What is the difference between a Supporters Trust and a Supporters Club?
The main difference between a Supporters Trust and a traditional supporters club is the way that it is structured. A Supporters Trust is registered as a Community Benefit Society and as such is a democratic, not-for-profit organisation. Every member over the age of 16 has an equal share in the Trust and funds cannot be spent on anything other than what the constitution democratically decides. A Trust can own shares or property, it could ultimately own a club, and at the very least, own a shareholding.
A traditional supporters association or club is more of a social collective which are likely to be equally concerned about the operational activities at a club. Though a Supporters Club may have the capabilities to own shares or assets by operating as a registered limited company, any such assets would always remain that of the shareholders of the company.
Supporters associations and clubs have a significant role to play, providing transport for fans, lobbying their clubs and acting to represent supporters, but because they are not generally incorporated as a Community Benefit Society a supporters association cannot own shares and employ staff and have those assets directly owned and controlled through its membership.
Who currently operates the Trust?
Legally speaking, the Trust is currently operated by an Interim Board of Directors of the Yeovil Town Supporters Society Ltd (Glovers Trust), and are registered as such, by name, with Supporters Direct. The term Steering Group has been used to identify us as an interim Board of Directors, but does not detract from our legal and moral responsibilities. We are no longer considered as a Working Group; that is the term used for the wider collection of volunteers and any sub-committee that we may wish to form in the future, for example an Election Working Group.
The process for electing the current eleven members of the Board is legally sound, if not democratically pure. There are four original signatories on the application who are automatically members of the Trust and have the legal ‘power’ to select the initial Board of Directors (until the first AGM).
What are the Supporters Trusts Objectives?
Our initial objectives are set out in the Model Rules provided by Supporters Direct.
Following the AGM with an official committee and board members we will align these to suit our members.
The initial objectives are;
To benefit the community by:
- Being the democratic and representative voice of the supporters of the Club and strengthening the bonds between the Club and the communities which it serves.
- Achieving the greatest possible supporter and community influence in the running and ownership of the Club.
- Promoting responsible and constructive community engagement by present and future members of the communities served by the Club and encouraging the Club to do the same.
- Operating democratically, fairly, sustainably, transparently and with financial responsibility and encouraging the Club to do the same.
- Being a positive, inclusive and representative organisation, open and accessible to all supporters of the Club regardless of their age, income, ethnicity, gender, disability, sexuality or religious or moral belief.
Why do we need a supporters Trust?
Following the open public meetings at the end of 2015, it was felt from the feedback of the supporters present that the club was not engaging effectively with its customer base. This coupled with the continuation of poor results on the pitch generated a feeling that the supporters had lost touch with the club. The proposition to improve this was to create an organisation where all supporters can get together in a structured manner. The Supporters Trust meets this criteria, empowering its members to direct how the organisation operates and giving the fans a voice as part of a formal, democratic and not-for-profit body. There are over 190 supporters’ trusts across the UK and the majority of these are affiliated to football clubs, however trusts also exist for both Rugby League and Rugby Union Clubs.
Who are Supporters Direct and what is their role?
With government and with cross-party support, Supporters Direct were established to encourage the formation of supporters’ trusts to promote democratic supporter ownership and have assisted us in the formation of a Supporters Trust for the fans of Yeovil Town Football Club.
Supporters Direct have been working since 2000 to help supporters gain influence in the running and ownership of their club, working with clubs across all leagues and levels in both football and rugby.
From the outset, they provide support and advice to an individual supporter or group of supporters who are interested in establishing a supporters’ trust. They review the request and decide if they believe in the plight, they then provide support & help for meetings, paperwork and registration during its establishment.
Once formed, their role becomes less intense, and focuses on developing the trust, providing ongoing strategic, tactical and campaigning advice, how to increase activists within the trust, and work in the local community. While providing support for practical things like how to run the organisation, including training.
Longer term, Supporters Direct provide specialist support to Clubs that want to become community owned, and a range of support to those that already are through their consultancy SD Club Development.
Supporters Direct stand for similar things, like more openness, involvement of supporters and communities in the ownership and running of their clubs and our game, try to bring members and activists together as much as possible.
How is a Committee formed?
