Chelsea Supporters Trust: Making Chelsea Supporters' Voice Heard
With the growth of commercialism in modern football, many supporters feel more alienated, detached from and disillusioned with their football clubs than ever before. This is hardly surprising when many clubs these days look at them as ‘cash cows’, ‘customers’ or just numbers on a balance sheet. The reality for supporters – many of whom have been following the Club for generations and who spend their hard earned cash on the team week in week out – is that they the have no real choice when it comes to supporting their club. They are not customers who can choose to go and support another club should they decide that the service being provided is not to their liking. No, this is more like belonging to a dysfunctional family, or even being a hopeless drug addict. We are stuck with our clubs whether we like it or not, and some of them are beginning to realise that they are stuck with us.
A group of Chelsea Supporters have for the last 6 months been involved with setting up an official Chelsea Supporters Trust. Supporters Direct, an established, government-recognised body with many (successful) years of experience covering a wide spectrum of supporter based initiatives were approached to discuss setting up the Trust. After a series of meetings open to all interested Chelsea supporters, together with the canvassing of official supporters groups, various supporter websites, fanzines, and podcasts, the decision was taken to set up the Chelsea Supporters Trust.
Whilst there have always been groups who represent supporters to the clubs, including Premier League backed ‘Fans Forums’ there has been a growing feeling over the last year or so amongst some supporters that there is a need for a more organised, more democratic and representative body to make their voice heard. Sniping on social media or protests outside the stadium, accompanied with banners and chanting at the ground may be a lot of fun, but ultimately won’t get you very far in the highly professional and business oriented world of the modern football club.
Chelsea's success on the pitch in recent years has also led to a massive growth in support both in the UK and Overseas, and such diversity brings with it its own complexities. Add this to an already huge number of supporters groups, supporter websites, podcasts and fanzines and you begin to realise that setting up one organisation to represent a unified voice is a massive challenge. But the Working Group of the Chelsea Supporters Trust never shirks from a challenge – many of them were supporting Chelsea long before the current owner and board, and will still be supporting Chelsea long after they’ve moved on.
The core aim of the Trust is simple: to bring the voice of the majority of Chelsea supporters, in the UK and Overseas, to the attention of the club and those tasked with running it. As well as this, improving the relationships with all stakeholders and the local community is at the heart of the Trusts remit and it is committed to re-affirming the club’s roots in its current location and in the history and culture of the Club and those that follow it. Beyond that the Trust is eager to have constructive, informed dialogue, engagement and two-way communication with the club. By representing all Chelsea supporters in the UK and Overseas, and bringing together the voice of all official and unofficial Chelsea supporter groups; Websites, Fanzines and Podcasts, the Trust intends to make this collective voice heard.
What sets the Chelsea Supporters Trust apart from other Chelsea related groups is that it will have a democratically elected board, voted in by Trust members on a one member one vote principal; be independent from the club and a not for profit organisation. The Trust launched this past weekend after the Wigan match with ‘80’s Chelsea Legend Kerry Dixon as the special guest, and will then embark on a membership drive to add credibility and legitimacy to the first elections of the Trust Board at the AGM in the summer. Supporters Direct have given those involved in establishing the Chelsea Supporters Trust clear instructions and guidance as to how best to proceed and, with probity and strict adherence to the rules and procedures governing Trusts at the pinnacle of the agenda, it is hoped that all concerned with supporting Chelsea FC will join the cause. So far there has been a very encouraging start in terms of member sign ups and Twitter and Facebook activity and support. In addition the Trust has already had constructive meetings with several members of the Chelsea FC board and will have a seat on the Official Fans Forum from next season.
Football Clubs need to hear your voice, and Supporters Trusts are here to make that voice heard!