Supporters Trust North West Regional Meeting On 12.11.06
Just a quick report of the North West Supporters Trust Regional Meeting at Rochdale FC.
There was a good turn out at the meeting including a representative of MU Supporters Trust (who is also a director of Supporters Direct itself).
Paul Hazelhurst, a Rochdale FC director opened the proceedings and said that intially they were wary of the trust but have forged a much closer relationship.
The first speaker was Rochdale's FITC Officer who talked about his work. Pretty much as you'd expect, involving organising football-related and other activities and identifying young talent for the centre of excellence.
The next speaker was Asif Rafiq, representing an organisation called Sports for All. He was really inspiring, talking about using sport to reach out to ethnic minorities. They seem to have done an awful lot in a short time but it was interesting that the Rochdale Trust and Rochdale FC had only come across them recently. Possibly this is still because sport is still not being used as effectively as it could be to bring all races together. But these guys really impressed me.
The next up was local lad Dave Boyle, Deputy Chief Executive of Supporters Direct. Dave talked about the extension of funding for SD, announced at the recent national conference and how it wasn't just a case of "more of the same" but using that money to develop and build on the work they've already done. They want to make existing trusts agents of change in their communities. However they recognise that everyone is a volunteer giving up free time and can't be expected to increase that commitment. Therefore they had to find other means to this end.
There were two ways of doing this:
(1) All trusts were Industrial & Provident societies so there were many common processes and requirements. SD would be looking at providing central back-office functions in order to reduce bureaucracy at trusts and free up trust members time.
(2) SD recognised that trusts couldn't compete financially with club owners so wanted to focus on the policy debate and generating new ideas.
Over lunch I spent most of the time chatting to Karen Matthews, the MUST member. She was incredibly helpful. There appears to be some ill feeling between them and FCUM I gather as they have different objectives. MUST have over 32,000 members and their Phoenix Fund has over £2m. People think the issue ended when the Glazers took control but they are still trying to convince people that it is very much alive. They have a small city centre office and are looking for something closer to the ground where they can be more visible to fans. Sadly, their main hope of achieving any significant club ownership is if the Glazer-owned club runs into trouble and he has to sell.
The post-lunch session revolved around reports from the trusts. Having been quite depressed on Saturday about our performance (the Newcastle game) both on and off the pitch this really gave me heart. When you listen to some of the stories from around the smaller clubs and see the obvious love and dedication that these people have for the game and their club you simply can't help but be inspired. A couple of the highlights were the onging saga at Northwhich Vics, where there has pretty wll been a complete breakdown between the trust and the owner. The talk from the representative of Runcorn Linnets was another highlight, having been formed from scratch in the close season following the demise of Runcorn FC.