From the Exeter matchday programme

The following article appeared in the club’s official matchday programme for the game against Exeter City (played on December 28).

It’s a team game

Supporters Direct have recently produced a guide for board members at fans-owned clubs. James Mathie, manager of the SD Club Development Team, explains why it’s essential for such boards to be properly organised and run.

Club board members are critical components of any thriving community-owned club. Just as the public perception of a professional footballer is wildly different from the reality of what lower-league players have to contend with every week, the same can be true of the elected board members, volunteers and trust members who help to keep community clubs afloat. Although none of us at Supporters Direct have ever watched a game from the directors’ box at any of Europe’s largest stadiums, we’re pretty confident that Roman Abramovich doesn’t serve the half- time refreshments, nor does Silvio Berlusconi announce the starting line-ups before kick-off.

Supporters DirectAt every level of the football pyramid there will be supporters whose level of expectancy for the people at the top table will always be incompatible with the reality of what those people can realistically achieve. And that prompts a couple of questions: do club directors encourage this belief, and what can be done to change unrealistic expectations?

A well-structured board will be made up of individuals with a broad collective range of expertise and experience. The board should set the strategic direction for the club and ensure that financial plans are in place that enable the delivery of the strategy. As well as acting as custodians for the assets of the members, the board can set the tone for many of the important relationships a club has – and the most significant of those relations is with the members who own it. A lot is sometimes expected of a board director at a fans-owned club. The vast majority of them perform the role on a voluntary basis and have to juggle it with a full-time job and family life.

To address some of these issues, Supporters Direct has recently produced a booklet for the guidance of board members of community-owned sports clubs.* It focuses on the importance of the role and duties of a club board director. The publication of this booklet supports our policy and primary aim of fostering the development of sustainable, successful clubs that are owned by, and embedded in, their community.

In this booklet we delve into a range of important areas, from legal and financial responsibilities to monitoring and reporting, and everything in between. We recognise that for many who perform the role of club director, day-to-day operational club issues often dominate the agenda, but we think it gives a good overview of what to aim for.

The booklet has been put together with the help of a few community clubs across the UK who are democratically owned on a one member, one vote basis. While some of the guidance will be useful for all clubs, if you are a director at a community-owned club you have the distinct advantage of being in a position to implement recommendations for better practice.

Returning to the questions posed above: expectations can be made more realistic if the club has a constitution that provides a clear framework of how it should be run, for that helps directors, members and supporters all know exactly where they stand, and crucially for everyone to be equally responsible for the progress of the club.

Great expectations? Maybe. Shared expectations? That’s the idea.

* To download the booklet, entitled Club Board Directors: Guidance to Help Directors of Community-Owned Sports Clubs, visit: www.supporters-direct.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/Club-board-director-guidance-final.pdf

For more information about Supporters Direct Club Development, see clubdevelopment.coop

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