Who do you Trust?

And so the initial meeting to discuss a Trust for Forest supporters came to pass this evening, it was a disappointing turnout given the exposure the meeting has received from both online and local media sources – even allowing for the 100 or so people who apparently expressed their support but were unavailable, add that to the 40 or so people who came to The Village and it makes up a small proportion of the Forest fanbase.

However, with speakers representing Supporters Direct, a government-backed organisation, and the chairman of the Sheffield Wednesday supporters trust (Wednesdayite), it made for an interesting evening along with spots by two of the chaps (I neglected to take any means of making notes, so I’m being crap and forgetting names – my humble apologies to the gentlemen in question) who were involved in trying to get a Trust for Forest off the ground.

It was particularly interesting to hear from the Wednesday fan – they are a club of a similar stature and not a million miles away in terms of situation as us.  Their Trust has evolved from a fairly militant organisation (which is what I feared a Forest equivalent might resemble) into an organisation some 1,200 strong keen to forge symbiotic links with the Yorkshire club.  The board of the club, however, are not interested in this – and even have gone as far as returning cheques to them ripped up!

Some of the negative/concerning elements of the meeting were exactly as I feared being familiar with Forest fans and some of the factions they can form – a lot of the questions/answers session I felt was overtaken by divisive arguments between adherents of the Trust and members of the Supporters club who were present (I’m taking no sides here, I think some of both parties kind of missed the point of the debate.  Having said that, I must admit that I have some difficulty in understanding why the folks wanting to set up the Trust couldn’t simply join and get involved in the Supporter’s club.

My impression of the Supporters Club, I must admit, was that it was basically a mechanism for acquisition of tickets and arranging travel to games – which shows my ignorance as much as anything – it transpires they do regularly meeting with the powers-that-be at Forest, which is a mechanism for them to raise issues and concerns that their members (membership is attained by paying a nominal fee per year, much like the proposed Trust would be) may have.  The Committee and Chairperson roles are decided democratically by the members, again, much like a Trust would be.

However, it is clear that whether it be through an ineffective organisation (I don’t believe this to be true), or a club unprepared to listen to them, or by a lack of publicity or awareness of the role of a Supporters Club amongst the Forest fans, those concerns are either not being aired or are not being acted upon by the club.  Certainly I feel pretty low about Forest, and I don’t just mean from an on-the-pitch perspective, and judging by the fellow fans I speak to or those of you who comment upon here, so do many of us.

The upshot of the meeting is a motion was passed to create the Trust – and this was a motion I semi-reluctantly put my vote to.  I was concerned to hear some people speaking about the Trust being a “pressure group” before any such mandate has been determined by it’s members – you see, the aim of the Trust is to be democratic, to act on the vote of its members, but I guess people get carried away when they feel passionate.  One of the reasons I am semi-supportive of the idea is to ensure that should the Trust get off the ground then I would like to make sure I’m able to express my views through it.

As I started with though, it was a disappointing turn out – and even accepting the 100 absentee interested parties, less than 150 people will not be enough to make a success, and perhaps an alternative idea would be to seek to grow the 2,500 members of the Supporters Club and seek involvement to perhaps address where people feel their remit is ineffective or lacking in meeting the needs of the fans.

Ultimately I would encourage all Forest fans to find out more about the Trust as it develops and get involved, because that way there is a real chance that an organisation that can be truly representative of the supporters needs can evolve and hopefully work to benefit the football team we all love so dearly.  I remain somewhat sceptical, but still open-minded enough to see how things develop because despite fears of the divisive nature of some of the people who spoke out, ultimately we all do have the most important thing in common – the best for Nottingham Forest FC.  Any selection of such people will always have differences in opinion as to how the best is to be achieved, and it is important that as many of those opinions as possible have the opportunity to be heard.

Look out for a more comprehensive summary of the meeting on the Supporters Trust website tomorrow afternoon, and seek to find out more.  Supporters Trusts (and there are 150 of them in England) come in all shapes, sizes, and with all manner of purposes on their agenda – which are determined by their members – so it really is something that could address what you want it to address, but only if you take the time to get involved to some degree.