Following a reward of funding to test the feasibility of a ‘Fans Bank’ to help fund community ownership buy outs of professional clubs, SD Scotland have launched a survey targeted at Supporters Trusts and clubs to gage their interest in community ownership at their club via a social investment fund, under the proposed name of ‘Sports Funder’.
The survey will ask supporters whether they are interested in securing a stake in a professional club, how much interest they’d be willing to pay to securing additional capital to make it happen and how such a fund could be financed.
In 2014, The Green Party proposed to introduce legislation that would give appropriately structured Supporters Trusts with constitutional community benefit the right to buy their clubs and convert them into cooperatives via the Community Empowerment Bill. While the Scottish Government are yet to reveal the outcome of a consultation into the area, SD Scotland believe the setup of a social investment fund which could offer low-interest capital to Supporters Trust would significantly reduce one of the biggest barrier to further fan ownership in Scotland.
Several clubs in Scotland are on a path to community ownership but Supporters Trusts and organisations such as SMISA and The Foundation of Hearts have been reliant upon the finance of wealthy benefactors to enable it. It is proposed a fund can play a part for instances where there is a desire from an owner of a professional and supporters to change ownership and allow the supporters to run the club in the wider community’s interests. It is proposed that groups applying to the fund will need to demonstrate how the finance will enable them to deliver greater benefit to the wider community.
The 2016 Supporters Direct Scotland supporters survey revealed fans close to 7000 fans in the previous year’s survey being in favour in the establishment of a fund helping supporters buy their clubs. Supporters Direct research suggests that Supporter Ownership opens up a number of benefits to a Club that are much harder to achieve or not possible to achieve in a privately owned Club.
Andrew Jenkin, Head of SD Scotland, said “Since SD Scotland started, the barriers community ownership has faced has often been supporter groups’ access capital – often in short periods of time. While mechanisms such as community shares have become a useful tool for raising money from respective memberships and communities, there’s still a gap preventing greater community ownership of clubs and their development.
This research will allow us to map out how we can establish a Fund for groups who have raised some funding, but need a more to make it a reality. Scotland is already ahead of the curve in terms of sport clubs at all levels essentially acting as social enterprises that are tackling societial issues through their activities and we aim to enable this further.”
Following the survey, SD Scotland will compile the results and examine the next steps in the formation of a social investment to determine its feasibility. The survey will be open until Sunday the 17th of September.