Season Ticket Refund and Renewal Latest...
No doubt you will have all been following the communications from SAFC on season ticket refunds and renewals. We tweeted the following after the club had outlined their initial plans.
"We put supporter’s questions to the club after SAFC’s statement last Friday. The club has responded and it seems a lot of fans are unhappy with the answers. We share their disappointment, frustration and disillusionment. We are consulting with @WeAreTheFSA on these matters"
After receiving feedback from the FSA and lawyers they have worked with in the past we then tweeted the following.
"@WeAreTheFSA say clubs should offer refunds to fans if games are played behind closed doors. FSA will raise the issue with the relevant league where this doesn’t happen. Lawyers who work with @WeAreTheFSA have said season tkt holders should be entitled to refunds for games BCD"
On the back of this we have been approached by CEO Jim Rodwell to open dialogue with him. Whilst there seems to be little chance of there being any further changes to what was outlined in the club's latest statement (still no refunds for any behind closed doors games for next season) we have accepted his offer to meet. We envisage this to be an introductory meeting but if we discover there is an opportunity to get into detail we will do what we always do - collate questions, concerns and ideas from members and the wider fanbase.
We feel that if SAFC had properly consulted with supporters and listened then we would not have had a situation where so many supporters are left frustrated at the content and indeed the tone of the initial statements put out by the club.
RAWA proposing to convert to Community Benefit Society (A Supporters' Trust)
The elected committee of RAWA and its 16 co-opted reps have been in discussion about "upgrading" the organisation from an independent supporters group with a democratically elected committee, to a fully blown Supporters' Trust. In essence, RAWA already satisfies much of the criteria required for Trust status so actually converting would be a relatively straight forward process. The Football Supporters' Association advocate Trust status as best practise and they would assist us with the admin free of charge. 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. Given the current circumstances this will likely be an online meeting using Zoom or such like. We are considering holding this next month - July 2020. In the meantime we would love to hear your thoughts on this and try to answer any questions you have. Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org