After several months of hard work dealing with the legalties behind such an endeavour, the Chelsea Supporters Trust will be formally launched at 17.45pm on Saturday 9th February 2013 (after the Wigan game). The launch event will take place at the CIU club, 71 Britannia Road, opposite the West Stand entrance, and a few doors away from the old So Bar, and will be attended by Chelsea legend Kerry Dixon.
What’s the Aim of the Trust?
The aim of the Chelsea Supporters Trust is to bring the voice of the majority of Chelsea supporters, in the UK and overseas, to the attention of the Club and those tasked with running the club.
How the Trust Came About
The Chelsea Supporters Trust was set up by a group of like-minded Chelsea supporters who believed that there is a lack of engagement by the club with its supporters. By coming together and creating the Supporters Trust they aim to increase the voice of supporters and enter into a positive dialogue with the club. Ultimately they aim to represent the views of as many Chelsea supporters as possible (accepting that 100% representation will never happen), and will adopt the same transparent, democratic and co-operative model as seen at a number of other clubs.
The Role of Supporters Direct
The Trust is backed by Supporters Direct, who help supporters form trusts by offering advice on how to get it off the ground. They ensure that as many supporters get involved as possible. Having worked with supporters setting up over 170 trusts since 2000, they advise supporters on what works and what doesn’t and give examples of good ideas from other places. SD also take up some of the workload, as they have full-time staff who are at the end of a phone to advise if needed. They also pay for all the legal costs of setting up a Trust and may be able to provide small grants, to cover things like advertising, printing, and room hire etc.
Who’s Running The Trust?
Having held a series of meetings where the idea of creating a Chelsea Supporters’ Trust was discussed, it was agreed to go forward to make this happen with a Working Group of volunteers. Without that mandate, the Trust would not have been created.
After a period of time to recruit as many members of the trust as possible, the current Working Group will hold an election where Chelsea Supporters Trust members can vote for a board to be elected (it is planned to hold such elections either at the end of this season or early next season). The board will consist of various executive roles to enable the effective running of the Trust on behalf of its members such as Chairman; Secretary; Treasurer and will also have the authority to co-opt any expertise deemed necessary to help the Trust achieve its objectives such as legal, financial and communications expertise.
The Board will actively encourage as many Chelsea supporters to join the Trust, attend meetings, contribute to the debate and vote in elections.
If the Trust Can’t Buy the Club, What’s the Point?
Given the ownership model in place at Chelsea, it is obviously unrealistic for a Supporters’ Trust to aspire to own the club. Instead, their aim is to simply increase the voice of Chelsea supporters by formalising a collective engagement with the club, and potentially acting as a conduit for supporter complaints and problems, working with the Supporters Liaison Officer. Any Trust that is created will not claim to speak for all Chelsea supporters but only for its members, so they want to see as wide a representative of supporters join them to make their collective voice heard.
One very long-term aspiration for a trust could be to target a place on the Board – they believe it’s about putting a professional face to the club and saying ‘we’re capable, skilled people with something to offer the club.’ That certainly doesn’t mean that they’re unable to criticise or beholden to the club, of course – as a democratic organisation, the members will determine policy and stance towards the club.
Whilst the Trust believes that the Chelsea Board and employees should be allowed to run the club without interference, they also believe that as temporary custodians of the club the Chelsea Board have a responsibility to engage with supporters in an equal, mutually beneficial partnership. Presently there is little formal structured or transparent engagement between supporters and club, apart from the three Fans Forum meetings per year, and little way that supporters can raise questions and if necessary, hold the club to account. It will be the aim of any Chelsea Trust to help formalise this role, acting as a bridge between club and supporters, so they will be proactive in encouraging as many supporters to join as they can.
The Trust feels that, as the club are thinking about possibly reformatting the Fans Forum, now would be a good time to create an umbrella supporters group. A Supporters’ Trust would also bring together supporters from all sides of the recent (and ongoing) CPO debate to work together in a common cause.
How Much Will it Cost to Join?
As the Trust is a not for profit organisation, there is no need for exorbitant membership fees. The Trust therefore propose to charge a small annual membership fee which will cover the costs of running the Trust. Details on various membership grades and fees can be found on the Trust website.
Help the Trust to Help You
The Trust wants to make supporters’ voices heard to the Club. To do this they need your support. Please sign up to become a member of the Chelsea Supporters’ Trust and they pledge to do all they can to get your voice heard where it matters – the Chelsea FC Board. The more members the Trust has, the louder that voice will be, so get your mates to sign up and become members too, and get involved with the Trust; come along to the meetings, and let them know how they can help you get your voice heard.
Chelsea Supporters Trust Twitter account is @ChelseaSTrust and they also have a Facebook page, where you can join the launch event.
TheChels will of course be reporting back on the Trust launch next week. In the coming weeks we’ll be dipping a tentative toe into the world of literature with a review of Walter Otton’s debut novel, ‘The Red Hand Gang’. In the meantime you can follow me on Twitter @BlueBaby67 and 24 hour debate in more than 140 characters is available at ahfcchat.com