What is a Supporters’ Trust?

supporters-trustBasically a Supporters’ Trust is an independent, democratic, not-for-profit, community-based organisation that seeks to give fans a collective voice in the running of the club. In our case this would build on our existing Aims and Objectives and add aims to take an ownership stake in the Broncos and to seek to be represented on the Broncos’ Board.

Supporters Direct has existed since 2000 to help supporters gain influence in the running and ownership of their Club. In that time they have helped the establishment of nearly 200 trusts. In Rugby League Rochdale Hornets, Hunslet and (unfortunately less successfully) Hemel Stags are Trust owned. In recent years the Broncos has played at Trust owned Wycombe Wanderers and we have AFC Wimbledon nearby as an example of a “Phoenix” club.

Community Benefit Society (CBS)

The Trust would be a legal entity regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) called a Community Benefit Society.

The Trust would literally be owned by its members. Every member, regardless of their financial contribution, will be issued with a single £1 share; these shares cannot be traded or transferred. Each shareholder gets an equal say in the running of the Trust; one member one vote.

As a regulated entity the full force of the law can be brought to bear on anyone who misappropriates the funds and liability of Trust members is limited to £1. The Trust can own shares or property, and can sign contracts with the club for shares received and set the terms of the deal. It has powers to employ and manage staff within a democratic structure.

Trust Board

Trust members would elect a Board at the Annual General Meeting; we currently have a committee of four members that would probably need to be expanded to make a success of this. Unlike the current committee, the Board could co-opt independent members to the Board; usually people with specific skills to benefit the Trust.

How Can a Couple of Hundred People Fund a Club Like the Broncos?

If the goal of the Trust was simply to replace the largesse of David Hughes then the simple answer is they can’t! If every member of the LBSA became a member of the Trust at £10 each that’s a massive £2,600 a year!

The reason for converting to a Trust is that the supporters are confident they can contribute to making the Broncos a stable club for the long term, run in the interests of the supporters and the wider community. This might mean a programme to

  • bring the wandering years to an end
  • work towards a home of our own
  • make the Broncos a business that makes money off the field all year round
  • reach out to the local community
  • take a leading role in developing the game in the London area

Conversion to a Trust then means that Broncos’ supporters feel confident that together we can help build a better club. Exeter City is owned by their Trust, and less that 5% of their income comes from the Trust members.

I believe we have punched above our weight in the short time we’ve existed – we have a hard core of members who will contribute with their time and money and a generous and engaged wider membership as well. We have pulled off some memorable events;  mostly celebrating the history of the Club and re-engaging with our great Past Players; maybe its time for us to work together for a greater cause?

It’s Down to Attitude

This section lifted  from the Pompey Supporters Trust website; I think it sums up what the change to a Trust means

This revolves around putting a professional face to the club and saying ‘we’re capable, skilled people with something to offer the club.’ That doesn’t mean that you’re unable to criticise or be beholden to the club – as a democratic organisation, the members determine the Trust and stance towards the club.

A CBS imposes certain disciplines on a group that we think can only be a good thing – democracy, accountability and transparency.

Supporter’s clubs whilst being perfectly legitimate often become identified with a small band of individuals and might always seem to be criticising (even if it isn’t in reality!). It is also limited in how it can grow, and how secure that growth is.

The Trust, constituted as an CBS will stay in existence until its members decide to dissolve it, and so they have greater ability to stay around. Often supporters clubs go into a lull when key individuals become inactive. All these are of course applicable to the Trust, but the disciplines mentioned above make it more likely that weaknesses are identified and rectified.

STEVE NEWCOMBE