Often Partisan

Supporters Trusts – A Way For Fans To Effect Change

So, the news broke. Blues are officially in the toilet financially, and whilst administration hasn’t been discussed by the board (and I’m told is not in the equation in the medium term), it’s going to be a bit of a firesale at St Andrews.

Naturally, this has caused much anger, worry and bitterness amongst Blues fans, and I don’t think it’s inconsequential that the number of people looking to protest against the board and the owners has risen rapidly today. I’ve been quite vocal about my opposition to the idea of direct action against the board, and with the new information that has come into the public domain I thought it was time I offered an alternative.

Unlike many football clubs in the league, Birmingham City does not have a singular umbrella organisation for their supporters groups to congregate under. There’s a fair few supporters groups out there for Blues; most based on geographical location but some flourishing via the wonders of the internet. However, what Birmingham City does not have is a “Supporters Trust”.

A Supporters Trust is an organisation built by fans on democratic principles to give themselves a legitimate voice in the running of their club. Birmingham City have in the last twelve months been active in helping the supporters clubs grow and become an active part of the club itself, but an umbrella organisation is needed so that when times are hard, there is a focal point for people to rally behind. It also can do things like buy shares in a football club – which then give fans a real say in how it is run; get fans appointed to board room level to ensure that the club doesn’t lose touch with it’s fanbase, and most importantly give a united voice which can influence media reporting on the fans.

It’s not like it’s hard to start either. Supporters Direct is an Industrial and Provident Society (ie not for profit) set up by the Government to help build supporters trusts and to make sports more accountable and democratic with respect to the fans.  Their website gives a useful handbook in how to set up a supporters trust of your own for your club. Instead of shouting platitudes whilst holding placards, this is a chance to actually do something that the club – and more importantly, the owners – cannot ignore.

It’s something that is going to take commitment, and I will state here and now that if fans want to be involved I will offer my help in setting this up. I have no desire to be the public face of Birmingham City fans whatsoever, but I do have the desire to do something to give the long suffering Blues supporters a proper outlet to vent their frustrations, and to help build a dialogue with the club. I’d also say here and now that my personal opinion is that the aim of the Supporters Trust should not be to force Carson out; but to build a better dialogue between the board and the fans; to force the board to be more open and accountable in their dealings and to take a stake (as in shareholding) in the club. I understand the high feelings regarding Mr Yeung et al, but without a financial white knight on the horizon we’re going to have to deal with what we have and it’s better we work together to make things right than pull the club apart.

If people would like to get involved, please email me – almajir@oftenpartisan.co.uk – and hopefully we can get the ball rolling. If Blues fans are going to push for a better club, we have to do it in a proper way, and use the system that is set up. Together, we can do it.

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42 Responses to “Supporters Trusts – A Way For Fans To Effect Change”

  • Andy says:

    Count me in.

  • Delboy says:

    Me too

  • Doug says:

    Great idea, far more constructive than demos and Faceache pages.

  • glyn rees says:

    i would as well

  • Jon Herrador says:

    Great Idea…100% for it !

    KRO

  • Tony Pemberton says:

    Fantastic idea and something should be done to get the fans heard, weve put up with more than enough over the last few decades ive been watching the blues and its always the fans that suffer
    KRO

  • prewarblue says:

    Count me in as well

  • Jay Sidney says:

    Whilst not always in agreement with him, I greatly respect what Almajir is trying to do on this website.

    I would urge Almajir to post his piece on Supporters Trusts to as many websites as possible. I’d even recommend (if almajir has not yet done this) that hardcopies of the article are sent to the editors of local newspapers (as well as Colin Tattum) and radio stations. And how about challenging the “Mail” to print the article as an open appeal to supporters? Also, send a copy to P Pannu (but don’t hold your breath waiting for a reply). And I wonder if Tom Hill, Darrell Meekcom and Kevin Roberts (the three Blues fans associated with the founding of the now rapidly growing “Get Carson Yeung Out” Facebook page) know about this.

    I say these things as Almajir is clearly trying to promote a sober debate here in a situation where the club loved by so many is in serious peril. For that alone, he deserves lasting credit. However, I’m not sure how any Supporters Trust would work, not least as no board of football directors I am aware of wants democratic principles or supporters sitting alongside them at board meetings. But at least the CONCEPT provides a platform to focus on.

