FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS:
What is a Supporters Trust?,
A Supporters Trust is an organisation of fans that aims to give supporters a degree of representation and influence at the Club they support.
A Supporters Trust is a formal, democratic, not-for-profit organisation owned equally by each of its members.
Most Trusts are assisted in their formation by Supporters Direct, a government initiative funded by public money. All Trusts wishing to be a member of Supporters Direct must abide by its rules concerning accountability, transparency and democracy. Bristol City Supporters Trust (BCST) is currently a member of Supporters Direct.
In many cases, a Supporters Trust seeks to gain influence in a Club by purchasing shares and/or by securing representation on the Club board.
What are the aims of Bristol City Supporters Trust?
The main aims of Bristol City Supporters Trust are to:
• Represent the fans in dialogue with the Club
• Raise significant funds to help bring success to the Club
• Help the Club position itself as a hub of the community
• Improve the supporter experience and encourage increased support for the Club
• Position the fans as financial stakeholders in the Club
The Trust’s long-term aims are to build a large membership and a sizeable financial stake in the Club. Outright ownership is not an aim at present and may never be, but safeguarding the future of the Club is the Trust’s overarching objective.
How is the Trust different from the Supporters Club, City 2000 or the Fans Consultative Forum? What is the Trust’s relationship with those entities?
The Supporters Club raises funds for the Club and offers supporters a social side to being a Bristol City Supporter.
City 2000 is a lottery that raises funds for the Club and plays a role in uniting its members as part of the Bristol City community.
The Fans Consultative Forum (FCF) provides the Club with a sounding board for fans’ views. It is made up of dedicated supporters who volunteered and were selected by the Club. The agenda and topics for discussion at FCF meetings are decided by the Club.
The Trust has a harmonious and cooperative relationship with each of these bodies, since each has the common aims or effects of improving the supporter experience and the performance of the Club.
The current Trust constitution includes provision for a representative of the Supporters Club to sit on the BCST board.
What responsibilities do the Trust’s board members have? How are they appointed?
All board members, including a maximum of two members without portfolio, are democratically elected by the Trust's membership. Members (aged 18 and over) may vote in person, or by proxy, at the annual elections.
Bristol City Supporters Trust has ten board members. All members of the Trust are eligible to stand for a position on the board. The positions are: Chair, Vice Chair, Fans Representation Officer, Fundraising Officer, Community Officer, Communications Officer, Treasurer, Membership Secretary, and two Members Without Portfolio.
Under the constitution, different board positions are put up for election at each Annual General Meeting. Board members may stand again, or be challenged by other Trust members.
If a board position becomes vacant then the Trust board may co-opt someone onto the board until the next AGM.
Formal responsibilities of board members are to observe the Trust's constitution and run a well- ordered company. Statutory responsibilities are to get rule changes approved by the Financial Services Authority, publish annual accounts and hold annual elections. (For more information on this, see the “How is the Trust governed?” section below.)
All board members sign up to a Code of Conduct to ensure that they commit to their roles in a professional manner. Like all Trust members, board members should be respectful of the organisation's democratic nature.
In Trust board meetings (held monthly), important points for action are put to the vote. The Chair holds the casting vote when the opinion of those board members present is evenly divided.
It is forbidden for any member of the Trust to benefit financially through their dealings as a member of the Trust.
How is the Trust governed?
Supporters Direct requires that Trusts be registered as an Industrial and Provident Society (IPS) with the Financial Services Authority (FSA). As such all its actions and conduct will be regulated by the provisions of the Industrial and Provident Societies Acts, 1965–1978.
Because it is registered as an IPS with the FSA, there are certain requirements that the Trust has to meet, and other things that it cannot do. In particular, the FSA will not register an amendment to the Rules which is not in accordance with the democratic and community benefit principles established in the Trust’s constitution.
The Trust has to file annual reports to the Registrar. It has to appoint qualified auditors, and audited accounts have to be presented to the Trust’s AGM and to the Registrar. Supporters Trusts should also be committed to producing financial reports to every meeting of the Trust.
The Trust's 'model rules'
How many other Clubs have established a Supporters Trust?
There are currently 134 football clubs in England, Wales and Scotland with a Supporters Trust. Many, but by no means all, were formed in response to a financial crisis at their Clubs. There is a great deal of goodwill between Supporters Trusts, as may be witnessed at regional or national meetings organised by their umbrella organisation, Supporters Direct.
Supporters Trusts have also been established at a number of rugby union clubs, and the government has tasked Supporters Direct with applying the Trust model of ownership across other sports such as rugby league, cricket and speedway.
What is the Trust’s involvement with otib, the fans’ forum at www.otib.co.uk/?
The Trust took over the running of what was once the Club’s official fans’ forum at the start of the 2006/7 season when the Club decided it could no longer be “officially” associated with the forum. The Trust is responsible for raising funds for this forum through means other than Trust membership fees. To date, all funds have been raised through donations made by forum users or by people making online purchases using the Shopping Forum.
The Trust, along with the forum’s administrator, a company called Clik, is liable for any defamatory or libelous comment posted there. The forum has eight moderators, two of whom are Trust members, six of whom are not.
Why doesn’t the Trust post more information about its activities on otib?
