Supporters Direct

supporters-trustDetails taken from Supporters Direct FAQ section.

Who are Supporters Direct (SD)?

SD acts as the umbrella body for sports clubs that are owned by their supporters, and supporters’ groups known as Supporters’ Trusts which are typically constituted as Community Benefit Societies.
SD were formed in 2000 following a recommendation of the Football Task Force, to encourage the formation and development of groups of fans to take ownership stakes in their club. Since then SD has overseen the creation of more than 200 Supporters’ Trusts in the UK and has helped more than 50 sports clubs either reform under or convert to community ownership.
SD itself is a Registered Society owned by the members we have helped create. Our members collectively have more than 400,000 members, and have raised more than £50 million in finance since 2000.

What is the purpose of SD?

SD’s mission is to promote sustainable spectator sports clubs based on community ownership and supporter involvement.
We offer help to Clubs interested in becoming community owned and supporters interested in forming a Supporters Trust at their Club.
We also provide a range of support services to existing members, which can vary from advice on building supporter involvement at a Club, raising finance, better member engagement to helping supporters when their Club is in crisis. SD staff average about 100 hours a month of one to one support to members.
We also work on behalf of our members by talking to the major stakeholders within sport, in particular football, to consider ways to improve the game. We believe that greater stakeholder participation actively contributes to better governance and thus financial sustainability. We also believe that a licensing system is essential to balance the social, sporting and commercial aspects of a Club.

What is ‘Structured Dialogue’?

We would regard ‘structured dialogue’ as being any form of relationship between supporters and a club (its directors or senior officials, but it could also include others such as senior managers relevant to a particular issue) that is mandated as part of a formal agreement between the two. Supporters Direct believes that this is a function that can be carried out most suitably through a supporters’ trust, because of it’s democratic and accountable structure.


How do you define ‘supporter’ or ‘community’ ownership?

‘Supporter owned’, ‘community club’ are phrases that have become popular when talking about clubs. Lots of clubs do lots of great things in their community, and many supporters feel like they ‘morally own’ their Club, but when Supporters Direct talks about ‘supporter ownership’ (or similar phrases like ‘community ownership’) we mean that;
– A minimum of 50% +1 of the voting rights of the Club to be controlled collectively by a democratic entity which has an open and inclusive membership
  • ‘Democratic’ to mean the membership of the entity to work on a one member one vote principle
  • ‘Inclusive’ to mean that there are no substantial barriers to participate as a voting member, with membership open to all that are sympathetic to the aims of the Club
  • Any profits are reinvested back into the Club as opposed to being distributed to shareholders.
  • The Club is committed to running as a sustainable business.
It’s not to say that other forms of ownership don’t work and should be ignored, but our research suggests that Community Ownership opens up a number of benefits to a Club that are much harder to achieve or not possible to achieve in a privately owned Club.
Examples: AFC Wimbledon, Chester FC, Saffron Walden Town

How can our Club become ‘supporter’ or ‘community owned’?

This depends on a number of variables – all the Clubs that we have helped into Supporter Community ownership have come about in a number of different ways.
Some, such as Saffron Walden Football Club and Tonbridge Angels FC, took the decision that this was a model more suited to their Club, and converted from their previous model (often a Private Company or unincorporated). Others, like Wrexham FC and Wycombe Wanderers FC, became community owned after supporters were successful in gaining support and funds to buy the Club from Private owners. A number of Clubs, such as Chester FC and AFC Rushden and Diamonds have reformed down the pyramid after the previous Club was wound up. There have also been instances where new Clubs have formed, like FC United of Manchester and City of Liverpool.

How do you define ‘part’ supporter or ‘community’ ownership?

A shareholding with a protected position in the legal entity that owns the Club or assets, such as
1. A shareholders agreement setting out rights of supporters, or
2. Embedded rights in the articles of association, such as a golden share, or
3. 25%+1 of ‘investor shares’ in a Private Company Limited by Shares which is committed to operating sustainably (if not a viable business in reality shares become much less influential, power rests with those willing to subsidise losses)
Example: United Trust (Carlisle United), Dunfermline Athletic

How do you define ‘supporter involvement or influence’?

A position of influence for supporters but isn’t legally protected, most likely achieved by;
1. A structured relationship between supporters and the Club
2. A place on the Board of the Club
Example: Cambridge United