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Sunderland fans working to become a Supporters Trust - time for fans to take a more active role?

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Independent supporters’ group, Red & White Army, announced that they are working towards becoming a Supporters’ Trust - but why is that a positive thing for Sunderland?

Sunderland v Ipswich Town - Sky Bet League One Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Yesterday, RAWA, the independent supporters group, notified their members and other Sunderland fans that the organization intends to move to become 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.

Fans might be unsure why a Trust is a positive thing for Sunderland fans, but thankfully RAWA did a fantastic job of explaining the importance in their article. Furthermore, RAWA went beyond the basic explanation of a Trust’s importance, explaining to fans that:

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.

The financial impact of Covid-19 has helped expedite the opportunity for fans to stake a legitimate claim for representation at a far higher level than before. Sunderland fans have needed this for quite some time.

During the reckless spending that framed the Premier League years under Short, fans’ voices asking about identity planning needed to be heard.

During the subsequent crash from Premier League to League One, fans’ voices needed to be heard when they questioned the club’s decisions on recruitment and investment.

And, when the club’s current ownership were less than transparent about their methods of funding a deal to buy the club using its own monies, fans’ voices needed to be heard.

Simply put: Sunderland fans deserve to earn a stake in the club they love. They deserve after such a torrid time in recent years to have some small say in the manner in which the club is being managed.

Recently, Rich Speight has done a tremendous job in exploring ideas as to why a Trust would be a positive thing for Sunderland fans. From more structured dialogue, to the opportunity to invest in partial ownership - a Supporters’ Trust is a chance for Sunderland fans to become key stakeholders in an important aspect of our local community.

Sunderland v Ipswich Town - Sky Bet League One Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Nobody is suggesting that fans cobble together and run the club via some warped anarchism. A Supporters’ Trust would, however, allow fans a larger say in key aspects of the club’s running.

Imagine fans being directly involved involved in matchday experience decisions, or ensuring that the club’s community efforts are concerted and supported? The possibilities are vast - and exciting.

If you’re interested in getting involved, then look no further than the info below. This is an opportunity for Sunderland fans to become part of something special, so let’s work together and take a direct role in helping our club find success once more!

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 info@redandwhitearmy.co.uk