The merger, intended to create a stronger supporters organisation that will speak with a single voice, was approved by members from both bodies at their AGMs on 28 July.
An amendment tabled by FSF chair Malcolm Clarke, calling for a full review of the advantages of mutual status along with the advantages of other legal forms of organisation, was carried unanimously at the FSF AGM.
“At this stage there is no decision on what form the new organisation will take,” said Mr Clarke. “It will all depend on the outcome of the review. The amendment was proposed because of the strongly held views expressed by some members of SD in the SD AGM that the new organisation should be a mutual.”
He added: “The members of both the FSF and SD, of which there is considerable overlap, separately voted to merge into a single organisation with a new constitution. This was because they recognise that the interests of football fans are best served by having a single, united voice to represent them.
“The new organisation will represent all fans on all of the issues which concern them, including the club ownership and governance issues which SD handled. This presents an exciting opportunity to build upon the achievements of both the founding organisations.”
SD and FSF said in a joint statement: “The chairs, CEOs and board members of each organisation are committed to delivering the merger and creating a modern, effective and powerful single voice for football fans nationwide.
“Both SD and the FSF will now nominate two current board members each to join the chairs and CEOs on an interim board that will oversee the creation of the new organisation. Further, the two CEOs will begin working together on an operational plan for the merger process, along with holding initial discussions with the Fans Fund regarding our next three-year funding cycle. We will endeavour to communicate with members regularly to provide updates of the ongoing work.”
A number of member network meetings will take place during this process and a new council body will be elected to start work in the new year. SD chief executive, Ashley Brown, said that SD was keen to explore the mutual option but this would be determined by the interim board in consultation with members and financial experts.
He explained that as part of the agreement with the FSF, SD would continue to provide support to other sports but that non-football supporters’ trusts would no longer be represented as voting members. He added that SD was “very positive” about the new organisation and that supporter ownership and engagement would be a key area of focus.
Tottenham Hotspur Supporters’ Trust was one of the organisations supporting the merger. Co-chair Martin Cloake, said: “Two main factors drove the decision. One was the increasing amount of overlap between the work of the two organisations – with the link between improving the way the game and its clubs are governed (traditionally SD territory) and issues affecting ordinary match-going fans such as ticket pricing, safe standing and stewarding and policing (traditionally FSF territory) becoming ever clearer.
“Having a single fan voice able to address issues holistically is a significant step forward.
“Changes to the way both organisations are funded were also a factor. There was a serious risk SD would have had to reduce the amount of work it did on football had it continued as an independent organisation. Other sources of funding proved difficult to access because of the view that there is already a lot of money in football. We want to see the expertise and experience SD gained play a key part in any new fan organisation, with governance and ownership central to the work it does.”
Robert Pepper from Huddersfield Town Supporters Association also backed the merger. He said SD had been formed to establish supporter community interaction and engagement with their clubs to the ultimate of community ownership. The FSF is concerned with any issue concerning supporters, such as ticket pricing, TV scheduling, stewarding, safe standing, and other matters.
“Supporters Direct and the Football Supporters’ Federation have always worked together on overlapping issues, whilst retaining their own respective identities,” he added.
“A single organisation will surely strengthen the voice of supporters with the authorities, so long as members’ interests are protected by mutuality. FSF delegates carried an important amendment to examine the benefits of mutuality. This would ensure that the new organisation could retain the status of Supporters Direct as a co-operative.”
Former SD vice chair Elaine Dean, vice chair of Rams Trust in Derby, opposed the merger but seconded the motion calling for the mutual option to be explored.
She said: “Most of those opposed to a merger, including myself, spoke strongly in the SD AGM in support of remaining a mutual which a merger with FSF couldn’t guarantee. Because the FSF AGM allowed amendments from the floor, it was possible to work together to formulate an amendment that ensures that mutual status is explored as a priority by the interim board prior to a decisive binding vote being taken later this year.”
A total of 70% (69 voting members) voted at the SD’s AGM, with 36 backing the idea of creating a new football supporters’ organisation and 30 preferring to continue as a distinct organisation focused on governance in sport. Three members abstained from the vote.