    I think almajir downplays the need for direct protest because surely the antagonism and bitterness among a growing number of Blues fans towards the current owners is such that there may be no other way (and here, I hope this won’t involve the race card being played on account of where Carson Yeung and co are from).

    The current ownership was approved by Mr David Gold et al at the end of the negotiations to buy the club in 2009 immediately before the former Blues owners were to resurface as owners of a rival club! Carson Yeung somehow also received a public vote of confidence from Michael Wiseman in more recent months but surely the very name of BCFC has now become so toxic as to dissuade potential investors.

    Mr Pannu has recently talked of the need for “unpopular decisions”. I think we’ve all had more than a bellyful of those already and maybe a popular decision (i.e. the club’s owners indicating that they simply can’t take Blues forward and agreeing to the relinquishing of power altogether) may have to be the next logical step.

    I don’t claim to know all the answers but I would ask fans to cast their minds back a few years. Remember when Blues beat Blackburn 4-1 at St Andrew’s but still got relegated? The spontaneous anger displayed by Blues fans was such that the same Mr Gold admitted in public that he had “considered resigning”…

    • Cleggy says:

      I also remember what petulant fools most of those fans looked that day. I think its deluded to assume that if Carson did leave the club we’d be snapped up by some generous billionaire. Instead we’d be left rudderless because (believe it or not) we aren’t that attractive a prospect to potential owners. Certainly not at the moment. I hate this sense of entitlement that seems to have crept into blues fans. I read these comments and it all just sounds like “me me me! now now now!”, they’re the sad puerile wails of a bunch of spoilt morons who just expect success and money straight away because “we’ve been in the Premier League for while recently, so there”.
      Who are we to expect anything other than our lot? I don’t like being relegated, I don’t like seeing players sold and I don’t like worrying rumours about us being pedalled in the news but what I really can’t stand is seeing fellow supporters moaning, whingeing and making facile demands. Turn up and cheer the team on and if your not happy, well, Almajir had suggested an adult approach, I encourage everyone to pursue it.

  • H-Bomb says:

    Mayor, you can count me and http://www.bcfcfans.com in. If there’s any legs in it let me know and I’ll try and publicise it through our site once it goes live.

  • Andy says:

    I have registered a holding website which I will transfer to the trust as soon as it they are ready.

    http://www.bluestrust.org

  • Dean Giblin says:

    count me in too i dont mind giving up a large amount of my time to get this done. i will email you with all my details almajir Dean Giblin

  • Jay Sidney says:

    Slightly different angle to last contribution I offered.

    I’m no fan of bookmakers but I have to concede they are usually pretty close with the odds they offer. To do this must surely go beyond guesswork. Do they “know people on the inside with insider information” of various sporting organisations to know how to set their odds?

    I’m not sure but, with this in mind, I can’t understand with all the awful news coming from St Andrew’s on a daily basis how no less than FIVE different bookies STILL have Blues as second or third favourites to get promotion.

    Anybody have a view on this?

  • […] "an organisation built by fans on democratic principles to give themselves a legitimate voice in the running of their club. Birmingham City have in the last twelve months been active in helping the supporters clubs grow and become an active part of the club itself, but an umbrella organisation is needed so that when times are hard, there is a focal point for people to rally behind. It also can do things like buy shares in a football club – which then give fans a real say in how it is run; get fans appointed to board room level to ensure that the club doesn’t lose touch with it’s fanbase, and most importantly give a united voice which can influence media reporting on the fans." [link] […]

  • philanza says:

    Count me in. I wonder if you can put any light on this?
    with carson only approx 25% shareholder what arethe other shareholders doing surely they have interests for the future of the club and can muster some cash up so we don’t have to sell all our best players
    Especially foster,
    Why was carson the only shareholder to put money in and where is all the season ticket sales and transfer sales fund actually going?
    We need to know if it’s going directly into the club and not in carson sons bank account Glad to see someone being level headed here. The web site sounds a good official idea i will give any help i can. KRO

  • Connor says:

    Count me in!

  • mark says:

    Amazing to see OP suddenly coming round to the problems BCFC have after a long time with his head in the sand.

