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Welcome to our FAQs section. Here you will find lots of answers to standard questions relating to Supporters Trusts.

Please find the FAQs below. If you require any additional information then please e-mail your questions to: enquiries@supporters-direct.org

General

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 a Supporters’ Trust?
A Supporters’ Trust is a democratic, not-for-profit organisation of supporters, committed to strengthening the voice for supporters in the decision making process at a club, and strengthening the links between the club and the community it serves.

Supporters’ Trusts are typically constituted as Community Benefit Societies (CBS), a form of Co-operative that operates under a one-member one-vote principle. CBS’ are registered with the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), and any changes to the rules must be approved by the members and only become effective once the FCA has agreed them, checking they are in keeping with the spirit of the organisation. The members own all assets and liabilities collectively, and any profit made is either kept as reserves or reinvested to meet its objects. They are not charities and whilst they contain the word ‘Trust’ they do not follow the legal definition of a ‘Trust’.


How do we set up a Supporters’ Trust?
Should the motives be in keeping with the objects of Supporters Direct and our members, and there be enough interest from supporters of a Club to make it a success, SD will help you through the process of establishing a Trust.

The process takes time to ensure it is the right decision and fits within the existing supporter landscape. Ultimately it will require a majority vote from a public meeting of supporters to go ahead.

SD will provide the expertise and development officer time to move on the process, attending meetings of the working group, speaking at the public meeting as well as meeting the cost of registration.


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.


Who can be a member of SD?
Membership is available to any Club that we have helped become Community Owned as well as any Supporters’ Trust we have helped set up.

The SD Membership Policy can be viewed here.

In the first year membership is free, and in subsequent years the membership fee for the organisation is £100 a year (unless the members vote to change the fee). In addition to the annual fee, members need to complete a survey and provide SD with a set of accounts – these must be audited if turnover is more than £1,000,000 a year.

Other supporters’ groups and Clubs can apply to become affiliate members of SD but will not have voting rights.


How is Supporters Direct funded?
SD has a range of income streams.

Currently we receive grant funding for specific projects from the Premier League Fans Fund which runs until July 31st 2019. These cover a range of things including online and face to face training and support and setting up new clubs and supporters trusts.

We have received funding from UEFA for our work in Europe since 2006, and have also been commissioned by UEFA to facilitate the introduction of the new Supporter Liaison Officer requirement, set out in Article 35 of UEFA’s Club Licensing and Financial Fair Play regulations.

In March 2012, a European Commission-funded project, Improving Football Governance through Supporter Involvement and Community Ownership, began. The project and lasted until June 2013 and involved nine partners from across Europe. To find out more, click here.

We receive grant funding from the Scottish Government for the Scottish Fans Network, and the Scottish F.A. for the roll out of the Support Liaison commitments.

We have some funding from the Rugby Football League to help their clubs and supporters, and have funding from Power to Change to build the club network until April 2018. 

We bring in income from the consultancy arm ‘SD Club Development’ either through individual client work or through funding partners like Sport England, Co-op Bank\'s the Hive or the Big Lottery funded Big Potential.

Finally, membership fees and donations make a relatively small but greatly appreciated contribution to our annual income.

Which countries does SD work in?
Although established first for supporters at clubs in the English pyramid, our work quickly spread to Scotland and the other home nations.

In 2006, UEFA agreed to fund research into the feasibility of a European arm of Supporters Direct, which would give advice and support to fans across Europe who wished to become involved in the ownership, management and governance of their clubs.

The project began in 2007/08 and it identified that there were organised groups of fans in many European countries who wished to become involved in the running of their clubs and needed advice and support. In 2008/09, we received a grant from UEFA to assess how they would be able to provide practical assistance to service the demand as well as providing support to that first wave of groups identified during the course of the research.

Since then, Supporters Direct has provided a range of services, and we currently work in over 20 European countries. Find out more on the SD Europe section of our site.

We have also informally helped supporters at Clubs across Africa, Australia, the US and beyond..

Which sports does SD work in?
We predominantly work in football, but amongst our membership are supporter owned Rugby League Clubs and supporters’ trusts, as well as trusts in Rugby Union, Ice Hockey, American Football and Speedway. We are open to working with supporters and clubs in any spectator sport.

What are the benefits of being a member?
From the outset, we provide support and advice to an individual supporter or group of supporters who are interested in establishing a supporters\' trust. If we can help, we then provide support & help for meetings, paperwork and registration during its establishment.

As a full member we can provide you with ongoing strategic, tactical and campaigning advice, how to increase activists within the trust, and work in the local community. We also provide support for practical things like how to run the organisation - including training.

Members also benefit from being part of a wider network of Clubs and Supporters’ Trusts that share similar ambitions and are willing to work together to achieve them. There are specific networks set up for Premier League Supporters’ Trusts, Football League Supporters’ Trusts, Non-league football, Rugby League and Community Owned Clubs.

The attachment in this article provides the full range of membership benefits.

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 Ownership’ 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?
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’?
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


How can I find out more about SD’s work?
If you haven’t done so already you can sign up to receive our weekly media briefing, which covers all the main stories from SD, our members and the sporting environments in which they compete. Just Contact Us.

You can follow us on Twitter @SuppDirect, and like us on Facebook.

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