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EGM to vote on conversion to a Supporters' Trust

Save the date - EGM on 23rd July

The Red and White Army's Emergency General Meeting to decide on conversion to a Supporters' Trust will take place on 23rd July. The meeting will be held on the Zoom platform for those who wish to attend and vote. Those members who cannot attend or choose not to, can vote by proxy. Voting by proxy will mean emailing a voting form to the RAWA committee prior to the AGM - more details on this will follow.

If you are not already a member but would like to vote on this issue you must join by midnight on 7th July. You can join RAWA for free by going to our home page and scrolling to our join/subscribe box at he bottom, middle of the page.

In the coming weeks, we will issue details on what we are asking you to vote for. We're proposing to convert to a Community Benefit Society, commonly known as a Trust. Everything you need to know will be sent to all members in the form of an EGM motion in the weeks leading to the meeting. This will include how to register for the online meeting, how to register a proxy vote, how to use Zoom and the usual stuff about times, duration and the like.

We have had overwhelmingly positive feedback from you since we proposed to convert. With this in mind, if you, the members, do vote to convert to a Trust, the existing committee would be prepared to oversee the transition process before holiding the Trust's inaugural AGM. All trust members would then be able to vote and stand for election to the Board.

In prepratarion for the EGM we're aiming to meet the the following timeline:-

* Provide the motion to members - 1st July

* Open registration for attendance to members and provide info on how to vote by proxy - 9th July

* Proxy votes and registrations close - 21st July

* Send Zoom details to registered attendees - 22nd July

* EGM - 23rd July

Below, we've replicated some of the information from our previous story on this subject, in case you missed it and are wondering what on earth we're talking about.

So, what exactly is a Trust and why bother converting to one? A Trust is a Community Benefit Society (CBS) and as such it will allow RAWA to do more things that would be difficult or not possible in our current state.  A CBS exists for the broader benefit of the community, in this case supporters of a football club. CBSs have community benefit written into their governing documents, operate on a democratic one-member-one-vote basis and can be an attractive prospect for grant funders who can be safe in the knowledge they’re gifting support to an asset locked organisation. A CBS can also issue shares (known as community shares), and organisations and enterprises can also invest and buy shares in the society but regardless of how much is invested; everyone is entitled to just one vote (ensuring everyone has an equal say in big decisions about the long-term interests of the society).  If RAWA became a Trust it would register with and report to The Financial Conduct Authority. It is worth considering that Sunderland is one of very few large supporter bases that do not have a Supporters' Trust. There are more than 100 Supporter Trusts throughout the country. Liverpool have Spirit of Shankly, Arsenal and Spurs have them, then there's Leeds United, Hull City, Aston Villa, Portsmouth, Oxford United, Norwich City, Burnley - the list goes on, and we think Sunderand supporters should  be part of that list.   

OK...but really...why bother converting to a Trust? As well as creating opportunities to raise finances for the benefit of Sunderland supporters and the local community, a CBS or Trust provides the platform to own shares in SAFC should the opportunity ever arise. The opportunity may never arise of course, but for the sake of a bit of admin and the price of a pint, we might as well be ready for it and make use of the other things we can do as a Trust. RIght, got ya. Why is RAWA thinking about this now? Football Clubs can be precarious entities at the best of times. The very nature of sport makes them so, and add to that relegations, promotions (remember them?), changes of ownership and all manner of crazy things we have all seen happen over the years. Like everyone else, the Football Industry is in turmoil as the realities of the Covid19 Crisis continues to impact on all aspects of society.  Damian Collins MP recently proposed the idea of a government "bail-out" for struggling football clubs. In this he said  "Rather than just give money to clubs, because I don't have a lot of confidence they will spend it well or properly, I think what the government should offer with the support of the FA is to say 'we will buy a stake in the club, maybe 20%, and appoint some independent local directors from the community who will oversee our interest. In return they will have access to proper financial information about the club and in turn that stake could then be bought by a supporters' trust or a local authority so a stake of community ownership remains." Collin's proposals will need the full support of government and numerous other stakeholders in order to come to fruition - a huge challenge, but it offers a lot of food for thought.   Now we are not suggesting that SAFC is about to go bust or require a bail-out any time soon. But like with the majority of football clubs in the land, it is a possibility and indeed it has happened in a pre-Covid world. Remember Bury? Traditionally, when a Club goes "pop" it's a supporters Trust that is left to pick up the pieces and rekindle the Club - see Portsmouth as a relatively recent example, and look at Swansea and AFC Wimbledon.  RIght, I think I'm convinced it's worth doing, What's expected of me as a member of a Trust? Members of a Trust have to make one small initial payment (typically something between £5 and £20 and it's likely RAWA will propose the lower end of this) followed by a small annual subscription. The initial payment is a legal requirement in order to be a shareholding member which would allow you to stand in elections of the board and to vote at Trust AGMs. And remember - all members get one vote, regardless of how much they decide to contribute. Sounds pretty straight forward but I don't want to give RAWA my hard-earned cash! Fair enough. Existing RAWA members who might decide against subscribing to the Trust can remain part of RAWA but they would not be able to stand for election or vote at an AGM or EGM. RAWA would still be committed to representing the views of those non-Trust members by including them in surveys and seeking their questions and ideas before we go into Structured Dialogue meetings with SAFC - just as we do now. Unfortunately though, the law of the land states we cannot "upgrade" to Trust status without members making a payment and becoming a shareholder. How do you go about converting then? And how do I have my say on this? In order to convert to a Trust we need existing members to vote in favour of it. The current elected committee, after consultation with the co-opted members propose we hold an EGM and ask attendees to vote.

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