Hednesford Town, the 139-year-old Staffordshire club, were recently put up for sale by their owner and reports over the weekend indicate that the OWNAFC platform are moving towards a takeover.
We firmly believe any prospective owner of a football club should meaningfully engage with the stakeholders at that club, chief among whom are the supporters, for any takeover to have legitimacy and ultimately to be sustainable and successful.
Consultation, the option for critical questioning and the development of structured supporter engagement is a vital ingredient to success at any club, particularly one operating within the National Game.
The Football Supporters' Federation and Supporters Direct are currently in the process of merging, and since its formation in 1999 Supporters Direct has:
- Helped over 50 clubs at varying levels of the game into fan ownership, including AFC Wimbledon, Exeter City, Wycombe Wanderers and Newport County AFC, and helped fans to form more than 200 supporters trusts.
- Helped countless trusts secure a meaningful stake in their club by way of shareholding and/or board representation using a structure allowing the trust to regularly re-elect representatives to these roles.
- Supported the development of structured dialogue between fans and their clubs and fans and their leagues, as a result of their involvement in the Expert Working Group on Football Supporter Ownership and Engagement, the minimum requirements of which now form part of the EFL and Premier League rulebooks.
- Educated, empowered and given the vehicle to supporters to make a real difference, evidenced no better than with the recent developments at Blackpool FC.
Supporters trusts are open, inclusive, non-profit organisations which operate as one member one vote for the benefit of the supporters and the community served by the club and as such are not fundraising machines or “cash cows” to plug club financial shortfalls.
Despite their doubtless enthusiasm, we are concerned that the lack of meaningful engagement with the club’s existing supporters and a business model similar to that of MYFC means that a repeat of the ultimately failed takeover of Ebbsfleet United back in 2008 is likely.
We have been working closely with the Supporters Association at Hednesford Town for some time to explore alternative ownership options for the club following the announcement of the owner’s willingness to sell, and we will continue to offer Hednesford Town’s fans our support.