Handbook:Trust Action in the Community
This section describes what Supporters’ Trusts need to do to be effective in the wider community. An essential component of their community strategy rests with the Trust’s ability to build partnerships with major stakeholders at the club and beyond.
Constitutionally, as Industrial and Provident Societies, Supporters’ Trusts exist for the benefit of the local community. The first two objects in the Model Rules for a Football Community Mutual clearly indicate this:
To strengthen the bonds between the Club and the community which it serves and to represent the interests of the community in the running of the club
To benefit present and future members of the community served by the Club by promoting encouraging and furthering the game of football as a recreational facility, sporting activity and focus for community involvement
Other parts of the constitution also oblige Trusts to reach out into the community. Trust boards must also co-opt members in order not only to raise the collective skills profile of the Trust but also to ensure stakeholders from the wider community are represented. So for instance, the following would all be eligible (subject to the Board Membership Policy) to be invited to serve the Trust: representatives from the local authority; local businesses; the Sports Council; the Chamber of Commerce; and someone from the Football in the Community project.
This section provides details, ideas and examples of good practice about how Trusts can put these constitutional obligations into action and build the foundations for a significant and lasting impact in the community.
2.6.1 The Football in the Community Scheme
Firstly, all Supporters’ Trusts are encouraged to make contact with the Football in the Community Scheme at their respective club. Making an early initial contact can minimise any concern that the Trust may be ‘treading on the toes’ of an already established community programme. Trust work in the community should be aimed at complementing the organisations that already exist, and certainly not as an attempt to replace the invaluable work that is being done on a daily basis.
The Football in the Community Scheme began in 1985, with some pilot projects at clubs mainly in the North West. By 1992, over 80 of the 92 clubs in the four divisions had their own independent scheme, and there is now blanket coverage, with a few larger non-league clubs also having schemes of their own.
The expansion of the scheme in the early nineties owed much to the injection of substantial funding by the Football Trust (now the Football Foundation). There has also been national private sector sponsorship that is distributed equally to the 92 schemes, but does not extend to non-league schemes, which have to find their own sponsorship. The objectives of the scheme are: -
- To encourage more people to watch and/or to play football (especially children)
- To encourage more people to become interested and support their local football team by forging closer links with them
- To improve the image of the game
- To improve atmosphere at matches
- To improve behaviour of players and spectators
A reading of these objectives makes the relevance of the scheme to Supporters’ Trusts immediately obvious. Trusts are set up as societies for community benefit (“Benecoms”), and as such are committed to strengthening the bonds between club and community. There is therefore no more natural activity for Trusts to become involved in than supporting this scheme. This is already happening in a number of ways: -
a) At a number of clubs, the Trust’s elected representative on the club board is Chair of the Football in the Community Forum, which is the local management committee for the scheme at their club.
b) At an increasing number of clubs, Trust members act as volunteer helpers on scheme activities, supplementing the limited professional and coaching staff that the schemes can afford; (under recent legislation, where work is with children, this may involve police checks).
c) At several clubs, notably Swindon Town, Trusts have organised football competitions and other fund-raising events to raise money for their local scheme, which have been much appreciated, as funds are always tight.
Involvement of Trusts in the Football in the Community Scheme is currently in its infancy, but is expected to spread and expand considerably over the years, and is greatly to be encouraged.
The Chief Administrator of Football in the Community, Roger Reade, says:
“Everybody plays their part in supporting and developing the game, and the idea of supporters being allowed and encouraged to play a bigger part is terrific. Fans have a genuine long-term interest in their clubs, so it seems entirely appropriate for them to have not only the opportunity to play a part in Supporters’ Trusts, but also to have ownership of a significant shareholding in the club. Supporters’ Trusts are now instrumentally involved in specific work with existing supporters, and in encouraging new support amongst ‘would be’ supporters. Supporters are even involved in building and upgrading facilities. At Swansea, for example, the Swans’ Trust was integral to development of improved toilets and facilities for disabled supporters.
In addition, Supporters’ Trusts are looking to play a part in promoting closer links with local communities. Already, a number of very positive links have been initiated. This is encouraging, as all clubs, not just those with financial difficulties, need to build and improve their relationship with the community. The club-community relationship is a two-way street. No longer can clubs expect to be supported by the local community without being seen to be more actively involved in putting something back.