At present, the Trust is run by the Interim Board of Directors, a group of volunteers who have been focussed on formally establishing the Trust and the principle rules that govern the operations. The governance rules state that the group are expected to have completed the first Annual General Meeting (AGM) within six months of registration (approximately late September/early October 2016). Before this can happen the Trust need members and so the next phase is to begin the enrolment process. Once the Trust has its members anyone over the age of 16 can either stand for election to the Trust Board or nominate another member over the age of 16 for election. It should be noted that there are some other restrictions with regards to suitability based on criminal/financial background. Votes will submitted by members of the Trust over the age of 16 and the successful candidates are sworn onto the committee at the AGM. The Trust committee will then run for a fixed period of time, which initially will be 2 years. At the first AGM following the first election (year 2), half of the Directors, chosen by ballot, will resign and stand for re-election if they wish. This will set the rotation of electing new Directors for half the Board positions each year and ensure that there is a level of continuity in place following each annual election process.
What does “One person, One Vote” mean?
“One person, One Vote” effectively means that every single member of the Trust over the age of 16, and therefore eligible to vote, is treated equally. As part of the membership fee, each member over the age of 16 is issued an Ordinary Share which gives them their entitlement to vote. This is the reason that a corporate member and an ordinary member have the same ‘rights’. There are no personal influencing factors on the voting process, such as sponsorship value, corporate sponsorship or personal stature. Every member of the Trust over the age of 16 has one vote per decision and one vote only.
Can anyone be a member?
Yes, anyone can be a member irrespective of age and location, and we have already received a number of enquiries from supporters based overseas. For simplicity we plan to initially offer two membership levels; Adult & Child. Membership will be renewed annually and priced at £10 for Adult membership and £1 for under 16’s. The rate is significantly reduced for under 16’s as they are unable to stand for election or vote on key decisions at meetings or AGMs. The Interim Trust Board do however recognise that they are the future of our organisation and so there are plans for a ‘Junior Working Party’ to operate in a similar manner to the Adult Board, thus presenting our younger generation with the opportunity to generate their own initiatives and highlight issues that they may wish the Trust Board to follow up on their behalf.
Can members of other Glover’s organisations join?
Yes, the Interim Trust Board has no intention of competing against existing organisations in any way and welcome their members. This is iterated by the fact that a number of the members of the Interim Board are already members of the existing organisations. Glovers Trust representatives have already held a positive meeting with representatives from all of the existing supporters’ organisations and have already received public backing from the Bridport Glovers.
What is the constitution?
The constitution is a set of fundamental principles and procedures (rules) which state how the Trust is governed and is underpinned by a set of rules that have been registered with the Financial Conduct Authority and Supporters Direct. Everything the Trust does must comply with these underpinning rules. In support of these rules are various policies which set out the way in which the Trust carries out its functional business; these policies are based on models provided by Supporters Direct and will all have to be voted in by the Interim Board of Directors before they can be used.
To date the following policies have been voted in as ‘fit for purpose’: Standing Policy for Trust Board Meetings; Equality and Diversity Policy; Disciplinary Policy; Meeting Record of Decision Policy. Over the coming weeks an additional 9 policies will be voted on, covering subjects such as election rules, Trust board nominations, AGM policy, complaints policy and governance. Once the Trust website is fully operational, the Trust Rules and supporting policies (the constitution) will be freely available to view by all.
Have you had any investment?
Yes, we have received a number of generous donations from fellow supporters and local businesses who are aware and supportive of The Glovers Trust. These donations have assisted in covering the key initiation costs, such as the membership packs and the planned launch party. It should be noted that as part of the constitutional rules referenced above, no individual or group can make personal profit from the operation of the Trust.
There has also been an incredible amount of time invested to date; the Interim Board of Directors and fellow volunteers, and also external supporting organisations such as Supporters Direct and Exeter City Supporters Trust have put in a tremendous amount of effort in getting the Trust up and running.
There are no doubt many more Glovers fans out there that will want to help and it has been amazing to see how much people care about Yeovil Town Football Club. Anyone who would like to get in touch, be it to offer support in any way, discuss donations/sponsorship or ask any questions are welcome to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.