Fan-owned Stirling Albion will take on Championship winners Heart of Midlothian in the Supporters Direct Scotland Cup on Tuesday at Forthbank with this year’s game having the added twist of being played with Fair Trade balls.
Invitation-only Supporters Direct matches have been held in the UK and across Europe for the past 14 years between clubs with significant supporter involvement in their ownership and governance.
Stirling Albion, who were purchased by the Stirling Albion Supporters Trust in 2010, are vying to win the SDS Cup from holders Heart of Midlothian, who have significant supporter involvement in their ownership through the Foundation of Hearts.
The Cup game is sponsored by ShareIn, a crowdfunding platform that connects individual investors to companies which need equity funding. However, originally the Cup was sponsored by Supporters Direct itself, but as a publicly funded body it neither had the spare cash nor the justification for spending it on silverware. A call went out to fans across the country who responded by raising the money to put the Supporters Direct Cup into production. Therefore, in principle the Cup was created by the fans for the fans.
Andrew Jenkin, Head of Supporters Direct Scotland said “The SDS Cup was set up to promote and celebrate supporter ownership and we are delighted Stirling Albion and Heart of Midlothian have agreed to take part. Both clubs have achieved great things through supporter involvement, which can come in many forms to the betterment of the game. Equality and community involvement in football is at the heart of Supporters Direct Scotland, so it’s an added bonus we’ve been able to involve fair trade footballs through Bala Sport in the Cup.”
Jim Thomson, Chairman of the Stirling Albion Supporters Trust said “The Stirling Albion Supporters Trust very much supports this cup and it will be great to welcome Championship winning side Heart of Midlothian to Stirling. Fan ownership is growing within the game and high profile support from the likes of Hearts can only benefit the move to fan involvement. A big thank you to Supporters Direct Scotland for making it happen.”
This year’s SDS Cup will be played using Fair Trade certified footballs, with social enterprise Bala Sport sponsoring the match balls. Angus Coull, managing Director of Bala Sport, who are currently running a Community Share offer to raise finance, said: “We’re absolutely delighted to be providing Bala Pro Fairtrade match balls for the SDS Cup. The balls are designed in Glasgow and hand-stitched in Pakistan. They’re made and tested to the same specifications as FIFA Approved balls and I’m very excited to see these two Scottish teams play with them”.
Hearts are the current holders of the SDS Cup having beaten Dunfermline 2-1 in 2013.
The game starts at 7:30pm on Tuesday evening (14 July) at Forthbank Stadium, Stirling. Admission is £12, concessions £5 and Under 12s can get in for free.