Like many Supporters Trusts around the country, City Fans United, owners of Chester Football Club, are saddened and dismayed by the news that the Football Stadia Improvement Fund (FSIF) have decided to withdraw its funding to Supporters Direct.
The decision to cut funding threatens the very existence of Supporters Direct, and with it their objectives of encouraging wider fan involvement in the running of clubs up and down the country in a sustainable and community-focussed manner.
The impact of Supporters Direct in Chester cannot be overstated. In just over twelve months, we have banished to history more than 20 years of gross mismanagement of our beloved club under several owners. Instead, we now have a vibrant club with a revitalised supporter base fully focussed on working together for mutual benefit and enjoyment and also enriching the lives of and engaging the local community in a way which has not been seen in a generation.
To have achieved this in such a short space of time would not have been possible without the existence of Supporters Direct. They provide a central point of contact for trusts nationally, a repository of knowledge and expertise that all Trusts can tap into. We have been able to learn from the experiences of other clubs who have already gone down the same path locally, AFC Telford United and FC United of Manchester, and built into our own structure the best practice lessons already obtained and adopted by those clubs.
Supporters Direct are the catalyst which allow all of this to happen. Delivering funding to Trusts individually, the alternative model being suggested currently by FSIF, would fail to achieve the same level of effectiveness in putting those funds to good use. The kick-start we have been given to hit the ground running so effectively is entirely down to the resources and knowledge made available to us through the very existence of Supporters Direct and the co-operative model which encourages member organisations to support one another for the wider benefit of the game as a whole.
Supporters Direct have now influenced the revival or survival of over 50 clubs nationally. We at Chester believe this demonstrates the crucial role they have in the future and well-being of our sport. We therefore add or voice to all those nationally calling for FSIF to revisit their decision and to re-instate the funding which had already largely been agreed. We also ask that our elected MPs, Stephen Mosley (City of Chester), Andrew Miller (Ellesmere Port and Neston), Mark Tami (Alyn and Deeside), David Hanson (Delyn) and Stephen O’Brien (Eddisbury) support this organisation which has helped create such an active community asset in their constituencies.
Finally, we look forward to welcoming Supporters Direct and all members of the Trust movement to Chester next month for the Supporters Direct AGM and national conference which are due to take place in our city over the weekend of 15th and 16th of July. We hope the FSIF can find a way to resolve their differences with Supporters Direct ahead of this date to allow all Trusts attending to focus on the networking and cross-training activities intended without the current distraction of concerns for the future of the organisation as a whole.
City Fans United
14th June, 2011.