Nearly every professional club now has an active and successful Football in the Community scheme, which has specific aims to encourage more people to play and to watch football. In addition, lots of schemes are now working in partnership or in ‘alliances’ with local community groups and associations in many different and diverse initiatives. In partnership, we are frequently addressing the issue of ‘social exclusion’ and helping to develop new, positive and rewarding experiences for people, which help to show the local football club in a new light.
The first step down this particular road is better communication. Supporters’ Trusts should make contact with their club and the Football in the Community scheme with a view to discussing what community links can be explored and developed in partnership, in order to ensure that duplication of activity does not occur. So, to all of you who are involved with Supporters’ Trusts, get in touch with your local club and their Football in the Community Officer. In the meantime, to all of you who are so actively involved in the Supporters’ Trust movement, keep up the good work!”
For further information about Football in the Community, please contact your club Community Officer (contact your Supporters Direct Development Officer for contact details), or:
The Community Programme in Professional Football
11 Oxford Court
Tel No: 0161 236 0583
Fax No: 0161 236 4459
Trusts based in Scotland do not have the benefit of being able to link up to a co-ordinated Football in the Community programme as none currently exists north of the border. However the SPFA have recently been piloting a similar type of scheme, and it may be that this will open up opportunities to work together with Trusts to deliver these benefits.
2.6.2 The Federation of Stadium Communities
As well as building links with the Football in the Community initiative, Supporters’ Trusts can play a role in building positive and constructive links with the communities, and specifically the residents, who live in close vicinity to football stadia. The relationships between clubs and local communities and residents has often been strained, with the added irony that many local residents are in fact supporters, who have, for one reason or another, become disillusioned with the relationship with the local football club.
The organisational infrastructure now enables Trusts and residents to communicate with each other. Established in 1991, the Federation of Stadium Communities (FSC) aims to improve the quality of life of communities that exist in the shadow of sports stadia, and the organisation has contacts with residents groups at most Football League and Premier League clubs. There may, of course, be occasions where the interests of the local football club and the residents may be diametrically opposed. Those supporters not living within the close vicinity of the ground are more likely to align with the interests of the football club. Supporters who are also residents may have divided loyalties. However, on a great many issues, the supporters have the potential to act as a bridge between the residential community and the football club. Residents and Supporters’ Trusts might also share common interests such as anti-racism initiatives.
It is now generally accepted that football stadia can bring tangible benefits to local communities and supporters. Clubs and communities can work together to identify areas of need, and explore the opportunities that are available. One example of good practice, that benefits club, supporters and communities alike, has occurred in Sheffield. The FSC’s Donna Woodhouse explains:
Underpinning the partnership’s initiatives was the ‘Joint Action for Jobs’ policy. Targets for local recruitment were set and a number of local residents were offered employment during the construction phase. Part of the development was the building of the Blades Enterprise Centre, which currently employs a manager, a community economic development officer and other administrative staff. The centre encourages business start-ups from the local area, particularly the ethnic minority community of the neighbourhood. The centre also assists local residents to find employment through the creation of a job-matching scheme, where residents are invited to have their details posted on an ‘Employment Wanted’ board at the centre. The centre also circulates their Curriculum Vitae to selected local businesses and similar enterprise centres throughout Sheffield.
Additionally, the recently opened Community Hall was built as part of the development and is being leased by the Sharrow Community Forum at a peppercorn rent for the next ten years. The hall will be used by community groups, at discounted rates, for meetings, fundraisers and other events. The redevelopment of the ground also included plans for traffic management schemes and the environmental enhancement of the streets bordering the stadium, which are due to be implemented by early 2003.”See Supporters Direct Newsletter Issue 9 for more details.
Contact: The Federation of Stadium Communities (FSC), Haywood House,160 Moorland, Burslem, Stoke on Trent, Staffordshire, ST6 1EB. Telephone: 01782 790606. Website: http://www.f-s-c.co.uk
2.6.3. Examples of good practice in the community
Building strong relationships with other organisations and stakeholders can play a positive role in Trust community work. Here are some examples of Trusts working both independently and with other organisations in order to develop their profile and engage in community work:
Trust STFC has recognised that achieving the community objectives as laid out in the constitution is of vital importance to the future of the organisation and the football club. With a growing number of local youngsters growing up to support teams outside the locale, it was felt that helping to develop a positive relationship with youngsters in the Swindon area would have a positive effect for the football club, and cultivate local support for the club.Trust STFC, in conjunction with the Swindon Town FC Football in the Community Scheme, organised a six-a-side tournament, detailed in section 2.1.7 earlier in this Handbook.
