Significant discussions are currently being held about whether the two best-known national supporter groups can continue with their separate identities or should combine forces under one banner, writes Dons Trust Board member Tim Hillyer.
In 1999, the government’s Football Task Force delivered its findings. The two fans’ bodies that existed at the time, the National Federation of Football Supporters’ Clubs and the Football Supporters’ Association, merged in 2002 to form the Football Supporters’ Federation (FSF). That same period saw the growth of fan ownership, under the guidance of Supporters Direct (SD), which had been set up in 2000 in the wake of the Football Task Force report. Enfield Town was the first fans-owned club to adopt such a structure, followed by AFC Wimbledon. There were now two supporter groups once again.
A few months ago, the Fans Fund of the Football Foundation, which is the organisation that provides most of the funding for SD and a large proportion of the running costs of the FSF, asked both bodies to discuss the possibility of sharing back-office functions and working more closely together. Talks are being held about the desirability and viability of creating a single supporters’ organisation. (The Dons Trust is affiliated to both SD and the FSF.)
Here is an extract from a recent SD statement:
“The Board of Supporters Direct agreed to actively engage with the FSF to investigate and evaluate the desirability of the creation of a new single supporters’ organisation, combining, protecting and enhancing the talent, expertise and mission of both SD and the FSF.
The SD board is clear that consideration of any single supporter organisation can only be on the basis of a democratic structure, underpinned by strong governance and robust financial control, operating with a modern streamlined board and council structure. To achieve this, we believe the best solution to be the creation of a new organisation incorporating the strength of both existing brands and enabling the continued support for supporter ownership in a range of sports.
In parallel, and with equivalent resource and time allocated to it, SD will thoroughly investigate and formulate proposals to remain as an independent organisation, with potential scope to develop a broader range of activity than now.”
With regard to the board statement, Supporters Direct Chairman Tom Greatrex said: “Enabling supporter ownership of clubs and campaigning for better governance and involvement of fans in decision-making to protect valuable community assets is the core of the mission of Supporters Direct, both in football and in a range of other sports. It has been suggested that a new, single supporters’ organisation will enhance our ability to meet those goals.”
SUPPORTERS DIRECT MISSION STATEMENT:
“To promote good governance in sport and enable the development of sustainable clubs based on supporters’ involvement and community ownership.”
Since its formation, it has helped establish over 200 supporters’ trusts in the UK, with more than 50 now owning and running their club. Members have raised more than £50 million to be invested into their clubs and communities, including £6 million through Community Shares projects.
THE FOOTBALL SUPPORTERS’ FEDERATION
A democratic organisation representing the rights of fans and arguing the views of 500,000 football supporters. Membership is made up of individual fans and members of local supporters’ organisations throughout the professional structure and many more from further down the football pyramid.
The Safe Standing Campaign, Twenty’s Plenty for Away Tickets and Watching Football Is Not A Crime! are examples of ongoing campaigns which the FSF leads. The FSF Fans’ Embassies help supporters of England and Wales by offering advice to those following their nation abroad. This includes the ever-excellent Free Lions fanzine for every England away game.