Real deal or not, Trust is needed by fans

Supporters' Trust membership has dropped since Convers Sports Initiatives takeover
Supporters' Trust membership has dropped since Convers Sports Initiatives takeover
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On Thursday night, around 40 people gathered at the Rifle Club in Fratton.

The occasion was the second AGM of the Pompey Supporters’ Trust.

It’s a body which has been in existence since February 2010, born when the fans needed it most.

Over the past 18 months, membership has declined and the emergence of the Fans’ Conference has stolen some of its thunder.

In addition, the early promise displayed by the current ownership has prompted some to question the Trust’s current purpose.

Yet, out there remains those who passionately believe the Trust has a crucial role to the play in the future of Portsmouth Football Club.

What’s more, they are so very right.

Just ask Plymouth, Wrexham and Chester of the importance of possessing a Trust to serve faithfully by their side.

Such a body is their present and future.

Pompey may not currently require bailing out by supporters, such has been Convers Sports Initiatives’ (CSI) encouraging start.

But the Trust represents a priceless safety net should this famous old football club be thrown off the top of a building once again.

And for that reason alone its very presence, along with 900 members, is crucial in the long-term prosperity of the club.

Not convinced?

Well let’s bring on some of the exhibits, M’lud.

Crisis-hit Plymouth have this month, once again, deferred the wages of their players.

The last time the playing staff received a pay slip was at the end of last year.

Only last month, they threatened to strike over the continued problem.

A Trust was formed earlier this year and currently numbers 1,275 members.

Its directive – as in all trusts – is to enable supporters to play a part in the decision making of the football club.

A fans’ voice which will be listened to and recognised in the on-going battle to be respected by those holding the caretaker’s keys.

An impossible dream perhaps. Yet plenty of others have succeeded.

At present, there are 68 clubs across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland who possess a member of a trust on their board.

The likes of AFC Wimbledon, Exeter, Brentford, Scarborough and Clydebank are supporter owned.

Even Premier League Swansea has 20 per cent of the club owed by their fans’ trust.

It’s a trust which numbers some 2,000 members.

There remains hope for Plymouth that the newly-formed trust can come to their aid in some form.

Whether it be financial, supportive or even the establishing of a replacement club to rise from the ashes, there is help at hand.

Elsewhere, on March 10, 2010, Chester City were wound up in the High Court.

They had already been expelled from the Football Conference.

The club’s supporters’ trust, City Fans United, set to work and created Chester FC – a club reborn in the Evostik League division one north.

Having won promotion in their first year of existence, Chester FC are currently fourth in the Evostik League Northern Premier.

Over at Wrexham, on Wednesday, a sale and purchase agreement was largely agreed in principle.

The prospective new owners? Wrexham Supporters’ Trust.

It will allow £100,000 to be immediately invested into the newly-registered Wrexham AFC Ltd.

The Trust board will also contribute a further £650,000 this season as they look to achieve stability.

Of course, thankfully, Pompey’s Trust have not had to rally round in such a manner.

Interestingly, though, back in February 2010, the Trust held talks with joint-administrator Michael Kiely over the possibility of buying the club.

They were advised they would never get a better opportunity.

In the end, it was Portpin who resumed ownership to take the Blues out of administration before selling it on eight months later.

These days, CSI are at the helm and are visibly investing in the football club.

Money has been spent in the transfer market, cash has been splashed on the training ground and funds have been injected on the ground.

Armed with a five-year plan, whisper it softly, but finally there are people in charge who appear to want their investment to progress and blossom.

Chief executive David Lampitt is certainly confident these owners are the ‘real deal’ – a sentiment he has repeated in public on several occasions.

Perhaps it is to be expected then that Trust member numbers have fallen in recent times.

Back in the summer of 2010 they stood at more than 2,000.

Today they read around the 900 mark. In recent elections to choose seven new members of the board, 136 ballots were received.

Jo Collins has been Trust chairperson for the past two years, from its inception under a steering group until its second AGM.

After two years at the helm, she has fulfilled her long-time pledge to stand down.

A replacement will be voted in at the next board meeting on September 26.

In the meantime, she believes the Trust has been an important inception.

Collins said: ‘I think we have been moderately successful.

‘Of course I would like to see a bigger membership at this moment in time.

‘I know membership has rocked but there are reasons for that.

‘We came from almost extinction to relative security under new ownership.

‘People relax and some see it now as an “it will never happen again scenario”, which I think is the wrong attitude to have.

‘You always get that surge of people wanting to be part of it – and it has since fallen away.

‘If the membership was 1,250-1,500 it would have been nice.

‘In comparison to other trusts, though, it holds up quite well.

‘Elsewhere, maybe we could have got a little bit further than we have.

‘But we have gone from a standing start to being reasonably successful – and we have the foundations in place.

‘Of course, that has now got to be built upon.

‘I think we have established the Trust as an integral part of the football community. It is well-known enough now as part of that fabric.

‘And for that we should be pleased with what we have achieved.’

There may currently be no club to save but the Trust is still an active campaigner for Pompey fans.

They have frequently held talks with Lampitt over concerns, been heavily involved in community programmes and are an active part of the Fans’ Conference.

The Trust is also currently raising questions over the situation regarding Portpin’s non-payment to small creditors.

They are out there, believe me.

And should, God forbid, the call ever go out. You know who will be the first to answer.