What is a Supporters Trust?
A supporters’ trust is a democratic, not for profit organisation that aims to strengthen the relationship and influence of fans with the club they support. More information on other trusts (over 180 in the UK today) and detailed case studies can be found on the Supporters Direct website –
Isn’t a trust about owning the club?
Many trusts do indeed seek to gain a level of equity, full or part-ownership, as both a safeguarding measure and to strengthen influence at board level. That is not to say, however, that a trust cannot have influence without owning some of the club they represent – many trusts can and continue to operate without any ownership stake.
The main difference concerns the way in which a supporters trust is set up and operate. Supporters clubs exist to promote the support of their associated club. Supporters trusts operate to clearly stated objectives relating to strengthening the links between the clubs ownership with the community of supporters; seeking to influence the operations of the club; seeking opportunities for representation by operating as a professional and credible body of supporters. Trusts are supported by a legal and constitutional framework that makes the achievement of these objectives possible. The setting up of any supporters trust is recognised and governed by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).
Can trusts make a difference?
Trusts are gaining significant exposure at all levels, with the government putting significant support into the growth of their influence across multiple sports in the UK. Supporters Direct regularly meet with the current Minister for Sport. In other sports the leagues and governing bodies are beginning to bring in their own rules over clubs needing to engage with trusts. The momentum, and influence, is growing.
Why propose a Trust and what are we seeking to achieve?
The proposal to consider forming a Nottingham Ice Hockey Supporters Trust came about through a desire to channel the huge amount of positive intent many supporters have across the fan base into something cohesive and collaborative. Although trusts differ massively to supporters’ clubs, it was also recognised that Panthers no longer have any organised supporters group of any kind since NPSC ceased operating; so there is no possibility of any conflict of interests.
We want to make a positive difference to the operation of the club and in how the club engages with the core of its supporters. We recognise that this is a “long-haul” process. It will take time and effort to move forward; starting with small steps and looking to develop opportunities for improvement and engagement.
We have already engaged with Supporters Direct and will be working with their help and support in moving forward. We have also made contact with other groups, including the emerging Nottingham Forest Supporters Trust.
The legal standing around a supporters trust requires the club to engage; the formality of the set-up means that the club cannot ignore a trust – there has to be engagement. We clearly want this to be positive on both sides.
The proposed Trust is not a re-badged supporters club, it is not a protest motivated activity. It will be about seeking positive improvement and change. In any club or business operation if you are not improving you are going backwards in relation to other clubs or the competition.
I’m interested, how do I get involved and what can I do?
A trust needs all sorts of help and expertise, and all are welcomed.