send members literature from other companies or third parties (i.e. adverts or leaflets), members must first be asked whether they wish to receive such material, and the Trust must comply with members’ wishes. If a member decides at a later stage that they do not wish to receive third party material, their membership details must be amended, and no further third party documentation sent to them.
Supporters Direct advise that Trusts include a section on Application Forms asking members if they wish to receive information or have their details passed on to third parties. For example:
‘Please tick here if you would like the Supporters’ Trust to give your information to other companies who may contact you with details of their products and services’
For further information, see http://www.dataprotection.gov.uk/
1.22 Board membership policy and co-options
A Board Membership Policy helps to ensure three main principles: that the Trust board has the skills and experience which it needs to operate effectively; the interests of the community served by the Trust are adequately represented; and the level of representation of different groups on the Trust board strikes an appropriate balance having regard to their legitimate interest in the Trust’s affairs. The other key aim is that the Trust co-option provision isn’t seen to be and doesn’t become a ‘jobs for the boys’ device, where people end up being co-opted for unclear reasons. If Trusts have a policy detailing how and why people are invited to join the board, then the Trust board can be clear about why people are there and can demonstrate to everyone concerned that every co-option fills an important gap on the Trust board. A template board membership policy can be found in Appendix 3.
1.23 The launch event
How to make a success of a public meeting such as this has already been described, with reference to the first open meeting, so will not be repeated here. But what is worth mentioning is the importance of being as open and inclusive as possible. Inform the club and invite officials to the launch, and inform other supporters’ groups. In the invitation letter, explain the basic Trust idea. Announce the event on other websites, email groups and message boards. Inform and invite local papers and radio/television stations for publicity - use press releases to ensure that the Trust’s message is clear. Invite local MPs, councillors and, if appropriate, current or former popular players and/or the manager.
Design a leaflet(s) for distribution at home games and on the coaches to away games. Ensure the club provides permission to distribute the launch publicity at home games. They may also allow the launch to be advertised in the club programme.
Get juniors involved from the start by encouraging people to bring their children along to the launch. Likewise, invite junior members from the supporters’ clubs. It is their club as much as anyone else’s and they are the future generation of supporters who have a vested interest in helping the club.
Aim to get the room 'packed to the rafters' to generate an atmosphere that this is the start of something new and influential. Identify one or two key ideas the Trust would like to achieve something in, and people will identify with (such as better relationship with the club, raising money to buy shares, getting a director elected to the board, uniting supporter groups), and use these ideas in a publicity poster advertising the night.
Ensure that the working group gets a mandate to become the Steering Committee to take the Trust forward to the first AGM. Ask for a show of hands - those for, against, abstentions – and minute the results for post-launch publicity.
Dover Athletic Supporters’ Trust (DAST) held a competition for juniors to design the Trust logo and awarded the winner an engraved shield from the Trust, presented by the then manager of the club.
Rotherham United Supporters’ Trust (RUST) showed edited video clips of Rotherham United’s winning 2000-01 season projected on to a big screen to generate an excellent atmosphere in the hall.
Nuneaton Borough Supporters’ Trust (NBST) got four popular players to ‘declare’ the Trust open on the launch night, which gave an impression of club and Trust moving forward together.
The Dons Trust held a prize draw of Trust merchandise and an auction of signed memorabilia that raised nearly £6000.Fulham’s Supporters’ Trust, Back to the Cottage, showed a video they had specially made, showing some of the great moments from Craven Cottage. It eloquently summed up what the ground means to Fulham fans, and got the audience focussed on this issue, the main springboard for the organisation.