The Iron Trust (Scunthorpe United Supporters Society) aims are:
- Ensure fans are legal as well as moral stakeholders in the club, by owning shares and representing members at shareholder meetings.
- Work to improve communication between our members and senior management at the club, ensuring a supporter voice is heard before key decisions are made. Informing policy-making at the club.
- Contribute towards the long-term success of Scunthorpe United Football Club
The Iron Trust was formed in April 2012, after a process which began in August the previous year. With the backing of the football club, an open meeting was held at Glanford Park in December 2011 at which participants voted for the formation of the trust. Members have been able to join since July 2012.
What is a trust, and how can it benefit a football club?
A supporters trust is a democratic not-for-profit organisation of supporters, committed to strengthening the decision-making process at a club. It is legally registered and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), and can hold assets like a company can. This means any money raised or shares bought would belong to all members equally, and not be held by individuals. The trust can also hold proxy votes for other groups and individual shareholders of the football club, which vastly improves the potential influence.
What does the Trust do?
We have worked hard to ensure Scunthorpe United Football Club focus on fan-friendly policies. We a hold regular meetings with the board of directors and senior club staff, putting forward the views of our members on how the club is run.
We purchase shares in Scunthorpe United Football Club on behalf of our members, enabling us to attend general shareholder meetings to represent them. We invite members to put questions to the board, and will report back to members on the response.
As of the start of the 2015/16 season the Trust has:
- More than 300 current members
- Owns £4,500 worth of shares in Scunthorpe United club
- Donated thousands of pounds to local charitable causes
The Trust has been in existence since the summer of 2012, and we feel we are making a real difference. This is taste of what we have achieved:
Established a shareholding in SUFC on behalf of members
- Established regular contact with SUFC management / board of directors, using meetings to push for greater fan involvement in the club and more fan-focused policies (directly leading to increased training for stewards and hospitality staff)
- Gave fans the first chance to view a documentary on fans favourite Alex Calvo-Garcia and question the Wembley hero.
- Held regular fund raising events, with race nights and a gig with The Moggies.
Put questions from Trust members to the SUFC board of directors at the AGM, reporting back on responses as well as the club’s accounts (see our report here)
- Jointly released information on SUFC’s budget, with the club, to improve transparency (click here to view the document)
- Attended Supporters Direct (SD) lobbying event at Parliament (more), attending SD training events and met with several other supporter trusts
- Held our first AGM, reporting back to members on our activity and finances and giving them a chance to question the Trust’s board (see our review of the evening here)
- Give members the chance to question SUFC director Dennis Hobson, as well as his associates Stewart Groves and John Green who both expressed an interest in joining the club’s board (see here for transcript)
- Give members the chance to question SUFC chairman Peter Swann and manager Russ Wilcox
- Gave members vote on which local charity would receive Trust share of FA Community shield profits (see here)
Signed up Cliff Byrne, Alex Calvo-Garcia, Steve Cammack, Lee Turnbull, Paul Musselwhite, Steve Torpey and Mark Jackson as honorary members
Influenced SUFC to work on a “fan engagement” strategy, seen most effectively through use of social media, and argue for creation of an official club archive run by the Trust and volunteers
- Donated thousands of pounds to local charitable causes such as Scunthorpe Foodbank, Lincolnsshire House and Lindsey Lodge.
- Organised annual fan-led Flag Day event (more).
- Attended annual Supporter Summit organised by Supporters Direct and the Football Supporters Federation, at venues such as St George’s Park and Wembley, for guidance on all matters around a football club and to share our experiences (more here).
- Helped organise #SaveOurSteel Day in partnership with Scunthorpe United, with members putting forward and implementing use of steelworkers’ children as mascots and show of solidarity with mobile phone torch/flash display (more here).
Is the Trust a democratic organisation?
The Trust is open and transparent. It is regulated by the FCA and provides audited annual accounts. Any members can put themselves forward to be elected to the board. We believe fans are moral owners of clubs, and a trust could ensure they are also legal owners.
An invitation to get involved
We started signing up members in August 2012, and you can join here. Membership is open now and is £10 per adult for lifetime membership or £100 per company. Family and junior membership is available too. Partners will, like other members, have one share in the Trust and will have one vote on Trust matters.
We have an official supporters club, how is a trust different?
The Trust is intended to complement the OSC, not rival them. The OSC is run for the benefit of the club and to raise funds on behalf of the club. Anyone who volunteers their time for the club should be applauded and they provide valuable services such as away travel and the half-time Pole To Goal challenge. The Trust is a legal democratic entity owned and controlled by its members, with share purchase the main expenditure and aim.
Does this mean the Trust wants to run the club?
We want a working relationship with the club where we can be an honest friend, providing a true supporters voice to senior management at the club. A long-term aim is to own a block of shares where having a supporter director is possible. Our main aim is to ensure supporters are always at the forefront of the club, and the best way to do that is to be there to offer an opinion when decisions are being made.
This all sounds great, but does the model work?
At Scunthorpe United, the Iron Trust’s board have met with the football club’s board of directors on numerous occasions. The Trust owns £4,500 worth of shares, which allowed us to canvass members for questions to submit to the club’s AGM.
Elsewhere, we have seen first-hand how fans have taken AFC Wimbledon from open trials on Wimbledon Common in 2002 to a thriving Football League club. There are other examples in the League such as Exeter City, a club where their trust is the majority shareholder and where they raise more than £100,000 a year towards its running. Successful trusts are not just limited to “smaller teams”, with Swansea City’s trust owning 20 per cent of their club and Arsenal’s holding regular meetings with their board. There are trusts at more than 170 clubs in the UK, with more than 250,000 members. More than 100 trusts have shareholdings in their club, with more than 20 UK clubs owned by their trusts. 60 supporters’ trusts in the UK have a director on the board.
While the Trust is not pushing for full ownership of Scunthorpe United, similar models have had great success elsewhere – most notably in the Germany and Spain, where clubs like Real Madrid and Barcelona are run by their members.
Scunthorpe United Supporters Society is registration number 31581R under the Industrial and Provident Society Act 1965.