Public Start-Up Meeting

Beth’s Note: After a number of conversations and a growing interest, a meeting was held /BW

Chelsea FC Supporters Trust

Public Start-Up Meeting

18.15 Saturday 22nd September
Barrow Boy Pub (after Stoke home game)

Following the overwhelmingly positive feedback received from our initial e-mails, blogs and tweets (see http://chelseafcstrust.blogspot.co.uk/ for details of the information circulated), it is clear that many Chelsea supporters believe that there is a lack of engagement by the club with its supporters, and that the idea of a Supporters Trust is, at the very least, worth exploring as a means of increasing the voice of supporters and enter into a positive dialogue with the club.

Given this, we have arranged an start-up meeting, to which all Chelsea fans are invited, to be held after the forthcoming Stoke City home game, at 18.15 on Saturday September 22nd.

  • This meeting gives Chelsea supporters a chance to learn more about what a trust is, what it stands for, what it could realistically achieve and why we feel Chelsea supporters should have one, based on the Supporters Trust model. There will be plenty of opportunity to ask questions.
  • A representative of Supporters Direct (who have helped set up 150+ supporters trusts) will attend to explain their role and how trusts, adopting a transparent, democratic and co-operative model, have been successfully implemented at other clubs
  • There will be a discussion and vote on whether to move to establish a Chelsea Supporters Trust run on democratic and transparent lines.

Ultimately we aim for a Chelsea FC Supporters Trust to represent the views of as many Chelsea supporters as possible and would ask that, if at all possible, you try and attend the meeting so we get as wide a representation as possible.

Upstairs Bar, Barrow Boy Pub
308-310 North End Road London SW6 1NQ (near McDonalds)

(We anticipate the meeting lasting a maximum of 90 minutes)

***All Chelsea Supporters Welcome***
More information on the idea of a Chelsea FC Supporters Trust at http://chelseafcstrust.blogspot.co.uk/ and on Twitter @cfcstrust

Beth’s Notes: And an agenda was set /BW

Draft Agenda – Chelsea FC Supporter Trust ‘Start-Up’ Meeting
18.15 Saturday 22nd September 2012
Upstairs at the Barrow Boy Pub, North End Road, SW6
Purpose of meeting – to give Chelsea supporters a chance to learn more about what a Supporters Trust is, what it stands for, what it could realistically achieve & why it is felt Chelsea should have one.

1. Welcome & Introductions. James Mathie of Supporters Direct will be participating in the meeting.
(Pass round sheets to get e-mail addresses of attendees)

2. Background – quick refresh on how the meeting came about.

3. What a Supporters Trust is, why it is important, what a Chelsea FC Supporters Trust could realistically achieve, the Supporter Liaison Officer role etc.

4. Discussion on feedback and challenges already received (attached), questions from attendees & from live Twitter feed.

5. Next steps. If mood of meeting is supportive, a follow-up meeting in 6-8 weeks (need to be clear what that would cover/achieve & who is going to do the work leading up to that meeting)

6. Any Other Business
The meeting needs to end by 19.45 latest
Themes to feedback received regarding possible setting up of
Chelsea FC Supporters Trust (CFCST)
The following is distillation / summary of the themes raised in the various feedbacks received regarding the idea of forming a CFCST. This list focuses on challenges and issues raised. These points will be discussed at the start-up meeting on 22/9/12.

What is a Trust?
What is a Trust? Why is it different from existing supporters groups? Can’t they do everything a trust does?

What can a trust realistically achieve at a big club like Chelsea? It is easy to see their impact at much smaller clubs, but I struggle to see what the goals could be.

What works at other clubs won’t necessarily work at Chelsea given the ownership structure.

We don’t have the same issues as clubs like Man U, Portsmouth, Leeds etc so I can’t see the point of a trust.

You say a trust is democratic and transparent and that sounds a good thing but what does this mean?

Trust Membership
How would membership work? Why should people pay good money and receive nothing in return. What would membership fees be spent on?

Would overseas supporters be able to join?

How will you build membership? How can you elect a committee when you don’t have any members?

Approach of a Chelsea FC Supporters Trust
I am concerned it will be too aggressive and hostile, like SAYNO became – it would need a more diplomatic approach and aim to work with the club.

It needs to avoid becoming a ‘narrow issues’ pressure group.

There is a real opportunity to build a mass supporters movement, but this will not be easy. How do you intend to do this?
Relationship with Existing Supporters Groups
Do you intend a trust should replace the existing supporters groups?

Do you intend a trust to become an umbrella organisation of supporters groups? What do the existing groups think about this?

We don’t need another fans group, we have enough already.

How can a member of an existing supporters group realistically get involved in a Supporters Trust?

Relationship with Club
How do you intend to interact with the club?

Do you intend to join, supplement, replace or ignore the Fans Forum?

The Fans Forum is ineffective and needs replacing in my opinion, but I’m not sure how a trust could do this.

Why would the club engage with a trust – are they obliged to given the ‘official’ status?

There are issues that have been raised with the club for years (ticketing, match day experience, stewarding etc). Why would a trust be any more successful than the Fans Forum?

