26. Supporters Direct

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Coop Name: Supporters Direct N° of Employees: 12
City: London N° of Members: 187
Country: United Kingdom Year of formation: 2000
Website: http://www.supporters-direct.coop Twitter: Link
Facebook: Link
About this coop:

Officially launched in January 2000, Supporters Direct's goal is "to promote sustainable spectator sports clubs based on supporters' involvement and community ownership." Campaigning for the wider recognition of the social, cultural and economic value of sports clubs, Supporters Direct aims to create the conditions in which supporters can secure influence and ownership of sports clubs. Supporters Direct currently provides guidance and support to groups in more than 20 countries throughout Europe.

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The very essence of football is co-operation, and the very root of football clubs in England was the same: a group of people coming together to do or achieve something with no motive of profit, but a form of social good.

Fast forward a century and more, and the notion of co-operation in football was reborn with the foundation of Supporters Direct in the year 2000.

The idea came from a pioneer, Brian Lomax, when his club Northampton Town, a perennial bottom-division club, once more collapsed under debt and poor management.

His response was simple, but different to what had become tradition: you want our money to save the club, then we get something back for it; a shareholding and real representation on the club’s board; not just the traditional thank you from the Chairman.

So the first supporters’ trust came about. A mutual, co-operative, non-profit way of securing this for the fans and for the community of the town sustaining that club.

SD took this simple idea of something for something and turned it into a phenomenon that has changed the way that fans do business with their clubs – in good times and bad.

No longer does the relationship need to be one of club and fans separated by a jealous guarding of control, often behind an artificial division constructed to keep ‘nosy’ fans out, but one of sharing responsibility and decision making for the benefit of a sporting, social and community institution.

People like Brian couldn’t have envisaged where SD have ended up as the promoter of not just involvement by supporters’ trusts in the ownership of a club, but of fans actually taking total control of football clubs and running them co-operatively.

In the time the organisation has ploughed its furrow, we’ve come through crises in football, crises in funding, and continued to build our work, seeing the sometimes tragic, often heart rending, almost always extraordinary: feats of determination that have seen football clubs dragged from the brink of death, or dying and being reborn under fan ownership and rising once more.

We’ve seen SD – itself a co-operative venture owned by its member trusts – move from being the accident and emergency department for football clubs to being a respected body on football finance, ownership and governance, listened to by government, and increasingly by those running the game in the UK.

There is a saying used sometimes that describes a story as having more twists and turns than a rollercoaster. Although there have been downs, and times where the organisation has felt under threat, or hasn’t succeeded in an individual case – something we all feel when it happens – our trajectory has been far more up than down.

What keeps this organisation alive is a burning desire to see all fans given the same opportunity that led Brian Lomax to first propose the idea 19 years ago, which has led the fans of clubs countrywide to respond to the call to mutuality, and seen myriad clubs positively improved by following the same path.

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Supporters Direct
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