STAR (Supporters’ Trust At Reading) was launched in March 2002 and has made steady progress ever since, becoming one of the larger Trusts when judged on membership numbers. Its origin is in the old Reading Football Supporters’ Club (RFSC, founded in 1930). Its chairman Roger Titford saw the opportunity offered by the new type of trust body and set up a working party to convert RFSC into a Trust that had a wider appeal than an old supporters’ club.
There was a ready constituency for this idea as RFSC had already been working with the fanzine (The Whiff), the fans’ website (HobNobAnyone?), the Beard Band (a match day band with false beards) and several unaligned individuals in a movement called URZ (as in You R’s). URZ had helped transform the sombre atmosphere of the Madejski Stadium in 2000-01 and some of its leading lights joined the new STAR Board from 2002.
STAR maintained RFSC’s role as the official away coach provider for Reading fans and this element of the offer has played a large part in keeping membership numbers in four figures. A peak membership of almost 4,000 was reached in the club’s first Premier League season in 2006-07. The increase in funds allowed STAR to build a Portakabin base on club land opposite the East Stand turnstiles from where travel and souvenirs are now sold.
STAR has kept its membership fee constant throughout its existence at £10 adults and £5 concessions and, besides access to coach travel, offers members-only events with manager and players, a 10% off discount voucher at the club store, club ticket loyalty points and supporter representation. The Trust has met with the club’s senior management team every six weeks with minutes placed on its website. Every three years the Trust organises a trip to WWI and WWII battlefields to commemorate fallen players and in 2016 launched the STAR Reading FC Hall of Fame to recognise the outstanding achievements of 150 individuals in the club’s history.
Since Sir John Madejski relinquished control of the club in 2012 there have been Russian, Thai and now Chinese owners and this period has not been without difficulty, certainly lately in terms of establishing a formal‘structured relationship’ which is a task still in hand. However there has never yet been a need for the Trust to engage in public protests and therefore the profile of STAR and its board members in the national arena of supporters’organisations has been low, though Jon Keen (as secretary of the FSF) and the late Gary Deards (of NADS as was) have made their mark.
Paul Ellix has just retired after five years as Chairman of the Trust in a solid position financially and a membership of almost 1,900in the 2016-17 season. Ian Maynard succeeds him. Of course, challenges remain, in particular forging a close and positive relationship with a new owner and new CEO on board at the start of the 2017-18 season but there is an air of optimism about both the club and the trust.
To read more about STAR and the fantastic work they do, click here.