Ensuring that a community club stays communal

This article originally appeared in the York City matchday programme

It is not uncommon to find a degree of disharmony at community-owned football clubs, says James Mathie of the Supporters Direct Club Development team. Better communications can usually solve the problem.

Running a community-owned club or a supporters trust can be a constant juggling act. Sometimes it can even feel as if there are different clubs within a club, and different groups within a group. There are the matchday fans, who add a bit of soul and vital revenue at the bar. There are the junior teams, with highly committed support from the mums, dads and coaches. There’s the senior team, who show us how to play the beautiful game (sometimes). Then there are the supporters and volunteers who go above and beyond, be it travelling all over the country to support the team, or dedicating time to keep the club or trust running.

It’s not too surprising that misunderstandings often emerge or, worse still, fester between these groups of people, and usually to the detriment of all involved. So what can you do? A larger-than-life personality – be they a chairman, high-profile supporter, board member or manager – can help keep everyone focused. But there are some straightforward remedies that can make a big difference.

Take the junior and senior teams, for example. We at the Supporters Direct Club Development team are constantly hearing about issues of mistrust or misunderstanding – which team uses the training pitch first, or how surplus funds are spent. A good constitution always helps remind everyone why the club exists. Another option is to draft an agreement between the two parties. Commonly called a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) or partnership agreement (or something less serious-sounding), this ensures that everyone knows what everyone else does, and where they stand – which can help avoid these problems. Take a moment away from the madness of running a club, sit down with one another and agree how you can work together for the mutual benefit of the club. The process in itself will be valuable, and having something written down that you can turn to in the future is a real help.

It’s a similar story for trusts – good internal communications between various working groups or project leaders is vital to ensure that everyone is on the same page and pulling in the same direction. Supporters trusts in the UK still face a range of problems to overcome, and there is no one-size-fits-all approach. But the basis for any successful group is proper communication and a clear vision.

The Dons Trust Board recognises the issues raised in James’s article and will continue to drive to improve our communications with Dons Trust members and other stakeholders throughout the club.

 A womble isn’t just for Christmas – or a season!

Life membership of the Dons Trust guarantees part-ownership of your beloved Dons for life. If you are a regular season ticket holder you probably know that a five-year season ticket is great value for money and, once the financial outlay has been made, it can feel like you’re watching the Dons for free!

Although you can’t buy five-year membership of the Dons Trust, you can go one better by taking out Life Membership. It costs £500 regardless of age – which could make it the perfect christening present! For more information, please email Membership Secretary John Stembridge at membership@thedonstrust.org.

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