In supporters we trust?

I was handed a flyer before the Brighton game by a very nice chap, sadly just before kickoff so with no time to stop and chat, detailing a forthcoming meeting being held by a group of supporters keen to set up a Supporter’s Trust for fans of Nottingham Forest.  Judging by the number of folks I saw handing out flyers, I imagine many of you came into possession of such a flyer.

Must confess that my knowledge of Trusts of this nature are confined to ones that have been setup in emergency situations, to bail clubs out of financial meltdown – of course, Notts County have one, and Swindon Town – setup largely to deal with the crippling problems faced by those clubs on a financial front (I believe) – although a quick Google search suggests they’re a lot more commonplace than I had realised.

Being a reasonably frequent visitor to message boards and the like, I find it really really tough to imagine a significant group of Forest supporters to ever find a situation where they are in accord with one another – so it is hard to imagine a single organisation or entity being able to truly act in the interest of all supporters – however, I do applaud the proactive stance in taking action if folks believe things are amiss.

The flyer mentions four agenda points that they are presumably hoping to address through the formation of a supporters trust for Forest fans:

To encourage the club to take proper account of the interest of it’s supporters and of the community it serves in it’s decisions.

To develop a formalised and structured relationship with the club.

To strengthen the bonds between the club and it’s communities.

To give supporters collectively the opportunity to acquire and have a stake in the club.

Certainly the first three points are all noble aims – I’m not quite sure how they will be achieved.  Arguably the interest of Forest supporters is to see Forest win – preferably in an entertaining manner.  Now, I think it’s obvious to say that this particular point hasn’t been a rip-roaring success for a number of years now – but I don’t think that the powers-that-be have massively different interests.

That said, more specific concerns that are usually confined to message board moaning could easily be raised with a more formalised relationship between the decision-makers at Forest and representative members of the fanbase – whether it be the over-draconian security staff who supplement the matchday stewards, the continued placement of away fans in the loudest bit of the ground, all that kind of stuff.

The opportunity for acquisition of a stake in the club seems more fanciful, and in idealistic terms would seem a good thing – assuming the eventual Trust was truly representative of the club.  The problem here is that acquisition will require investment, which means that perhaps membership will be dependent on disposable income – something we all have less of thanks to season ticket prices!

You only have to glance over the river to see how the Trust model can go wrong – their need was more dire than ours, but even now the Trust is seen as an exclusive clique who are riding a (fairly meagre) gravy train, holding out on potential investment to retain their ‘power’ and generally not really doing a great deal to improve things – whether that is true or not, or the bitter machinations of supporters of the ‘Pies who didn’t get involved, I couldn’t say.

Knowing the nature of our supporters and how keen they are of forging divisions between one another over the pettiest of issues, I do struggle to envisage how a Forest Supporters Trust could work out without either a clique-like mentality developing, or being built upon the foundations of a particular viewpoint or stance – to the detriment of those who may have different views – at which point, of course, it would alienate those supporters who may have a different perspective.

Now, in fairness, the communications I’ve seen from the folks organising the meeting have been very inclusive – and they seem to be genuinely interested in ensuring they get a good turn out of people across the spectrum of Forest supporters to vote about the establishment of a Trust – certainly they are talking the right talk, and with plenty of notice I shall be making an effort to attend to learn more – as I’m happy to admit I’m pretty green about the whole issue of Supporters Trusts.

So if you fancy learning more about the proposal on offer, then you can check out the website for the proposed Nottingham Forest Supporters Trust, which will give you the details you need for the meeting which is taking place on Monday 21st April at The Village Hotel in Chilwell – which just off the road to Long Eaton on the retail park with Porcelanosa and Halfords on it.