    • almajir says:

      Mark

      I’ve continually said that things aren’t brilliant. I’ve continually said tried to report on legitimate facts. I also tried to put to yourself and your comrades this idea, and was shot down. To say “you buried your head in the sand” is wrong – I STILL don’t think protesting against Carson is a good idea, because it’s futile. I’d like to offer some advice to you, that you give to people on your facebook group – you don’t like it, don’t read it and don’t comment on it.

    • almajir says:

      Mark

      I’ve continually said that things aren’t brilliant. I’ve continually said tried to report on legitimate facts. I also tried to put to yourself and your comrades this idea, and was shot down. To say “you buried your head in the sand” is wrong – I STILL don’t think protesting against Carson is a good idea, because it’s futile. I’d like to offer some advice to you, that you give to people on your facebook group – you don’t like it, don’t read it and don’t comment on it.

  • Mutasim says:

    This sounds like a constructive way of progressing …for the boys in royal blue!

  • alexjhurley says:

    I think supoprters trust much better than protests by the facebooks divs. Jaw, Jaw and all that.

    Re todays “news” – well (and this is not a criticism) it’s not really news is it. There’s no numbers published, no details of the plan to get us out, just an affirmation of what we all knew i.e. relegation leaves us with a big hole to fill and it’s even harder that normal cos our chairmans had his piggy bank taken off him by the chinese roz. If anything it’s good news cos it says we ain’t headed for adminsitration (yet). That’s one in the eye for the doom and gloom lot.

    What the doom and gloom lot also fail to remeber is that the championship is full of teams with no money – so the playing field is relatively level (liecester and cardiff notwithstanding) hence the bookies still having us down to do well.

    We are where we are. We can protest about the board getting us into this mess, but in truth they were only doing what most fans wanted them to do – i.e. spend on players. (Perhaps we should protest against ourselves for being over ambitious….) far better to try and set up a way of dialogue first (better to be inside the tent pissing out) then protest later if that fails. Worked for Mandela…….

    One final thing – the protests against blackburn vs sullivan, brady and gold. They worked didn’t they ? NOT. Maybe, just maybe if the morons hadn’t kicked off that day they wouldn’t have become quite so desperate to sell. And to be frank, after that day I can’t blame them for wanting shot ASAP to anyone who’d take us. I’m not saying the protests lead directly to CY coming in and our current situation, but it does make you wonder…..(well it will if you’ve got half a brain)

    Finally, while I’m on, Almajir, can we start a campaign to have our club badge updated ? I don’t want it changed, but don’t people think it could do with a quick makeover to bring it into the current millenium. It’s VERY 70’s,……..???????

  • Wingman Blue says:

    Spot on. I’m up for it. Will be e-mailing you to confirm. Beats scrawly placards and internet shouts. Time to join the 21st century and make a difference!

  • Jay Sidney says:

    I’ve seen alexjhurley post comments on other sites and they are usually quite measured. Sorry to see Alex letting strident name-calling (i.e. those Blues fans who protested after Blues had been relegated for the 2nd time in as many season being stigmatised as “Morons”) get the better of him. How many relegations are acceptable?

    Furthermore, how exactly do fans get to have the “dialogue” Alex talks of with the likes Pannu and Yeung?

    I agree the badge needs a modern “makeover” but a campaign for that in the here and now with everything else going on at Blues? Come on!

    • Dirty Bertie says:

      I agree, fans is fans and to get emotional when you’re treated like mushrooms is natural, even for brainboxes! True fans have to be 1 substitute short of a squad to stand, singing on a freezing cold night when Blues are losing 2-0 to the likes of Grimsby. Don’t slag them off, show them how to do it, they’ll join in later. As with the board: actions speak louder than words.

  • Mr Blue Sky says:

    Fans should have more say and more control over their football clubs. They are the most important stakeholders of a football club so why should we not have control. The sad truth is that Birmingham along with the majority of football clubs in this country have very little control, although clubs will tell you that you do.

    FC Barcelona have the right model. The club is owned & run by the fans and the fans make the decisions in the best interests of the club. The model can work and the Barcelona governance structure is proof of this. This is the way that football should be run, rather than being taken over by rich individuals who know nothing about your city, your history, your passion and see the club as nothing more than a cash cow! Check it out.

    http://www.footballandfashion.co.uk/football-business/fc-barcelona-ownership-model-blueprint-for-uk-clubs-published-by-co-opeatives-uk-and-supporters-direct/

  • Jay Sidney says:

    When dialogue is talked of, maybe in the here and now any such wordy exchanges should be between those posting to this site and those who started the “Get Carson Yeung Out!” Facebook page. This page already has 1,350 approving of it and was only set up earlier this month.