Cambridge Fans United has been active in developing its role as a serious investor in the football club. The Trust has also spent time concentrating on the community objectives laid out in its constitution, undertaking a variety of different initiatives. CFU runs an annual youth tournament and family fun day. In two years it has doubled in size with over 700 local children from Under 8s to Under 16s taking part. The Trust organises the event and the council provides the venue and pitches free of charge. The club provides footballs and first team players to present cups and sign autographs. Club scouts also attend, and a number of young players have been taken on to the club’s youth academy.
Local companies are also invited to sponsor perpetual shields. To take maximum advantage of this captive audience, the club agrees to designate a league match as a Youth Tournament game and each child taking part, plus team managers, get free tickets. Parents are also entitled to a discounted match ticket and the shields are presented at half-time. In 2002, CFU helped raise the attendance by over 500 and it is hoped that a proportion of the first-time spectators attending will return to the Abbey Stadium.
All the profit from the event is re-invested into community-based schemes. In 2002, CFU donated to Football in the Community, CUFC youth development, Cambridge Ladies football team and also helped send the Cambridge United youth team to play a game in the FA Youth Cup.CFU has raised money, through various sponsored events, on behalf of the Garland Appeal and the local Special Care Baby Unit, and support has also been given through leafleting on behalf of Cancer Research. The Trust has also organised a campaign entitled ‘Oi! Ref! Where’s your glasses?’ collecting old spectacles on behalf of the elderly.
The Leyton Orient Fans’ Trust (LOFT) has been working closely with the club in an attempt to widen support for Orient within the local community. A working group was formed to tackle the problem of lack of local support for Orient, reporting back to the club with findings. The club was interested in the ideas raised, and has taken up some of LOFT’s recommendations, including involvement with the local Leisure Saver Scheme, and promoting the club more directly to students through freshers’ fairs. Reduced season tickets are offered to students and under-18s, with each student signing up receiving a free ticket. Over 350 individuals signed up to the initiative, the majority of these from local further education colleges. LOFT was pleased to see that the idea of an Orient ticket appealed to most people, irrespective of gender or race.Steve Dawson, Chief Executive of the club, said, “The club welcomes the help of LOFT in any initiatives that are constructive. This particular project, which is still in its early stages, shows that LOFT can give the club much needed practical help in strengthening the club’s supporter base within the locality. The club recognises that encouraging young local supporters to watch live football at Brisbane Road is the key to its future success. Both the Supporters’ Club and LOFT have a significant role in helping the Club to promote the extremely good value Junior Season Tickets and other initiatives that the Club have been operating for several years. We look forward to developing our relationship with LOFT over the coming months."
There has also been a wide range of community initiatives undertaken by many Trusts across the country. Here are some further examples:
At Chesterfield, the Trust initiated ‘School Day Saturday’. Local junior schools are invited to sell discounted adult-child tickets, with a £1 donation going to the school per ticket as a way of a thank you. Over 30 schools are regularly involved. The scheme generates funds for both club and schools and introduces a new generation of supporters to the club. Free places have also been organised for mascots at away games. The Trust has also revitalised the girl’s Centre of Excellence, which had been chronically underused.
At Enfield Town there are plans to implement a Football in the Community programme in the London Borough of Enfield, in partnership with the Borough and supported by the Middlesex County FA. The club are currently working with the Football Foundation in order to launch the scheme.
The Dulwich Hamlet Supporters’ Trust capitalised on the high volume of traffic passing through the adjacent Sainsbury’s to set up a ‘campaigning stall’. This helped spread news of the Trust and also promote the role of the club in the community. This proved to be an effective method of raising the Trust’s profile and membership, and also helped build links with the supermarket.