The Trust has its own forum for Trust-related matters at http://forums.bristolcityst.org.uk/. The Trust also keeps a lively website at www.bristolcityst.org.uk/ .
Otib has traditionally been a forum run by the fans, for the fans (not all of whom are Trust members).
Why does the Trust aim to buy shares in the Club?
Purchasing shares is not the same as making a donation. By purchasing shares, the Trust and its members own a part of the Club. The more shares the Trust purchases or acquires by proxy (see below), the greater will be its influence.
The Trust made its first acquisition of shares in the Club in September 2006, when it purchased £5,000-worth of new shares.
The Trust raises money to purchase shares through membership fees and fundraising activities. The decisions to purchase shares and—if given the opportunity, where to allocate the funds in the Club—are voted on by the board of the Trust on behalf of its members.
The Trust aims to ensure that all funds raised are used appropriately to benefit the best interests of the Club and its supporters. Funds from the first share purchase went toward improvements to the Club’s training facilities, an area which City Manager Gary Johnson had identified as needing improving.
Shares are held in the name of Bristol City Supporters Trust, which is an Industrial and Provident Society authorised by the Financial Services Authority. This means that it is a company that is able to hold shares of a business, that it must hold them in a democratic and correct way, and that the government's financial regulator makes sure everything is above board.
How many Supporters Trusts have significant shareholdings in their Club, and how many have fans representatives on their Club's board?
There are over 50 Clubs in England, Scotland and Wales where supporters have a shareholding that makes them significant. A few Trusts have majority or outright ownership.
Not all Trusts have a representative on their Club’s board, but it is becoming increasingly common for Club boards to have a fans’ representative of some sort.
Does Bristol City Supporters Trust have a representative on the Club board?
Yes. At the beginning of the 2006/7 season, Club Chairman Steve Lansdown invited a representative of the Trust to attend, in a non-voting capacity, the Club’s monthly board meetings. (A representative of the Supporters Club was also invited to attend.) The Trust board elects one board member to represent the views of supporters at these meetings.
How influential have Trusts’ representatives been at Club board level?
The influence any Trust representative is likely to wield at a Club may well depend on the size of the membership he or she represents and the quality of information at his or her disposal. No doubt it will be important that the representative is seen to be a constructive player in the life of the Club, and not someone who is simply there to object.
Bristol City Supporters Trust will ensure that its own representative on the Club board is a good communicator with an excellent knowledge of fans' views. The Trust has conducted an in-depth survey of its membership, and board members keep a close eye on the range of media sources, including fan websites, as well as talking with supporters in person. The Trust cannot speak for all fans, because fans disagree on many things, but it can speak on behalf of its membership.
Trust members and non-members alike are also able to express their opinions in person, or through a Trust representative, in regular open meetings and forums with the Club Chairman organised by the Trust.
Is there a need for a Trust now at Bristol City? We're not in crisis.
The most spectacular successes and growth at Supporters Trusts are usually at a Club in crisis, where people fear their Club could become extinct. That acts as a rallying call, and people make sacrifices that they might normally not make.
At a Club such as Bristol City that is not presently in crisis, Trusts still have an important role to play, raising funds, organising social events, working to improve the supporter experience, representing fans' views, providing services that have been discarded by the club and improving links between communities. The opportunities are endless.
The Trust is also there to help in the event of any dramatic change in circumstances. In the case of a takeover, for instance, the Trust would be there to remind the new owners that the fans love and care for the Club and that their interests need to be protected and their voice listened to. Should things go very badly wrong, as they did for Bristol City in 1982, the Trust would serve as a vehicle to help save the Club from extinction.
It takes time and a great deal of hard work to establish a Supporters Trust. We have completed this work, so the infrastructure is in place in the event of any calamity.
Do you have to be a shareholder in the Club to join the Trust?
I’m a shareholder in the Club. Can I proxy* my shares to the Trust?
*This means that the existing shareholder still owns the shares but allows the Supporters Trust to vote on their behalf.
How much does it cost to join the Trust?
Red membership costs £1 per month/£12 a year for 16s and over, and £5 a year for juniors and senior citizens. The majority of Trusts charge around this price. Those who can afford to contribute more still can through fundraising and through applying for Silver (£2.50 per month/£30 per year) or Gold (£5 per month/£60 per year) membership.
What happens to my membership fee?
The first pound makes you a shareholder in Bristol City Supporters Trust and gives you a vote in all Trust matters. All remaining monies bar a minimal amount for Trust running costs will be used to buy shares in Bristol City Football Club.
Apart from helping to purchase shares, how else can I help the Trust?
The more people we have working on Trust initiatives, the more effective our organisation will be. Whether you have professional skills you’d like to volunteer or happen to have a spare hour to help distribute leaflets, your offer of assistance will always be very gratefully received. If you’d like to help in any way, even if it is just to offer an opinion or share an idea, please drop us a line or give us a call.
How do I join?
Download the membership form, fill it in, and send it to us.
Is there an age limit on involvement?
As a Trust is a legal entity, minors aren't allowed to be full, voting members. However, like many Trusts, we do have a Junior section through which young supporters can get their voice heard. Again, membership for this is £5 a year.