This was the second Championship Trusts meeting to be held since its formation in November 2012. An event that was very well attended despite the poor prevailing weather conditions, Trust’s represented included Bristol City, Cardiff City, Huddersfield Town, Leicester City and Sheffield Wednesday.
The first session was a joint collaboration with representatives of several Premier League Trusts and included a short presentation given by Jim White of the Swansea City Supporters Trust, detailing the model they had adopted in order to deliver the successful results seen since their initial inception in 2001. Straplines ‘From Pennies to Cups’ and ‘here for a long time, not just the good times’ were both well received; simple but effective messages that are further indication of the success story that is Swans Trust.
Key points from the presentation included:
- In 12 years, Swansea City have gone from being a Club that could not afford to pay an £85.00 electricity bill to winning the 2013 Carling Cup Final at Wembley and subsequently securing guaranteed entry into the 2013/14 Europa League.
- Swans Trust have a 20% shareholding in the Club which equates to a £200,000 stake while also owning 1/3 of the Club’s stadium. The Trust is currently the third largest shareholder in Swansea City Football Club.
- All Trust Board members are still volunteers who take no salary for work undertaken. They have a designated Supporter Director that is a full time Club Board member; an average month demands roughly 100 hours worth of non-paid contribution to Trust activities and initiatives.
- The Trust currently has 15,000 members recruited through various methods, including an ‘opt out’ system linked to Season Ticket renewal.
Insightful and inspiring, the presentation showed not only what Trusts can achieve, but also some of the pitfalls Swans Trust had been experienced along the way; Mr White placed great emphasis on their ethos of ‘work hard, dream big’. The Trust has a real operational presence within the Club, which currently stretches as far as budgetary responsibility. They remain focused on the views of their members, with strong links to community responsibility and communication and provide a great model for all Supporters Trust’s to aspire to.
The event was then separated into two workshops, with Championship Trusts joined by David Lampitt and James Mathie of Supporters Direct and Peter Hanlon of the Football League. Financial Fair Play was briefly discussed, with Peter feeding back that it has been a huge effort for Clubs to buy into the concept. The League had taken a softly softly approach thus far with the first sanctions for rule breaking not due until at least January 2015, however reporting will start as early as next season.
Also discussed at length were Supporter Liaison Officers. The Football League has recently finished a successful series of well-attended seminars, which were used to educate Football Clubs on the requirements of the Supporter Liaison Officer role; feedback from these seminars proved largely positive. Trusts were concerned that the role itself was ill defined and often on a part time basis, thus de-valuing the role. The Football League had no objection to this in essence but was closely monitoring all Clubs to ascertain how the Supporter Liaison Officer role was being developed. The Football League was satisfied with the progress being made and clarified the purpose of the role was ‘to improve relationships and links between clubs and its supporters’; a proposal was put forward by Blues Trust to invite all Supporter Liaison Officer’s to the Supporters Direct forum weekend planned in June to further improve those relationships; a suggestion subsequently accepted by Supporters Direct. Sarah Gould is currently the designated Supporter Liaison Officer at Birmingham City Football Club.
The final session included updates on the recent Parliamentary meetings that Supporters Direct had been heavily involved with. Positive progress was reported, however more work is needed to promote community ownership amongst fans and accelerate legislation to help protect Clubs in the long term. There was also a brief overview of some of the things the Bradford City have been doing in order to strengthen the relationship between fans and the Club; further details of which are to be released in the near future.
In all, the second Championship Trusts meeting proved a very positive session. The session not only allowed for the strengthening of relationships between Blues Trust and other Trusts, but also gave greater insight into what can Trusts can achieve through the adoption of various different models.