Modern Pioneers #3 – Peter Jones, Wrexham Supporters’ Trust
Co-operatives Fortnight runs from 21st June – 5th July. This year, we’re paying tribute to the Rochdale Pioneers who, along with Robert Owen, were among the forefathers of the co-operative movement.
We’re doing so by showcasing the work of 14 ‘Modern Pioneers’ from the Welsh co-operative sector, through a series of blog posts.
Today’s post looks at the work of Peter Jones, Chair of Wrexham Supporters’ Trust.
“Wrexham Football Club is the oldest football club in Wales and the third oldest professional football club in the world. Wrexham Supporters’ Trust (the fans) own the football club, 100%. The Trust is an Industrial and Provident Society, subject to the rules of the Financial Conduct Authority. We are part of the Supporters Direct movement that represents over 180 supporters’ trusts and similar organisations across Europe, with over 400,000 members. We ensure that the Club operates with financial responsibility, enabling it to be run for the long-term interest of the community. Members all have a say in how our football club is run, with our democratic ‘one member, one vote’ rule.
I am proud to have played my part in the takeover of Wrexham Football Club by the Supporters’ Trust, to become the first ever Trust to take over a professional football club as a going concern. We are now on the exciting journey to continue to provide the governance platform for a financially stable and sustainable football club that we can nurture and help flourish, whilst promoting the football club as the heart of the community.
Wrexham Football Club is a professional organisation, with the aim of playing at the highest level possible. We depend heavily on volunteers to help us achieve that aim. The Trust Board, who are the governing body, and the Football Board of Directors, are all volunteers themselves. Members help in many ways from promoting membership, helping with the match day experience and with community organisations and events, to name but a few.
We have members from all over the world, as far away as Australia, Canada, Hong Kong and America. Our long term vision is to pioneer fans ownership of a successful, financially stable professional football club, playing at the highest possible level, while at the same time playing a pivotal role in promoting Football Club membership at the heart of our community. Our overriding ambition is to be a successful professional football club that ‘Unites Half a Nation’ across our fan base area of mid and north Wales and the Marches.
I became a Board member of Wrexham Supporters’ Trust in 2004 having been first co-opted onto the Trust board, following the discovery that the Racecourse Ground had been sold to property developers. Since that time I have been involved with helping the Supporters’ Trust to highlight the ground and club’s plight, as well as leading the fundraising in helping the Trust to raise over £800,000, part of which was eventually used in securing the purchase of the football club as a fan’s owned club in November 2011.
The Football Club Board, the Trust Board, and all the Football Club members can be proud of how our Club has progressed since Wrexham Football Club became a fan owned club. We have cleared the debt that we took over, we have returned our Football Club to being sustainable and had not one, but two trips to Wembley for the first time in our history. I fully endorse fan ownership and believe that football belongs to the fans of the game.
Our experience of co-operatives within the football world has seen a growth in fan-owned clubs. Granted, not all have been a success, but like all co-operatives, the business must be profitable, since the only source of revenue and capital is mainly from its members. This marks fan owned clubs out as oddities in the world of football, where clubs are run as extensions of their owners’ interests and underwritten by their private wealth; making a surplus is a nice idea, but one rarely achieved.
The main crux to success for fan-owned football clubs is being well organised, with people that have the skills to take the football club forward. It shouldn’t be about personalities, but people with the right skills for the job. At Wrexham we have achieved that by identifying the skills needed to run a football club as a business, and we have taken it from there to achieve clearing a three quarters of a million pound debt within two years to make the business sustainable.
We have had some luck along the way, but if fan co-operatives can get their act together, and raise their capital together, they might find less resistance from those who still believe in a fairy Godmother millionaire appearing to be their saviour.
Whether or not other football clubs in Wales see this as a way forward remains to be seen, but with ourselves and Merthyr Town and, to a lesser extent, Swansea City leading the way in fan ownership, who knows? The transparency and openness of how a football club runs, maybe UEFA’s football financial fair play rules will see a way forward for more fan owned clubs.”
Find out more about the Rochdale Pioneers through a special, interactive photo.