The Premier League Cuts Off Supporters Direct Funding
Monday, 13th Jun 2011 13:54 by RamsTrust
The following article has been submitted to RamZone by the Derby County supporters trust 'RamsTrust', regarding the current situation involving 'Supporters Direct'.
We have learned this week that the funding which enables the umbrella organisation of English supporter trusts to operate has been rescinded.
The anticipated £1.2m from the Stadia Improvement Fund to run Supporters Direct for the next three years was to be granted via the Premier League, through the FSIF - and the Premier League has decided to end this funding.
The board of Supporters Direct has issued a statement:
The funding cut came as a reaction to Twitter posts from SD CEO David Boyle, after his club, AFC Wimbledon, gained promotion to the Football League. Mr Boyle’s posts, amid his celebrations, aimed rude remarks at the MK Dons owners and the lawyer that permitted Wimbledon to be taken from its community.
Sensationalist reactions in a right-wing daily newspaper propelled the response of the Premier League - and the dramatic repercussions are a blow to the supporters’ movement nationwide.
AFC, formed by supporters, had mounted a long, trust-led recovery from the bottom of the football pyramid after the football authorities permitted the removal of the ‘original’ Wimbledon FC to Milton Keynes to assume Wimbledon’s League status in the infamous ‘football franchise’ debacle.
A statement from the FSIF declared that Mr Boyle’s conduct was - "Not acceptable to the FSIF and the standards it would expect from any organisation in receipt of FSIF funding."
A Guardian feature on the issue can be seen HERE.
The Premier League’s decision has left the future of the central organisation for some 150 football and rugby league trusts - representing many thousands of grass-roots supporters throughout the nation - seriously threatened.
A Facebook group: “Supporters Direct Has My Support”, gained over 1,000 members in the space of a few hours this weekend and is still growing rapidly. The reaction from fellow trusts is one of understandable anger at this decision; there is a feeling that the Premier League may have shot themselves in the foot, with member trusts determined to ensure that SD survives and thrives.
Mr Boyle has resigned despite profuse apologies and his departure is a great loss to the trust movement. Fuelled by typical tabloid sensationalism, a completely disproportionate response has been inflicted on Supporters Direct.
The funding withdrawal decision also threatens the jobs of ten permanent administration and liaison roles of staff who work with fans and clubs nationwide. Long-serving SD member and Brentford supporter-director Brian Burgess has been appointed acting chief executive of SD.
Many thousands of active member fans, whose voluntary work has benefited clubs, charities and communities for over a decade, are astonished by what is viewed as the Premier League’s summary and cynical decision.
Naturally, the RamsTrust board is both dismayed and disgusted at how the Premier League has taken this opportunity to curtail the funding of Supporters Direct.
"The Premier League denied on Saturday it was taking the opportunity to withdraw funding because SD's mission, supporter ownership of clubs, and its campaigning edge, are at odds with the Premier League's more commercial view."
Whilst it is acknowledged that Mr Boyle’s actions reflect badly on himself and then on the SD organisation, the PL’s decision to cut funding is at odds with the all-party Parliamentary desire to involve and engage fans in football to a greater extent and to encourage supporter stakeholdings in the national game.
The decision also flies in the face of the ongoing CMS inquiry into football governance, for which SD and many member trusts have submitted evidence to support reforms in the administration of the game and to explore how supporters can be given wider involvement at all levels. Supporters Direct was widely praised for its evidence.
There is a Conservative manifesto commitment:
"We will encourage the reform of football governance rules to support the co-operative ownership of football clubs by supporters"; a similar statement exists in the coalition government’s agreement, and Labour declared that: "We will develop proposals to enable registered Supporters Trusts to buy stakes in their club."
Champions League winners FC Barcelona of course remain the ‘cause celebre’ of supporter-owned clubs, and Swansea City - rescued from extinction by their fans in the last decade with the help of SD’s Dave Boyle - have now gained promotion to the Premier League and stand of the threshold of a £90m bounty for their top-flight rewards. ‘Fan power’ cannot be denied.
Trusts are now active in canvassing opinions and lobbying the media, Parliament, and other bodies to overturn the Premier League’s decision, or perhaps secure alternative funding. A strong determination exists that these recent developments will make the supporters’ movement stronger, not weaker.
It is important to remember that individual trusts like RamsTrust will continue as normal with their voluntary work and projects and in representing member interests to Derby County; RT is wholly supported by member subscriptions and donations and their own fundraising efforts.
We are sure that the majority of football fans want a say in how football is governed and a stakeholding in the club that they support. Please continue to lend your support to maintain a strong independent voice for supporters - and encourage all fans you know, whatever their club, to join their supporters’ trust!
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