Norwich City Supporters Trust celebrates ten years

Norwich City Supporters Trust was launched ten years ago at an event at Norwich Castle on September 21, linked to the Norwich City Centenary Exhibition.

That Norwich City Football Club had survived to reach its centenary was an event well worth celebrating, as during that period the club had overcome at least three financial disasters. Each time a mixture of personal generosity and public benevolence has been able to rescue the club.

In their centenary year the club once again faced financial difficulties and, once again, through the willingness of Norwich City supporters both individual and corporate to respond to the 2002 Share Offer, around �2m was raised.

Norwich City Supporters Trust's role is to offer an opportunity for fans who, for whatever reason, could not afford to purchase shares in their own right, to be part of the refinancing of the club by becoming shareholders in the Trust.

On 'Day 1', and thanks to a loan from its first chairman, the Trust purchased its first shares in Norwich City. It now has over 650 shareholders, holds 1,219 shares in the club and is in the process of purchasing more.

Trust Secretary Mike Reynolds said: 'Whilst most football clubs are owned financially by millionaires and more likely billionaires, they continue to be owned emotionally by their fans. In our case we are lucky that the financial owners are also as emotionally connected as any fan. But who knows how future owners may view Norwich City Football Club.

'In some ways the club is the equivalent of a listed building and as important to the people of Norfolk as the stately homes at Blickling, Felbrigg and Holkham. In the past these buildings survived through the funding of wealthy benefactors and more recently through the steady membership income that underpins English Heritage or the National Trust. By contrast, football clubs tend to rely on finding new, wealthy investors.'

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'The alternative' he said 'could be to take a leaf from the origins of the Co-operative movement. Rather than searching for that elusive single investor, maybe we should look towards the hundreds of small and medium sized businesses, whose workforces will no doubt contain, if not Norwich City regulars, individuals who tune into commentaries, read local press reports and in general have a place in their heart for Norwich City Football Club.

That in its own small way is where the Trust comes in by taking and increasing a shareholding in the club which is held in perpetuity for the fans.'

Supporters Trusts provide a regulated and democratic 'Industrial and Provident Society' around which shareholders can coalesce in times of difficulty. This is what is currently happening at Portsmouth, Birmingham, Coventry and a number of smaller clubs around the country and in our 'twin' trust, A La Nantaise at FC Nantes, the French 'Canaris'.

'By increasing the fans stake holding we are providing an insurance policy for the future and a voice for the fans on operating, financial and sustainability issues within the club' he commented.

There is now more than 170 trusts in more than 20 European countries, in football, rugby league, rugby union, and ice hockey.