Involvement of Overseas Chelsea Supporters
Foreign fans deserve a voice, and I suspect the club would be more supportive if a trust provided a mechanism to do this.

If a trust is set up, it would be good to have an overseas rep on any committee – Skype could be used to make this practical.

Goals – Short, Medium and Long Term
Who decides what the targets of such a trust would be? A self-appointed committee?

What would the goals of such a trust be? Club ownership is clearly unrealistic, and our owner is not a divisive figure, unlike (e.g.) the Glazers.

After the meeting a recap and set of minutes were issued

Since the start-up meeting last weekend, discussions have been held with James Mathie of Supporters Direct. The purpose of the discussion was to talk through the next steps for the CFCST after the start-up meeting (which JM thought was positive and supportive), focussing on what needs to be done before the next meeting, which will either be on 28/10 (Man U game) or 11/11 (Liverpool game) . At present, majority feedback received seems to be that after the Man U game is the most popular time.

A number of key issues were discussed :-

1. Preparation For Next Meeting
A number of issues can be addressed before the next meeting. Based on his experience elsewhere, JM suggested setting up a Working Group containing the four ‘originators’ plus a few other volunteers who made it clear after the meeting they were keen to play a pro-active role. The Working Group could look at the following :-
* SD have a model constitution which they suggest we use, tweaking as necessary (e.g. re overseas members). We don’t need to finalise it at this stage, but clear aims and objects would be
useful to present to the next meeting;
* identifying differences between the CFCST and existing supporters groups ;
* possible membership structures / fees;
* it was agreed that contacting other PL trusts to learn what has, and has not worked, for them could only be beneficial.
JM suggested the Working Group meet (probably w/c 8th October) and that he would be happy to attend and facilitate the meeting. Those who expresssed an interest in getting actively involved immediately will be contacted re Working Group membership.

2. Purpose of Next Meeting
a) To receive feedback/proposals from the Working Group on, amongst other issues :-
* draft aims/objects;
* thoughts on the differences between the CFCST and the various existing supporters groups;
* thoughts on membership structure/fees;
* feedback from discussions with other trusts re their experiences with set up, membership drives, club liaison etc..
b) To vote on whether to proceed to the next step – working with SD to formalise the constitution.

3. Longer Term Timeline
If the next meeting approves going ahead and forming a CFCST, the finalisation and approval of the constitution will take possibly 6-8 weeks. Membership fees cannot be taken until the constitution is approved. A temporary ‘volunteer committee’ would need to be set up. Assuming CFCST is a formal legal entity by 31/12/12, a strong membership drive can start in the New Year. Once membership has been built, elections for a Trust Board can be held (hopefully by the end of the season) and dialogue with the club can begin.

4. Other Issues
a) SD have a one-stop ‘membership tool’ which can take subscriptions, send e-mails, create a membership database etc. This would cost CFCST £25 a month to use. There is no compulsion to use this.
b) An announcement re the timing of the next meeting will be made once further feedback is received regarding the optimum time.

Attached are responses to questions raised before the start-up meeting. Apologies for the delay in circulating these, but we wanted to try and ensure accurate responses (James Mathie drafted many of them). Please advise if you have any follow-up questions.
If you are on Twitter, the Chelsea FC Supporters Trust twitter account is @cfcstrust .

Beth’s Notes: Continuing on: /BW

Responses to questions raised in advance of CFCST start-up meeting held 22/9/12
Because of time constraints, not all questions/issues submitted in advance could be discussed at the Chelsea FC Supporters trust start-up meeting last week. Apologies for this. Here are the responses that would have been given. If you have follow-up questions, please e-mail them to cfcstrust@gmail.com.

1. What is a Supporters Trust?

1.1 What is a trust? Why is it different from existing supporters groups? Can’t they do everything a trust does?
There are two approaches to this answer

Operationally

A supporter’s trust is a fully democratic organisation with formally incorporated as a Community Benefit Society which is a type of mutual registered with the Financial Services Authority (FSA). It has limited liability status, and assets and liabilities are held collectively by the members rather than by individuals.

It is built on a one member one vote basis which is enshrined in the constitution, and any surplus made will be either kept as reserves or reinvested back into the organisation to fulfil its objects. An annual return must be filed with the FSA and any rule changes must be agreed by the members and are only effective once accepted by the FSA.

Other supporters groups will be unincorporated which is likely to be the right legal model, but by being incorporated as a Community Benefit Society there is more flexibility in what can be done and protection of the democratic principles.

Strategically

For many fans are the moral owners of club, but until supporters can become involved in legal ownership, it’s always easier to ignore or patronize than actually listen to. Supporters have been consistently ignored for many, many years, and if asking nicely for a hearing would be all it took, it would have worked long ago.

On one level a supporters’ trust acts as the guardian of the future of the football club; if they believe that the club is heading in the wrong direction or being run incompetently and not in the interests of the fans they will not be afraid to criticise. But, they’re not there to be relentlessly critical. They are also about helping the club, tapping into the skills and expertise of their membership and offering solutions and not just posing problems.