At Swansea City, the Swans Trust funded the installation of the club’s first fully equipped disabled toilet. The number of disabled supporters attending games at the Vetch Field has since doubled. The Trust arranges for those with disabilities to attend the games free of charge, and the Trust is also involved in developing positive links with various disability groups in the area. The improvement of disabled facilities was also a key objective of the Northampton Town Supporters’ Trust, which facilitated the installation of six Sennheisser Units to assist visually impaired spectators with match commentaries.For further information on the Northampton Town Supporters’ Trust initiatives, please see the Supporters Direct Research Paper Fresh Players, New Tactics: Lessons from the Northampton Town Supporters’ Trust, available on the Supporters Direct website at http://www.supporters-direct.org/englandwales/library.htm
The Local Authority is a key player in the football club, and so it should be for the Trust. Many clubs and fans are sceptical of getting involved with the council; they may see the council as unhelpful to the club, or be worried about being seen to be ‘political’. One of the problems for the relationship between the club and the Trust is the amount of misunderstanding that surrounds the issue. It’s therefore probably good to dispel some of those myths first about what councils can’t do before concentrating on what they can do.
Why can’t the council help us more?
As far as the council is concerned, the club is essentially just another business. An important business in the life of the community doubtless, but if the council gives extra help to the club, every other business in difficulty could claim to be treated unfairly. Furthermore, councils can also fall foul of the voters – for every taxpayer who’s a fan, there’s as likely four or five who aren’t, and would object to their money going to help a football club. Add into this mix the reality of declining budgets, rising tax bills and competing priorities – education, social services etc – and it’s clear that a council’s position is potentially compromised.
Several councils have been heavily involved in their clubs and have suffered for it; at Halifax in the mid 1980s, the council became a majority owner of the club, and was penalised for this, both by the Government of the day, who felt it to be a waste of resources, and by voters, who objected to the club receiving special treatment. More councils have become involved as landlords of the football club and found that they end up being owed significant funds in rent that just hasn’t been paid, which creates a political problem as large as the financial hole in the accounts – does the council call in the debt and potentially liquidate the club, or risk falling foul of voters who object to closing schools whilst writing off unpaid rent from a badly run private concern?
Football is an environment with a history of financial instability. Councils are loathe to become involved as they are governed by the rules laid down by the Audit Commission and the Government on what are and are not legitimate areas for them to spend money on.
Against this background, it important to remember there is still a great deal of scope for effective partnerships between the club and the council; given the often turbulent history of these relationships, the Trust can be an ideal bridge between the two.
Why is the Trust ideally placed?
The Trust, unlike the club, isn’t a private business set up to make a profit. The fact remains that if the club does well financially, a small group of shareholders make a profit – and the Council doesn’t exist to help small groups make a profit.
However, the Trust is set up as a community benefit organisation. It’s there to build bridges between the community and the club and to use the power of football for the good of the community. Furthermore, as a not-for-profit organisation, it can’t personally enrich anyone. It’s a natural partner for the council in this respect.
Still, given that history, the Trust might have work to do to convince the council. They will probably want the Trust to prove itself first; they don’t want to commit time and money to an organisation about which they know little, and have little idea of the calibre of the people working within it. The onus will be on the Trust to prove itself through doing good things in advance that impress the local authority.
The importance of the club can be overstated but the club can point to clear economic impacts and potential to dovetail with key council targets as set by central government and be a boost to the council's efforts. At the moment, the club will probably treat the local community and the council with a cursory recognition, so the Trust’s 'added-value' is to assist the club in keeping such aims in mind and being the linking point between the council, community and club.
What can a council do?
The council can be a great facilitator, and although it can’t provide lots of money, can provide support in kind that can be more valuable. Their officers can access grants from other bodies – European funding and central government regeneration funds for example. Becoming part of the partnerships that get this money can be very lucrative. The club is unlikely to be able to tap into these sources themselves – not least since most private companies are ineligible for grants. But, by becoming really part of the local community they can make sure that some of the money that is flowing into the area comes to the club. Of course, such grants come with strings, but those strings will ultimately benefit the club by cementing its place in the community.
Councils also have targets for areas like leisure that they have committed to achieve – for example, they may want to get more people in the area playing sport, so the club could have a role in that. These targets will be in the council’s Best Value Performance Plan, which should be available on the council’s website and is usually available from the council’s offices and from libraries. Find out what they have committed to, and see if there is a role for the club – or the Trust – in helping the council achieve these targets. There will probably be funding available for helping to achieve targets, so Trusts could become service providers to Councils.
What can you do together?