    The common denominator here is that people logging on to these sites are passionate BCFC fans who care about the future of the club (apart from a few B6 infiltrators whose sneering foolishness Almajir quite sensibly tries to have intercepted).

  • jassyblue80 says:

    I think this is an excellent idea, however I think it should be pointed out that this isn’t like joining a facebook group… you can’t just click like and your job is done.

    I totally agree with the sentiments of this group and would be more than happy as long as it doesn’t turn in to a hate filled mob… there has to be open dialogue between the board and the fans, and this will only happen with sensible discussions.

  • Sam says:

    I’m in, i’ll help in any way i can. This needs to happen for the good of the club, we need a voice, and to actually be able to make a difference.

  • Jay Sidney says:

    No disrespect here but is a protest against the board necessarily connected with “hate filled mobs” as implied by jassyblue80? At least one of the organisers of Saturday’s protest has already rightly made the public appeal for a peaceful demonstration with no violence.

    Bravo Mr Blue Sky for making some very good remarks here. Perhaps the next stage of the much-vaunted dialogue should be to work out how football supporters in general (and Blues fans in particular) get from where we are now to where Mr Blue Sky (quite correctly) wants us to be.

  • BluePenguin 76 says:

    Count me,ill do whatever I can to help Blues get out of the mire. Its hard times but we shall overcome…l do not believe a protest is always a bad thing!!…as long as it does not develop into anything other than a that “a protest”. Blues fans are rightly angry at whats happening and I dont believe we should take the financial rape of our club lightly.

    Lets make a difference of for the sake of Birmingham city.

    KRO

  • Mark Curran says:

    Re Mr Blue Sky – there is also the model in Germany where clubs have an ownership split: 51% fans; 49% investors. Either way, we need to all get involved.

    Count me in

  • Billyblue52 says:

    I think its a great idea ,I am with the rest of you!

  • Kaje says:

    Very much behind this, will do all I can to help.

  • AR says:

    Almajir, have you read the article by Neil Moxey (in the Daily Mail?) putting forward examples of money received, how we were a debt-free club when taken over, how our wages to turnover ratio was not bad & yet it seems all of our best players are for sale. You are the best one I know to throw some light on this, so would you try to enlighten me? Despite their debts, West Ham haven’t yet sold many & have actually bought one or two.

  • Mr Blue Sky says:

    Re Mark Curran. Yes the model in the Bundesliga is very effective. They are all co-operatives in Germany. Never has a German club gone into administration compared to the many English clubs that have, Blues included. Fans have a real say and interests are aligned rather than the motivation being purely financially motivated. This can be only be for the good of football.

    Check out this link.

    http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201011/cmselect/cmcumeds/writev/792/fg77.htm

  • Richard Mountford says:

    Cannot fault this idea and applaud Almajir for his efforts.

    A supporters trust does have value – perhaps most importantly from a media and government perspective, and would raise the gravity of the situation in the local and national media (so far scandously scant coverage). – making it difficult for the current ownership to ignore or treat with contempt.

    Would be a different stroy if it was Liverpool, Chelsea or one of the Manchester clubs (and whose to say they couldn’t go down the same path). For me this marks a watershed in the whole foreign ownership debate, and people need to pay more attention to what is being done to national institutions like the Blues.

    Don’t need to re-invent the wheel – talk to the supporters trusts of Wimbledon, Portsmouth, Aldershot who’ve been through far worse than us (and survived).

    All in all can’t see any downsides to this – count me in.

  • Matt says:

    I have to say I am in, this will ensure supporters voices are heard and In the most part for our beloved Blues I think it would be fantastic along with helping our current board and future boards understand what it is to be a bluenose.

  • philanza says:

    To be honest I can’t believe our supporters hadn’t already got something like this in place with all the owners we’ve had to endure over the years. Perhaps we wouldn’t be in such a mess if we’d have had a trust and a spokesman on the board for the fans.


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