A brief history of

DARLINGTON SUPPORTERS' TRUST 2001-2009

(a) Background
A public meeting on September 3 2001 formally agreed to set up the Supporters' Trust. The Trust was constituted, with the first officers elected at an AGM in June 2002. A third Board was elected at the third AGM in May 2004. Each member pays £5 a year or £100 for a life membership and has one vote. The Trust is registered as an Industrial and Provident Society, is subject to a constitution and although a non-profit-making organisation, its annual accounts are audited.

Darlington Supporters' Trust, in common with other Trusts, pools its skills. Its made up of willing volunteers and fund-raisers, but also accountants, lawyers, business people and media professionals.

The Trust signs up members at its first meeting in 2001

The Trust is one of 160 plus Supporters' Trusts which have been set up under the auspices of Supporters' Direct Government-backed initiative to increase supporter representation and share-owning at football clubs. The recent financial crisis in the game has meant that Trusts have quickly grown into important players - not only in securing the immediate future of clubs, but in having representation and even control at board level.

(b) The Trust, the club and activities 2001-2003
In its early days, the Darlington Trust had an admittedly "difficult" relationship with former Darlington FC chairman George Reynolds, who despite some informal and formal meetings, wanted little or nothing to do with the Trust. Fund-raising efforts were aimed at helping Football-in-the-Community and youth development, although even here the club had refused to accept a cheque for money raised in a Trust "sponsor a goal" scheme.

A photo from Farewell to Feethams

The Trust on its own initative originated and organised the "Farewell to Feethams" exhibition - a six month long photography project with Darlington Camera Club at the old stadium, leading to a highly successful show at Darlington Arts Centre in July 2002, one which toured across the county for the best part of the following year.

Acquiring a shareholding was not an option, while the Trust was unable to develop supporter representation of any kind under the old regime. It did however, keep a very close watching brief on the club's financial situation, despite this bringing it into conflict with Mr Reynolds. It has also pursued with the football authorities, the behaviour of Mr Reynolds towards certain individuals, his threats and decision to ban certain supporters, which we felt was bringing the club into disrepute.

(c) The Trust, the club and activities 2004-2009
Darlington Supporters' Trust announced in January 2004 that it was trying to raise £250,000, with its prime objective of joining a local consortium to put in a bid to take over Darlington Football Club from the administrators.

A few months later, the complications involving George Reynolds and the Sterling Consortium (who were owed money for work done on the stadium) saw in March 2004, Sterling becoming owners of the club and then in May the club.

The Trust was invited by Sterling and the club's new chief executive for a Supporter's Trust representative to be on the new board.

The potential for a new era in relations between the club and its supporters was signalled by the first public act by Sterling, was to invite the Trust onto the new club board. This did not come to fruition.

In the Summer of 2005, the Trust - along with the Supporters' Club, DAFTS and other groups - became part of the club's stakeholders' forum, which met a few times until the end of 2005.

Darlington in May 2006 again had new owner - George Houghton - and the trust hoped to develop a working relationship. The trust had paid for the lease of the Football in the Community minibus in 2004-2005 and sponsored the bus for the 2006-2007 season.

The Trust continued to organise fans' talk-in events, set up the Darlington Disabled Supporters' Group to promote the needs of disabled fans. The DSG, with support of the club, also succeeded in having the first disabled liaision officer for Darlington FC.

When the club went into administration again in early 2009, the Trust, along with the supporters' club, initially responded with organising fund raising events. The Trust also decided to publically support Raj Singh in his efforts to take over the club, as his bid offered a realistic appraisal of Darlington FC's position and a way forward.

The Trust and the Supporters Club.

Some people ask why there are two supporters' organisations. The Trust has already shown it can work with Darlington Supporters' Club on key projects, not only at times of crisis in early 2004 and again in 2009, but the two organisations took a key role in helping to organise the "Feethams Finale" celebrations in May 2003, when dozens of old players were invited back for the final match at the old ground. Both have different histories and structures, although there is obviously some overlap in membership and the Supporters' Club vice chair was a co-optee on the Trust board during the crisis period in 2004 and both organisations operated the TASK fund for the payment of some club expenses. The Supporters' Club, which has primary functions as a social and fund-raising club, with responsibility for away coach travel, wishes to remain a separate body and with the goodwill and cooperation that exists, there is no reason why this should be an issue.

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A few questions answered...

Here are some answers to recent questions. If you've any more questions, please contact us..

 

What hasl happened to the £51,000 raised for the Trust Crisis Fund in 2004?

When we launched the fund, we also gave a series of options which would apply - depending on agreement of the membership - of what could happen with the money, should the consortium we were supporting not succeed. This includes the right to maintain sufficient reserves that the membership sees fit. Our membership was fully consulted in a survey, which was sent out to all 1,400 members, as to the best course of action and what should happen with that money. They responded overwhelmingly that they felt we should hang onto the money, for a "rainy day". Our AGM in May 2005 supported the continued stance that this fund should be maintained for whatever may lie in the future - and this position was also borne out over the following period of administration in 2009, when worst case scenarios were looked at, at providing sustainable football in Darlington in the future. It was not raised to simply hand over to the club, but in the eventuality of a "crisis" or threat to the club. Like any League Two club, there is never complete certainty about the future and Darlington FC is no different. The Trust fund is controlled and its future will be protected and decided upon by the Trust and its members alone.

The Trust Constitution

Darlington Supporters' Trust is registered as an Industrial and Provident Society.

After quite a few months of work with regard to the legal side of things, Darlington Supporters' Trust was officially registered as an Industrial & Provident Society (IPS) in March 2002. The IPS model is the one recommended by Supporters' Direct and to date there are 52 trusts registered as IPSs all over the country.

The beauty of being an IPS is that it has a written constitution in place that ensures all the administrative and financial details are clearly defined and transparent - a basic essential so that all members can have faith in the structure of the Trust, so allowing them to concentrate on the real work of the Trust. It also ensures that the Trust is a democratic society - one member, one vote.

  • All actions and conduct regulated by Registrar of Friendly Societies
  • Registrar ensures the Trust and its officers act legally and appropriately in respect of our Constitution
  • The Trust is guided and controlled by the Constitution - based on a tried and test model drawn up specifically for Supporters' Direct by an expert in the field.
  • The Trust belongs to its membership - one member, one share with a nominal value of £1.
  • Shares cannot be traded or transferred nor do they carry any rights to interest, dividend or bonus.

The Constitution guarantees that:

  • Trust operates for the benefit of the community that it serves
  • Trust members and officers do not profit from the Trust.

Darlington Supporters' Trust objectives in its Constitution are, in summary:

  • Strengthen bonds between club and community
  • To promote the game of football as a recreational and sporting activity and focus for community
  • Help provide, maintain and preserve facilities for the enjoyment of professional football
  • Help promote coaching schemes for all in the community.
  • To promote support for the club and encourage new support, especially of young people and families
  • To oppose violence, racism and all other forms of discrimination
  • To develop links with supporters of other football clubs to further enjoyment for all fans
  • Encourage the club to take proper account of the supporters and the community it serves
  • To promote full, accountable, democratic and constructive involvement of supporters in running of the club, including the principle of supporter representation on the board
  • To raise money to be spent in order to support and achieve these objectives.

The Trust thanks Ted Blair, Iain Swalwell and Supporters' Direct's Dave Boyle for all their work in drafting and registering our constitution.

Downloadable copy of the Trust constitution