Sport in the community
Councils have targets about improving health in their areas, and sport is one way to do this. Getting people involved in sport is a good council policy, and the club has a role here. Football is ‘sexier’ than a Council, and people are more likely to sign up to keep fit and be healthy with courses with the club than the Council. If the club hasn’t developed schemes like this already, this could be an area for the Trust to work on with the club.
Sport has a role here, especially where new grounds are concerned. Even so, the importance of a club to the local economy is something the council wants to preserve – match day income for local shops, making public transport viable, match day employment, club employment, associated contractors - all jobs that would be lost if the club wasn’t there. It also brings non-residents to the area around 20 times a year and so it provides a shop window, putting the area on the map.
Clubs are a great focus for engendering a sense of a wider community that leads to lots of benefits. Of course, it’s not going to cut crime in itself, but most of the initiatives used in things like regeneration, New Deal for Communities, and Community Safety all use the nebulous word community, but often have difficulty giving this word more concrete wider expression. Football clubs don't have any trouble here, and are perhaps the most visible sign of a community.
Some clubs have gone beyond this remit and become full players in the life of their local community, making their facilities part of local adult education provision. Watford FC have an adult education centre located under a stand at Vicarage Road and make the state-of-the-art facilities available to local schools and colleges. Leeds United have piloted a programme where students who have been excluded from other schools in the LEA are taught using football as a key tool in curriculum delivery. The results from the project indicate that students achieved the highest grade increase of any similar project in the country.
Crucially, the success of partnership arrangements where football clubs and councils have come together depend on the goodwill between club the Council and other parties. Problems surrounding ground ownership, management and maintenance have created difficult working relationships that make achieving these wider goals difficult. Furthermore, the problems facing many clubs make their focus exclusively related to the short-term playing field matters, and in that sense, community programmes are a luxury for clubs with less pressing matters. However, part of the problem with many clubs is simply that not enough people pay to watch them, and whilst community programmes are difficult to measure, they represent the best long-term strategy to maintain and increase attendances.
A brief survey of the involvement of local authorities in stadia shows that due to their often central location and the financial history of their tenants, authorities have stepped in to prevent the assets being abused or sold for private development. For example, both Nottingham’s football grounds are owned by the council, as is Swindon Town's stadium. In many cases, this has been to save the ground from being sold to developers, or to provide cash injection to the club. In others, the council is ultimately responsible by a bequest that sets the land aside for sporting use only.
There are some interesting developments however that are of use here, where local authorities have been involved in partnerships that have been designed to minimise risk whilst maximising community benefit.
Examples of local authority involvement in football stadia
Here, the football club had a ground that urgently needed capital work undertaking, but didn't have the resources; conversely, the Rugby League club had negotiated the sale of its stadium and had capital sums available. The council brokered a deal which saw the creation of a stadium company in which the clubs each owned 45.5 % of the equity and the council held the remaining 9%. The Rugby League club's stake was accounted for by the transfer of the funds from the sale of their ground, and the football club's stake from relinquishing 100% control of the stadium.
In terms of operating, the company undertakes some activities collectively for both clubs, such as ground staff, whilst the clubs themselves handle others. Each club has a lease with the company for playing fixtures at the stadium, for which they pay a sum to the company.One difficulty here is that whilst the council can act as 'honest broker' in disputes, operationally, the clubs are responsible for much of the activity that can occasionally create tensions. Furthermore, given the parlous cash-flow of most sporting enterprises, the company has no mechanism to recover arrears save for the ultimate option of revoking the lease of the club in question. Whilst this option has legal foundation, it is politically difficult to carry through, and so there is no 'control' on the tenants and goodwill on the part of those clubs is essential. Whilst that goodwill is normally there, in times of cash shortages, such as after heavy weather leading to postponements, the clubs can effectively default on payments, as the only sanction would be for the council to ally with the other club in forcing resolution ultimately through the courts.
The club had needed a new ground for over 60 years, and in 1993 the council began work on the Sixfields Community Stadium. The council provided funds for this, and the anchor tenant is the local football club. The stadium is managed by a third party, which operates ticketing, catering and bars, and takes the revenue from those activities. The club pays rent according to a sliding scale dependent on attendances.