Being a Supporters Trust would allow us to join the membership of Supporters Direct (SD). SD work towards and promote supporter involvement and ownership in Clubs, and there are networks we could benefit from such as the links to other trusts at many other PL and FL clubs. As an example, there is a quarterly PL Trust Network meeting, and ongoing support from Supporters Direct, so a Chelsea FC Supporters Trust clearly has the opportunity to identify and apply best practice.

1.2 What can a trust realistically achieve at a big club like Chelsea? It is easy to see their impact at much smaller clubs, but I struggle to see what the goals could be.
It is for the trust membership to decide the goals, but these would be more than just ‘housekeeping issues’. Input to any redevelopment of Stamford Bridge or move to a new ground, and having a supporter on the board of the football club are both potential long term goals. Being a representative and credible voice for Chelsea supporters is a sensible aim, and one which is in our control. We hope this will have a bearing on the Club’s willingness to listen and consult but there are other stakeholders relevant to the Club that we can form partnerships with.

1.3 What works at other clubs won’t necessarily work at Chelsea given the ownership structure.
Regardless of the ownership structure, effective dialogue with the club is clearly paramount. We can learn from what has (and hasn’t) worked at other clubs – as an example the Arsenal Supporters Trust has formal dialogue with the club on a regular basis..

1.4 We don’t have the same issues as clubs like Man U, Portsmouth, Leeds etc so I can’t see the point of a trust.
See response to 1.2 above. The general theme of consultation remains but the issues might change, and we shouldn’t become wedded to just one issue, if we set up a Supporters Trust it should be with the aim of existing for future generations.

1.5 You say a trust is democratic and transparent and that sounds a good thing but what does this mean?
A trust has a board elected annually by their membership, who also vote on key issues. The whole idea is that the priorities and key actions of the trust are decided by the membership, and if they don’t like what the board are doing they can vote them out. In addition by law we must have an AGM presenting accounts and filing a publically available annual return.

2. Trust Membership

2.1 How would membership work? Why should people pay good money and receive nothing in return. What would membership fees be spent on?
The membership process will need to be thought through. One possible model is to have a small membership fee (say £3-£5) which gives voting rights, and separate to that a free non-voting option The money raised would pay for administration of communicating with the membership so things like meeting room hire, printing, postage, web hosting etc., which in the scheme of things are relatively small costs so fees will be kept to a minimum.

The fee for membership will always be low as we want to be inclusive, but there may be times where we need more money which can be achieved through various means.

2.2 How will you build membership? How can you elect a committee when you don’t have any members?
If it is decided to proceed with the trust, we will be looking for all interested parties to spread the word about membership, in addition to using social media, blogs, web sites, fanzines etc. Realistically, it will be the end of the season before a board can be elected, as you would want a decent pool of members before holding elections so that being an elected member of the Board meant something. Until then, there would continue to be a working group.

3. Approach of a Chelsea FC Supporters Trust

3.1 I am concerned it will be too aggressive and hostile, like SAYNO became – it would need a more diplomatic approach and aim to work with the club.
We believe that an ongoing, constructive dialogue with the club is the way forward that is not to say that ‘difficult’ issues shouldn’t be raised, or that all responses are just accepted, but confrontation should not be the default position.

3.2 It needs to avoid becoming a ‘narrow issues’ pressure group.
We agree that focussing on a couple of issues, however emotive, is not the purpose of the rust, which should look to have short, medium and long-term targets , to be decided by the membership.

3.3 There is a real opportunity to build a mass supporters movement, but this will not be easy. How do you intend to do this?
By trying to build a large membership, and behaving in an open and democratic manner, we believe a trust can play a significant role in putting representing the most important people in any club, the supporters, to the club and other stakeholders. There will have to be delegated responsibility to the Directors elected to serve by the membership to move things forward, but they will operate within the confines of the rules and the aims and there still needs to be constant 2 way communication and proper consultation with supporters on big issues.

4. Relationship with Existing Supporters Groups

4.1 Do you intend a trust should replace the existing supporters groups? Do you intend a trust to become an umbrella organisation of supporters groups? What do the existing groups think about this?
A key issue going forward would clearly be the relationship with existing groups and a sensible dialogue would need to take place. It is not for a trust to ‘replace’ existing groups and rebranding a supporters group is definitely not what this is about.

4.2 We don’t need another fans group, we have enough already.
A trust is different from other fans groups, as explained in 1. above.

4.3 How can a member of an existing supporters group realistically get involved in a Supporters Trust?
There is nothing to stop a member of an existing group from getting actively involved in a trust (or vice versa) and indeed a number have already expressed an interest in doing so.

5. Relationship with Club

5.1 Do you intend to join, supplement, replace or ignore the Fans Forum? The Fans Forum is ineffective and needs replacing in my opinion, but I’m not sure how a trust could do this.
There is a general feeling amongst many supporters that the Fans Forum is ineffective. What a more effective means of dialogue is, would need to be worked out. We would hope that through the vehicle of a Supporters a Trust representing a number of supporters, we could come back with suggestions as to how the Clubs engagement with supporters could be better – whether that is through an improved Fans Forum or a different means.