A number of Football Supporters' Federation members have been in touch recently asking how to set up a supporters’ organisation. Therefore we thought it would be useful to publish a simple guide to doing just that - it isn't easy and there's a lot of work involved but it can be massively rewarding.
There are quite a few different types of supporters’ groups and we’ll try to explain a little on each here.The starting point should always be - for what purpose do we want an organisation? Is the organisation to provide “social” services for supporters such as travel to matches, social facilities, match tickets? Or do you envisage your organisation as a representative, campaigning voice for the fans?
'INFORMATION ONLY' GROUPS
There are some groups (the Wales Away Yahoo Group, for instance) that only exist to exchange information and opinion. They don’t provide any services or handle any money but exist to share information among supporters. In that case there’s no need for a formal structure although your group should still join the FSF as an Associate Member. This means your group has joined the FSF, and is in alignment with our broad principles, but acknowledges that no democratic structure is in place - although you can still vote at the FSF's annual conference.
SUPPORTERS' CLUBS AND INDEPENDENT ASSOCIATIONS
If you’re considering handling money and/or providing services however, it is good practice to formally constitute yourselves by adopting a written constitution and rules and opening a bank account for the organisation. Most supporters’ groups in this category are what are known legally as “unincorporated associations”. That just means they’re not legally registered BUT legally all unincorporated associations have to follow the law and their own rules (provided that the rules don’t conflict with the law).
Most supporters’ organisations which set themselves up to provide an active voice for fans on issues such as ticket prices and allocations, stewarding and policing, kick-off times, and so on are generally known as “independent supporters’ associations”. They are also almost always formally constituted as “unincorporated associations”.
- Click here to see an example of a constitution from the Arsenal Independent Supporters’ Association (AISA)...
TRUSTS AND FAN OWNERSHIP
If your group is interested in the areas of ownership and the governance of your football club, then you should almost certainly take advice from our partners and friends at Supporters Direct (SD). SD is a non-profit making company which promotes the establishment of mutually owned co-operative companies called “supporters’ trusts”. They are legally registered as “Industrial & Provident Societies” (IPS) with the Financial Services Authority, a government financial company regulator. An IPS is a limited liability, mutual, co-operatively owned company controlled by its members. SD’s details can be found at: www.supporters-direct.coop
SET UP AND LAUNCH
Once you’ve decided to go ahead and formally launch your supporters’ organisation and you’ve decided whether you want to be a supporters’ club, independent supporters’ association or a supporters’ trust, you need to think out all the steps to be taken leading up to a formal launch, adoption of a governing document (your rules and constitution), bank account, membership materials such as application forms, membership cards, newsletter/website/message board and so on.
The FSF or SD can provide advice and assistance with this, depending on whether you’ve decided to be a club/association or a supporters’ trust. We can also put you in touch with already established supporters’ organisations at your club and email your details to FSF members who happen to follow your team.
Before this you should work out a logical timetable of each step you need to take leading up to a formal launch. Remember to think about the options that modern information and communications technologies allow these days. This should include approaching the “parent” football club you support. The approach of clubs differs greatly. Some are very supportive and will provide help with speakers, rooms, and so on. Some not so much. We can try and help here too if you run into problems.
KEEP ON, KEEPING ON
Once you’re formally up and running, that’s just the start. You need to always have one eye on the future. Most supporters’ groups are run by volunteers. People’s circumstances change – they move, have children, change jobs and so on. Make sure you don’t overtax a few people with all the work and always looking to bring in fellow supporters ready and willing to give a few hours of their time to keep your group running effectively efficiently.
If you set up as a supporters’ club or association you should affiliate to the FSF. Affiliation is free and it gives you a voice in national issues affecting our game. If you set up as a trust you should both affiliate to the FSF and become a member of Supporters Direct. SD charges a small fee, currently £50 a year but there are a lot of benefits to being an SD member for supporters’ trusts.
Formally speaking the FSF only covers England & Wales. There is currently no direct equivalent in Scotland. Supporters Direct covers Great Britain and has helped establish supporters’ trusts in Northern Ireland. It receives specific funding from the Scottish Government for its work with football supporters’ trusts there. It also receives funding from UEFA to promote mutual football club supporter ownership throughout Europe.
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