In order to guarantee the club's intentions, the council inserted a clause in the lease which stipulated that the Supporters’ Trust - without the efforts of which the club would have gone into liquidation 12 months previously - must maintain its position of having at least one elected supporter director, with full director responsibilities. The council's reasoning was two-fold; primarily, it was felt to be an outcome that mutually benefited all parties. The supporters, as stakeholders, had a right to be involved in the management and running of the club. Furthermore, as a community based group, the Trust was more likely to take seriously the designation of a 'Community Stadium' and would work to make sure that the stadium didn't come to seen solely as the home ground of the club.
In this the Trust were successful, and through their efforts, the club became the first to have an equal opportunities’ policy in British football, and won national recognition for their anti-racist activities and their inclusive policies with local ethnic groups and with disabled supporters.
The second reason for the Trust's role being insisted upon lay in the past record of the club. The club had previously been close to extinction through what could at best be termed mismanagement, and at worst sharp practice. The council was concerned that the club did not abuse its position and the generosity of the council in building the stadium by reverting to being a badly run private concern with poor standards of governance. The Trust director was there to act as an advocate for the better organisation of the club and to ensure that the classic aspects of small club mismanagement did not re-appear. The council also insist upon an observer representative of their own on the board.A final aspect of the lease that is helpful in the light of other experience is that the gate money initially comes to the council, which then re-apportions it to the club, having deducted the appropriate fee. As a result, the council has a mechanism to ensure that the club does not build up large arrears that are politically difficult to recover.
2.6.5 Partnership with local co-operative groups
Trusts can forge links with their local Co-operative Group and apply for the Community Dividend Fund. As part of the Co-op Group’s philosophy that it is part of the community and actively contributes to the wellbeing of the communities it serves, it operates the scheme to help local organisations with start up costs for new initiatives. Organisations may apply for grants of between £100 and £5,000 and applications are continually considered, as there is no closing date. Details should be available from your local Co-op store.
The Community Dividend supports various projects according to the following criteria:
- Grants of between £100 and £5,000
- Projects that fulfil needs in local communities of a voluntary, self help, co-operative or not-for-profit nature
- Projects of a long term benefit to a sector of the local community, either by the provision of equipment or a physical benefit to the group, or by way of training or providing education
- Projects that target disadvantaged groups or areas within the community
- Projects addressing community issues such as health, safety, poverty relief, and that show imagination in their approach
As a general rule applications will not generally be considered for running costs such as wages and room hire or for one-off events such as fun days/trips. Equally, applications will not be considered which only benefit an individual. See Appendix 8 for further details.
2.6.6 Anti-racist initiatives
This is another natural area for the involvement of Supporters’ Trusts.
The next project the group set itself was to draft an Equal Opportunities Policy for the football club. The board of directors adopted this unanimously in October 1996, and then in public on the pitch at a home match in January 1997. This was the first Equal Opportunities Policy to be adopted by a football club in this country, though others have followed suit since, having been referred to Northampton by the Football League or the Football Association.
This Working Party continues, and has achieved several other major projects, including running the first-ever County Conference on Anti-Racism in Football, involving the County FA and the local leagues as well as the professional clubs and interested agencies. In 1999, the Working Party commissioned a memorial at the ground to Walter Tull, the club’s first black player (1911 – 14) and only the second black professional player in football history. This memorial is surrounded by a garden area where the ashes of those supporters who request it may be interred. This was officially dedicated in July 1999.
The Anti-Racism work at Northampton was also carried through into the Football in the Community Scheme, (also chaired by the Trust), which carried out a successful initiative for the Bangladeshi youth in the town in collaboration with the local Mosque and Muslim Community Centre; reaching out to a community who for various reasons had little contact with local football. Several adult members achieved FA coaching qualifications through the scheme, which has now become an autonomous part of local community life.The Northampton example is quoted at length to show what can be done, and because there is no doubt that without the Trust, none of these things would have happened. Sad to say, these are not items which figure prominently on the agendas of traditional football club boards of directors, and it is up to Trusts to promote them, under their community benefit objects. Lack of resources is often quoted as an excuse for inaction by some clubs, but this reveals the low priority that they attach to the issue. Signing up to a policy is one thing, but action to deal with the problem is another.
For advice on anti-racism campaigning and action, please contact
Piara Powar at:
Kick It Out, Unit 3,
1-4 Christina Street,
Tel: 020 7684 4884
Fax No: 020 7684 4885
Website address: http://www.kickitout.org