Sunday, October 08, 2006

An Example Of An Active Supporters Trust

As part of our research we are looking at other Supporters Trusts, what they do, how they operate, their aims & objectives, how active they are etc. Jacqui at Supporters Direct has mentioned many trusts to us to look at and I have taken some time to look Reading's Supporters Trust a little closer.

Before you jump to conclusions or think that we cannot draw comparisons with them, I realise that clubs, supporters, shareholders etc are all individual and have different agendas/ areas of concern but by looking at other Supporters Trusts connected to clubs inside and outside of the Premiership we can learn from their experiences, mistakes and successes and plan for a positive future for a Manchester City Football Club Supporters Trust.

STAR or given its proper name, Reading Football Supporters' Society Limited is an IPS (please read my recent article on IPSs). It was formed in March 2002 and is the successor to Reading Football Supporters' Club. Here's the first point to make, our group do not want a Supporters Trust to replace the current MCFC Supporters Clubs up and down the country and around the world. Our proposals will reflect this and nobody should make any presumptions until our proposals are finalised or made public.

STAR summarises it's aims as representing the interests of Reading supporters to the Club, the media, the local community and the football world, as well as encouraging football in the local community and strengthening the links between the local community and the Club.

STAR goes on to point out that "whilst financial resources are obviously very important in building and sustaining a successful football club, there also has to be a passionate, human and communal dimension. STAR is here to help build and sustain a well-supported and well-respected football club in Reading where the whole community feels involved".

STAR is run by a Board, currently with twelve members, eight of whom were elected by the membership and four co-opted to the Board. The Board has to meet at least four times a year but in practice meets monthly often with STAR Team leaders and is responsible for overall policy and financial direction of the Trust, its relationship with Reading Football Club, the local media etc. Elections to the Board take place every three years (voted on by the membership).

STAR does make an impressive claim that it is one of the best supported Trusts in the UK. Each member of the Trust owns a £1 nominal share in the trust which entitles them to vote at AGMs and stand for election to the Board.

STAR has managed to obtain benefits for its membership (please remember when reading this list that the trust is also the Supporters Club):-

1) A 10% discount voucher for use in the Reading Football Club megastore
2) Free entry to question and answer evenings with Reading FC's players, management and Chairman held three times a year
3) Ticket priority
4) STAR runs subsidised coaches to all away games exclusively for members
5) The members received a free newsletter three times a year as well as regular e-mail updates
6) STAR also operates a fairly busy social calendar including quizzes, football matches against other supporters' teams etc

One of the things that has impressed me about STAR is that even though they hold a very small shareholding in the Club (the Chairman owns 97%) they are still able to work closely with the board and would appear to have quite a level of support which in turn gives them an element of persuasion.

One recent incident involved the Club organising exclusive radio coverage of games with one commercial radio station which would not have been picked up outside of the Reading area. STAR issued a statement expressing their "extreme disappointment with the decision" on 23 July 2006. By 9 August 2006 and following discussions with the board and the BBC they managed to get the radio coverage moved to the BBC and therefore become available to Reading supporters far and wide. So a success for good and common sense. I'd certainly hope that when MCFC Supporters Trust is formed that they could work closely with the board and should some ill-thought out venture be announced that the Trust could do something about it or at least raise concerns straight to the people in the right places.

Despite STAR not having a notifiable shareholding in their Club they are still well thought of and attend regular meetings with the Senior Management Board comprising of the Chief Executive and the heads of department who run the football club on a day to day basis. They say that the meetings are constructive and whilst they admit that there are vigorous disagreements as well as co-operation they genuinely feel that they are respected and listened too.

Whilst STAR have been involved in ticket price discussionss and other issues they also appear to have an active community project side. Since they were formed they've funded a scheme to coach disabled children to Football In The Community schemes, supported Reading's Under 15 team to go to a tournament in Holland, sponsored Unity FC, subsidised 50 tickets for children from United Reading Community Group to attend a match and financed the purchase of a set of goalposts for Reading Town FC. I've already mentioned that we are actively researching potential community projects for an MCFC Supporters Trust to support in both financial and non-financial terms and wish to confirm that whilst we support Manchester City's Football In The Community we would like a trust to become involved in schemes that will compliment the existing schemes or if possible work in areas not already covered by them. We plan to publish proposals in this respect when we have finished our research and spoken to as many people about this.

To finish, you might like to know what STAR's objectives are:-

1) To stengthen the bonds between the Club and the community which it serves and to represent the interests of the community in the running of the Club
2) To benefit present and future members of the community
3) To facilitate the participation of supporters of the club in activities promoting football in communities throughout the United Kingdom
4) To encourage the Club to take proper account of the interests of its supporters and the community it serves in its decisions and to honour the contribution made by the community in the past to the life of the club
5) To acquire and hold shares in the Club or any company controlling the Club and to be an active and growing shareholder thus giving supporters collectively the opportunity to have a stake in the Club
6) To promote the full, accountable democratic and constructive involvement of supporters in the running and direction of the Club, including the principle of supporter representation on the board of the Club
7) To continue the work of Reading Football Supporters Club, with particular reference to away travel, ticket priority and Fans Forums.

If you have some time and don't mind visiting another football club's supporters' website the link to STAR is here

If after reading this (no pun intended) you feel that something similar is required at our great Club, well that is what we are working hard to try and establish. As is normal on here, all comments, questions, input and suggestions are welcomed please e-mail


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