9 Responses

  1. Having just had a look at the website for the Trust, yes its obviously at a fledgling state at the moment, but an idea i have long advocated to friends and like for a long time.
    I firmly believe the best run club in the world is FC Barcelona, where shareholders hold max of a single share in the club, regardless of who you are, which is set at a value for life, thus encouraging the hand down of these shares amongst close to the club. There is elections every four years for the board, thus ridding unwanted hierachy who fail the club. They have wonderful fans who know their football and understand the complexities of the modern game, and being such a big part of the club, are able to help in the successes of the clubs fortunes.I could go on forever about the pluses of this great club. Now i appreciate Forest do not have the fan base of Barca but we certainly have enough loyal fans to make this happen.
    The only issue i would have is if this is to happen, it needs to be a total buy-out in my eyes. Lets do this properly, we have a huge fan base in Nottingham itself, and affluent city in its own right, we have thousands of fans in Scandinavia, S. Africa, U.S,, Czech Rep, Australia etc. etc. so i see no reason why if this is given the right thought, planning and to some extent marketing we cannot pull this off in a way where our clubs finances are secure, we have potential funding for a new stadium (or renovation, not sure on this one) and a system in place to bring success back to the biggest & best club in the east midlands. Obviously this will not guarantee success, but as a conglomerate we can take away the nonsense that has prevailed with the current regime.
    I am so happy and proud that someone has started this and will give it my full backing as long as it is set-up with the best of intentions and with the right organization. I truly hope it does!
    I implore all of you to be there if you can, it could be the start of something special for us.
    This has truly made my day!!!!!!!

  2. Absolute pie in the sky I’m afraid. We have a hardcore of our support who complain about the price of a season ticket – there is absolutely no way they would put their hands into their very deep pockets to finance this. Also, many remember having their fingers burnt from the plc debacle.

    Does anyone really believe that a supporters trust would raise more funds than Nigel Doughty currently puts in each season? For all Doughty’s faults, does anyone honestly question his motives – he is a Forest fan like the rest of us after all! I understand the frustrations we feel because we feel powerless to influence decisions and we disagree with so many of the choices he’s made in recent years. But I argue that actually that would continue, trust or no trust.

    As an aside, I was intrigued by the Myfootballclub website, paid my £35 for a years subscription some time ago and hoped to have some influence over a number of decisions, the major one being which club to take over. I strongly advocated a variety of clubs in the Midlands (geographically the fairest choice) but was overruled by the glut of southern softies who (not surprisingly!) chose a club right on their doorstep, Ebbsfleet.

    Even on a website such as this one, a heirarchy has slowly manifested itself – to the point where you actually feel that all control has been removed. I therefore will not be renewing my subscription.

    The point I am making here is this. Even if a trust took over Forest, some people would very quickly become more equal than others. The average supporter would soon feel as disenfranchised as they do now and lose interest. This would leave a void (like they have now at County) where only those interested in the power and prestige would remain.

    The four point agenda the trust puts forward is in the main commendable. Like NFFC, I query the need for point four if the other three are being achieved. I feel that points one to three can all be achieved within the current structure if we use the Supporters Club structure more effectively (do they not have the ear of the board?). Again, if the top men in the supporters clubs are not representing you, why are they there? Are they feathering their own nests?

    Sorry, I do not wish to seem negative to an idea that I would hope to think was being instigated with the best of intentions. I still think the best policy is to try and work with the current board rather than against them – NG has the money after all! Get involved with your local supporters club, make it much more proactive rather than just a way of getting your match ticket and away travel. Formulate ideas and plans as to what you want from your club and begin to assert some influence on Mark Arthur and Nigel Doughty that way. I have absolutely no doubt that they would respond favourably to thought out and structured reasoning, partucarly about closer links to the community etc.

  3. Very good points barrow and i understand 100% what you’re saying but if this is structured correctly then it could work. You will always have a contingent of people who will have the say so, – i.e. laporta @ barca – but that is where the election of the board at regular intervals would hopefully take effect. Maybe it is pie in the sky but it is worth listening to the way it may be structured. You may also say people moan about ticket prices, yet they are hardcore by your own admission and like i said previously we do have fans all over the world (although no doubt they are dwindling with age). I know it sounds very fantastical but it really is an opportunity to maybe secure our club.
    Doughty maybe a forest fan through and through, but he didn’t wipe the debt, he just loaned us money, he seems uninterested in being a public figure for the club, and as for arthur, do i really have to say anything.
    We have the fan base, the academy and the history, it just seems we need direction and i’m willing to listen

  4. I still do not think there are enough of us – even Liverpool admit it is extremely unlikely to happen with their fan base.

