THE Co-op-backed Supporters Direct initiative has reached a new landmark with the establishment of the 100th fans trust in the UK.
Ipswich Town First became the 100th football or rugby Supporters Trust to be registered since the government-funded organisation was launched three years ago.
Supporters Direct, which exists to help give fans a say in the running of their clubs, is now a member of Co-operatives UK in a move warmly welcomed by Co-ops UK Chief Executive Pauline Green.
The success of Supporters Direct means that almost 50 Trusts now have a shareholding in their club, while 30 Trusts have a supporter-elected director on the board.
At Chesterfield, Lincoln City, York City, AFC Wimbledon and Enfield Town, the Supporters' Trust actually owns the football club outright.
Brian Lomax, Managing Director of Supporters Direct, said: "It is obviously a very important landmark and a very proud moment for Supporters Direct to have 100 Trusts registered.
"It proves that we are achieving our aims of furthering supporter influence and ownership at football clubs, and also demonstrates that the loyalty of football fans is now being used as a collective strength, whereas before, it was exploited as a weakness.
"We not only congratulate the Ipswich Town Supporters' Trust, but all the Trusts who are working hard to make a difference on behalf of fans and the communities which their football clubs serve."
Carl Day, Chairman of Ipswich First, said: "We are extremely grateful to Supporters Direct for all the assistance they are giving us and we would not be where we are now without their support."
Supporters Direct has already registered as an Industrial and Provident Society, and the decision to apply for membership of Co-operatives UK flowed from that.
Said Pauline Green: "Organisations such as Supporters Direct have a key role to play in the development of the Movement into new areas, helping us to drive forward our vision of co-operative business and ethics and to make a real difference.
"We welcome them on board and look forward to developing our relationship in the future."
Added Mr Lomax: "Supporters Direct is firmly based on teamwork and co-operation. Over the last 12 months we have been developing with Co-operatives UK a relationship of greater understanding. The issue arose of whether we should affiliate to them and there was unanimous support for the move.
"Trusts are here not just for the ?long haul' but as permanent guardians of their clubs and fans. In future decades, Trusts will need to know where they belong, and who their family is.
"Supporters Direct will be there with them, but so, I hope, will other allies from the Co-operative Movement. Together we look forward to a glad, bright, confident morning."