Sunderland fan group Red & White Army reveal proposal to become Supporters' Trust - and could one day own shares in club
Sunderland fan organisation the Red & White Army are taking the first steps towards becoming a Supporters’ Trust – which would allow them to take a shareholding in the club should the opportunity arise in the future.
The group, who hold regular dialogue with the club, have confirmed they are to consult with members about potentially becoming a Community Benefit Association – more commonly known as a Supporters’ Trust.
Such a move would enable the group to purchase shares in the club in the future should such an opportunity arise.
They are being supported in the transition by the Football Supporters' Association, who have helped establish more than 100 other Supporters' Trusts across the UK.
RAWA already have a number of key elements in place to satisfy the requirements of becoming a Supporters' Trust and, with football facing a tricky period in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, believe they could do so relatively quickly.
“In essence, RAWA already satisfies much of the criteria required for Trust status so actually converting would be a relatively straight forward process,” they explained.
“The Football Supporters' Association advocate Trust status as best practice and they would assist us with the admin free of charge.
“As well as creating opportunities to raise finances for the benefit of Sunderland supporters and the local community, a CBS or Trust provides the platform to own shares in SAFC should the opportunity ever arise.
“The opportunity may never arise of course, but for the sake of a bit of admin and the price of a pint, we might as well be ready for it and make use of the other things we can do as a Trust.
“Football Clubs can be precarious entities at the best of times. The very nature of sport makes them so, and add to that relegations, promotions (remember them?), changes of ownership and all manner of crazy things we have all seen happen over the years.
“Now we are not suggesting that SAFC is about to go bust or require a bail-out any time soon. But like with the majority of football clubs in the land, it is a possibility and indeed it has happened in a pre-Covid world. Remember Bury?
“Traditionally, when a club goes "pop" it's a supporters Trust that is left to pick up the pieces and rekindle the club - see Portsmouth as a relatively recent example, and look at Swansea and AFC Wimbledon.”
There are hopes a vote over the group converting to a Trust could be held as early as next month.
"In order to convert to a Trust we need existing members to vote in favour of it," added RAWA.
"The current elected committee, after consultation with the co-opted members propose we hold an EGM and ask attendees to vote.
"Given the current circumstances this will likely be an online meeting using Zoom or such like. We are considering holding this next month - July 2020."
Members of a Trust have to make one small initial payment, typically between £5 and £20, and RAWA say it is likely they will propose the lower end, followed by a small annual subscription.
They add: “The initial payment is a legal requirement in order to be a shareholding member which would allow you to stand in elections of the board and to vote at Trust AGMs.
“And remember - all members get one vote, regardless of how much they decide to contribute.”
Anyone with feedback on the group's proposals, or who wishes to discover more information, is advised to email [email protected]