    I agree there is a need to channel and direct our frustrations in a correct forum. If the Supporters Clubs are unable to do this then why not a Trust. However, I still think we are better of trying to use Nigel Doughty and his money rather than try and work against him. Therefore I will continue to oppose any move to be confrontational – which is what talk of takeovers etc is.

    We all want the same thing after all! Promotion

  5. Liverpool fans are looking to generate £500m, we don’t need anywhere near that amount,
    I do agree that if we can work towards Doughty investing properly in a constructive manner then there is no need for this, as he is bloody! But i just believe if we can do it properly then it can work, and there is no stopping ND having his share, running for the presidency and investing then. Maybe delusional but i have always been a dreamer! We’re in the same boat, i want promotion, it would certainly alleviate problems, but i have always wanted this sort of system in place at forest.
    As for the first 3 points, if there is a vast majority holder in charge, are they likely to listen to a trust more than they are 18,000 moaning fans, and as a forest and football man themselves (as in ND) surely they already understand the issues we have. The problem lies in the fact there is a single major shareholder, there is no form of democracy.
    We both want the same, such a shame we are even having to conduct this debate

  6. One more point and then i’m done, if there is to be a buy into the club it has to be lock stock or not at all, there is no point in holding a share where the majority shareholder can just veto all ideas. Its all or nothing for me, so good luck!

  7. Which is what would end up happening anyway – see my description of the Ebbsfleet situation.

    We all support the club and we all want the club to win. Beyond that, we all have different expectations.

    For example, whilst I want us to win, I also want to see attacking football played upon the ground in a progressive way. Therefore I wouldn’t want Neil Warnock, Harry Bassett, Billy Davies, Gary Megson and a thousand other hoof merchants in charge. To me, that is more important than anything. However I am aware that other supporters have a differing view. Would we all have a vote on who was Manager, no of course not. Would I be happy if a choice was made that I didn’t agree with, no of course not. Therefore why would I feel any different if it was a decision made by a ‘trust’?

    There is no such thing as an equal say – some groups would become more powerful than others and if you are in a minority you will feel disenfranchised, just as you do now.

    Nigel Doughty has never given any indication that he is looking to leave his position and seems happy to act as the club’s guardian. Most Forest supporters, myself included, are frustrated with a number of his decisions. However, we have a football club to support, a ground to sit in and a bright young team (if not manager!). Okay we are not in the division we would like but actually when you think back to when JJ was sold, things could have been a lot lot worse.

    I still maintain that a Supporters Trust would actually be a step back to the ludicrous shareholders system – which never worked until an autocrat (Cloughie) came in and ran the club from top to bottom. Could you imagine him working with a Supporters Trust? Not a chance.

  8. Thank you for the positive coverage, it is indeed a huge task to try and unite any fan base but we can but try.

    There does seem to be a misconception that Trusts are only formed in a time of crisis, this is not the case. For example clubs such as Arsenal, Tottenham, Bristol City and Norwich City all have Trusts and the latter have achieved the status of board ‘representation’.

    This is not about ‘takeover’ it is about having a say in how the club is governed for the benefit of the community. It is our belief the relationship between the fans and club has detiorated to such a degree that a vehicle is needed to repair it.

    I absolutely agree with you about ‘the management’ of the Trust, It does need to keep people onside whilst at the same time constructively criticising decisions made by the board, if necessary. Our closeness to Notts does us no favours and hard as we try and distance ourselves it is difficult to put across the differences and for people to believe us.

    This is why there is an Open Meeting with representatives of other Trusts and Supporters Direct. Come along with an open mind and decide on the night, hopefully we will get a mandate to proceed and be given the chance to try and achieve our aims.

  9. Clear, infmoraitve, simple. Could I send you some e-hugs?

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