End of Year Review 2015: Sport

Supporter trusts and community benefit societies engaged in leisure activities continued to grow in 2015. The Localism Act on 2011 has helped communities across England to protect assets...

Supporter trusts and community benefit societies engaged in leisure activities continued to grow in 2015. The Localism Act on 2011 has helped communities across England to protect assets valuable for community, including training grounds, stadiums and clubs. More on that is available here

In March a community benefit society raised £150,000 to promote Fairtrade sports balls made in Pakistan. Bala Sport, based in Glasgow, was set up in 2014 with support from the local city council’s co-operative development fund.

The community benefit society launched its share offer in February, with support from Community Shares Scotland and Supporters Direct Scotland. Fairtrade balls currently account for less than 1% of the UK sports ball market. Fairtrade guarantees fair rates of pay and safe working conditions for workers in Pakistan as well as an extra 10% cash premium which goes towards projects such as free healthcare, education, and water purification. Read more on this story here.

Bala Sport is promoting Fairtrade footballs
Bala Sport is promoting Fairtrade footballs

A report published by Ethex earlier this year showed that in 2014-2015 around £36m was raised in community share offers with over 10% of that raised from offers that Supporters Direct has co-ordinated or advised on.

Supporters Direct and Supporters Direct Scotland represent over 200 supporters’ trusts and similar organisations across England, Scotland and Europe, with a total of 750,000 members.

In Scotland the government launched a consultation seeking views on options to strengthen supporter involvement in clubs, including the right to influence, govern big and buy their clubs.

Supporters Direct Europe, which was launched in 2007 works with supporter groups in 23 countries to promote good governance and fans ownership of sports clubs.

In December, Supporters Direct launched a new report that recommended creating a new tax status for democratically owned clubs that meet strict criteria, including reinvesting surpluses and protecting assets for community use. The report also suggested that supporter clubs benefited from Gift Aid donations, receiving an 80% tax relief and have exemption from Corporation Tax.

A two-year collaborative partnership coordinated by Supporters Direct Europe was also selected for funding under the European Union’s Erasmus+Sport programme. Clubs and Supporters for better Governance in Football is a project that aims to help promote EU principles on good governance in sport. The programme, which includes seven supporter trusts and similar organisations, will run from January 2016 until December 2017 looking at good governance, financial sustainability and member engagement and democratic participation.

One supporter club – Merthyr Town FC – received UEFA’s Gold Award for the year’s best grassroots club. The award recognised the important role played by the club in the promotion of positive messages and tackling of social issues.

In response to the refugee crisis in Europe, supporter owners of FC United of Manchester have led a campaign to collect goods for refugees, in partnership with Refugee Action. The club collected items from 1,000 people at their home game against Corby Town.

FC United of Manchester is one club already under fan-ownership
FC United of Manchester is under fan-ownership

Key events:

MAY: Supporter owned FC United played friendly match against Benfica to mark the club’s 10th anniversary on 29 May 2015. The match took place at Broadhurst Park, the club’s new stadium.

JUN: Co-op football club FC Barcelona won the UEFA Champions League final against FC Juventus on 6 June 2015

JUL: The Supporters Summit 2015, 18 July 2015, Manchester. Hosted jointly by the Football Supporters’ Federation (FSF) and Supporters Direct (SD), the summit brought together football supporters from across the UK to discuss the challenges and developments affecting fans of the game. The full reports from the event are available here.

DEC: Supporters Direct launched a report highlighting the benefits tax breaks could bring to supporter owned clubs. The report, which was launched at an MPs’ briefing in Westminster is available at supporters-direct.coop. The event featured the presentation of the Richard Lillicrap award, who went to Supporters Direct staff member, Jacqui Forster, for her outstanding work to motivate and assist fans to form and maintain trusts.

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