Ok, then, tell me – what’s a Supporters’ Trust?
A Supporters’ Trust is a democratic, not-for-profit organisation of supporters. It’s 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.
I thought a trust was a charity?
Ah, no. Supporters’ Trusts are not charities and whilst they contain the word ‘Trust’ they do not follow the legal definition of a ‘Trust’.
Supporters’ Trusts are constituted as Community Benefit Societies (CBS), a form of Co-operative that operates under a one-member one-vote principle. CBSs are registered with the Financial Services Authority, and any changes to the rules must be approved by the members and only become effective once the FSA has agreed them, checking they are in keeping with the spirit of the organisation.
The members own all assets and liabilities collectively. Under FSA rules the Trust must remain solvent if it is to continue to legally exist. Any profit made is either kept as reserves or reinvested to meet its objects. It will never take the form of a dividend to members.
So what’s the point of the Supporters’ Trust then?
Because Supporters’ Trusts are grassroots organisations, clubs with a degree of community ownership have stronger relationships with the local residents, businesses and their local authorities than clubs without such fan involvement. Hull City Supporters’ Trust wants to use its trust status positively and to work closely with Hull City, Hull City Council, the business community and local people – to the benefit of all.
All Supporters’ Trusts have the aim of acquiring shares in their football club and to secure – by democratic election – supporters’ representatives on the board of directors for the benefit of the club, the supporters and the wider community. We believe that genuine supporters want to be closer to their clubs than just buying a match ticket and merchandise and that supporter representation at City will benefit the fans, the club and the people of Hull.
Hang on, isn’t there already a Supporters’ Trust for City? Isn’t that what the Tigers Co-operative is?
On 31 December 2014 the Tigers Co-op merged with City Till We Die to become the Hull City Supporters’ Trust. HCST is thus a continuation of the existing Trust, not a brand-new one.
As with most Supporters’ Trusts, HCST is a member of Supporters’ Direct, the national body established to support the development of community ownership of, and supporter involvement in, sports clubs. We operate under their model rules. For the record: Hull City Supporters’ Trust is the trading name of Tigers Co-operative Limited, which is a Registered Society under The Co-operative and Community Benefit Societies Act 2014 (formerly under the Industrial and Provident Societies Acts, 1965-1978). The Tigers Co-operative Ltd Registration Number is 29021 R.
All very well, but what chance is there of the club’s owners giving you say in Hull City’s affairs, let alone a seat on the board? HCST has hardly got millions to invest in the Tigers. Or have you…?
Alas, not yet, but if you’ve won the lottery and you don’t know what to do with the money, please let us know!
If there is one thing we have learned from the history of Hull City, it’s that the club’s circumstances can change at the drop of a hat. Owners change, or change their minds. New government legislation could change the way that football clubs are run. Perhaps the English leagues won’t get to be quite like the Bundesliga, where clubs must be majority owned by the fans, but you never know.
But we do know that a being a Supporters’ Trust can give us leverage, not least with the football authorities, the council and other fans’ groups. CTWD was already the largest City fan group. A thriving Supporters’ Trust is a voice that is hard to ignore.
Sure, big European clubs such as Bayern Munich and Barcelona might be fan-owned, but in the English leagues it’s only tiny clubs, right?
That’s partly true. Some, 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.
The Tigers Co-operative itself came into being when City was in crisis, whilst clubs such as Portsmouth would not now exist at all were it not for its Supporters’ Trust.
But Supporters’ Trusts exist at bigger clubs too. Swansea City’s Supporters’ Trust is currently the third largest shareholder in the club, with a 19.99% stockholding, and has a seat on the Board of Directors, guaranteed permanently by a shareholders’ agreement. The Manchester United Supporters Trust has over 200,000 members, a significant and influential number.
Well, football’s now an expensive business, so it’s going to cost me an arm and a leg to join. Right?
Wrong. We’ve made the fees as low as possible so we can be as inclusive as possible. The annual membership fee – including in the first year a £1 share for those who weren’t Tigers Co-op members – is only £5. For junior members (those under 16 on 1/1/15 and who thus aren’t eligible to vote at trust general meetings) membership is just £2 a year.
Sounds good! Where do I sign up?
Just click the JOIN HCST link on the menu bar or click here – it takes two minutes to sign up!