Our first Handbook for Supporters’ Trusts was published in 2000. At that time there were six Supporters’ Trusts. Three years on, over 90 new Trusts have been established and registered. This new and expanded Handbook is written with the benefit of experience gained not only from the formation of these new Trusts, but from the daily help and support we give to them in their work.
The vast majority have opted to become Industrial and Provident Societies (IPSs), and this is the model we now firmly recommend to all. Of the models available, the IPS is the most democratic and transparent, and the best regulated.
It is worth reiterating here the philosophy and aims of Supporters Direct, which are unchanging:
‘The aim of Supporters Direct is to offer support, advice and information to groups of supporters who wish to play a responsible part in the life of the clubs they support. All models used and recommended will be based on democratic, mutual, and ‘not-for-profit’ principles. Legitimate objectives of Supporters’ Trusts will include:
- Influence - the formation and running of representative bodies for supporters.
- Ownership - the acquisition of shares in the football club to pool the voting power of individual supporters to further the aims and objects of the Supporters’ Trust.
- Representation - securing the democratic election of supporters’ representatives to the boards of directors of individual football clubs.
By these means we hope to improve the health of the whole football industry.’
The criteria for our support of any group wishing to form a Trust are also unchanging. They are fourfold:
- a) The organization must be fully democratic, not only in its Constitution but in the way it conducts its affairs on a day-to-day basis.
- b) It must be not-for-profit, and the property of its members. No member should be in a position to benefit financially from membership, other than through paid employment.
- c) It must be inclusive, i.e. open and welcoming to all supporters of the club and to all other bona fide supporters’ organisations associated with the club. In effect it should be an umbrella for them all, and representative of all who choose to join.
- d) It must be affordable to all fans. Our guidelines are that the minimum annual subscription should not exceed the average price of attending one home game. This should also apply to concessionary categories such as the elderly, the young, those with disabilities and the unwaged. No one should be excluded because they cannot afford to join. Donations over and above the subscription will, of course, always be welcome.
The purpose of this document is that it should be a working Handbook for all Trusts and their officers. Part One deals with the main issues involved in setting up a Trust, Part Two deals more with issues of keeping a Trust running, and Part Three provides some wider contexts to the work of Supporters’ Trusts. We will keep it updated, and make copies of all amendments readily available, via our website or in hard copy form for those who prefer this.
This handbook has been produced by the staff of Supporters Direct. We would like to acknowledge staff at the Football Governance Research Centre, Birkbeck, Cobbetts Solicitors, and colleagues from the following Supporters’ Trusts: Bees United (Brentford FC Supporters Trust), the Dons Trust (AFC Wimbledon), Dover Athletic Supporters’ Trust, Lincoln City Supporters’ Trust, Enfield Town Supporters’ Society, Watford Supporters Limited, Leyton Orient Fans’ Trust, the Swansea City Supporters’ Trust, Cambridge Fans United, and the Foxes Trust, who have all been involved in the preparation of sections of this document.