Supporters Direct (SD) are an umbrella organisation set up originally by the government in 2000 to provide support and assistance for its member trusts to secure a greater level of accountability and deliver democratic representation within football clubs and within football's governing structures. Amongst other things, Supporters Direct promotes the value of supporter and community engagement and helps supporters' trusts to secure influence and become a constructive voice in how their club is run. There are now over 200 supporters' trusts in the UK; clubs owned in partnership with supporters' trusts such as Swansea City A.F.C. and over 50 clubs owned by their supporters including AFC Wimbledon, Exeter City F.C., Newport County and of course Wrexham AFC. Many others have meaningful involvement through board representation, structured dialogue or campaigning. SD provided invaluable support to Wrexham Supporters Trust at the time of its purchase of the club and has continued to provide advice. WST is a full member of SD.
The Football Supporters' Federation (FSF) is an organisation representing football fans in England and Wales. It campaigns across a range of issues and supports fan representation on clubs' boards, lower ticket prices, and the introduction of safe standing areas at grounds in the top two tiers of English football. The FSF represents individual fans and affiliated supporters’ organisations from every club in the professional game and footballing pyramid. WST is affiliated to the FSF.
Both organisations receive funding partly from the Premier League Fans Fund. Prompted mainly (it seems to us) by concerns about cuts to that funding, and after a lengthy consultation, an indicative resolution was put to this years SD AGM to consider and vote on the following:
“Supporters Direct should: -
· Form a single, new football supporters’ organisation with the Football Supporters’ Federation or;
· Continue as a distinct organisation focused on governance in sport”
The SD Board recommended continuing as a distinct organisation whilst recognising that there would be challenges in securing future funding. The board of WST decided to accept the SD Board’s advice and vote for SD to continue. Our concern was that the interests of fans owned clubs and those Trusts who aspire to it (or who are compelled by events to save their clubs) would be diminished in a new organisation which would focus on things other than governance. Although we do have common interests, the fact remains that our concerns and aspirations do not necessarily match those supporting clubs in the higher echelons of the game. We were not convinced that fan ownership would be very high on the agenda of a merged organisation.
During a lengthy debate at Saturdays AGM in London, Trusts including those at Arsenal, Spurs and Fulham argued for merger of the two organisations whilst others such as those from Exeter City, Blackpool, Birmingham City, Stafford Rangers and ourselves spoke in favour of SD continuing as a distinct organisation.
From a turnout of 70% (69 voting members) the vote was as follows:
Form a single, new football supporters' organisation with the Football Supporters' Federation: 36
To continue as a distinct organisation focused on governance in sport: 30
Therefore, Supporters Direct were mandated to form a single, new football supporters' organisation with the Football Supporters' Federation.
There is much work to be done in creating the new organisation and, of course, we wish it well including all the SD staff who have provided us with such excellent support over the years.
We hope it can now secure adequate funding although, given that the elite game is currently awash with monies, the risk of reduced funding is a puzzling state of affairs.