The Chelsea Supporters Trust was set up a decade ago by a group of like-minded Chelsea supporters who believed that there was a lack of effective engagement by the club with its supporters. By coming together and creating the Supporters Trust we have increased our voice as supporters and enter into a positive dialogue with the club. We aim to represent the views of as many Chelsea supporters as possible (accepting that 100% representation will never happen), and have adopted the same transparent, democratic and co-operative model as seen at a number of other clubs.
The basic definition of a Supporters Trust is a democratic, not-for-profit organisation of supporters, committed to strengthening the voice for supporters in the decision making process at a club, and strengthening the links between the club and the community it serves. Although in some ways it may look like a charity, and has the name ‘trust,’ it is not a charitable organisation.
An Industrial and Provident Society (IPS) offers the best way forward for supporters’ groups as its legal assets can be owned ‘corporately’ in a group rather than being vested in individuals. Members also get the benefit of limited liability (and so do the elected officers in most cases) – members are only liable for £1 if anything goes wrong – for example, if the Trust is sued.
It’s democratic and not-for-profit and states clearly and boldly that a key aim is the securing of representation and strengthening the links between club and community.
Finally, the people who get involved in a trust as members know that their money is protected; it can’t be spent on anything other than what the constitution says, and anyone who does this can be taken to court.
An IPS imposes certain disciplines on a group that can only be a good thing – democracy, accountability and transparency, and this can only reinforce the points you make. It comes down to what you want a body to do. A trust, constituted as an IPS stays in existence until its members decide to dissolve it, and so they have greater ability to stay around. Often, ISA’s go into a lull when key individuals become inactive. All these are of course applicable to a trust, but the disciplines we mention above make it more likely that weaknesses are identified and rectified. For starters, the act of becoming an IPS is a collaborative effort, so you need a good team from the off.
By holding annual board elections, in which all paid-up members can vote, we can avoid any accusations of self-perpetuation or cliquishness. At the time of writing, only two elected board members, out of nine elected posts, have been on the board for the whole for the past decade. Others have moved on and been replaced, which we believe is healthy for any organisation of this type. We believe a flow of new blood is necessary to bring in innovative ideas and remove any danger of complacency or cosiness.
What sets the Chelsea Supporters Trust apart from other supporter organisations is that it is a democratic, one member, one vote body with inclusivity at its heart – open to any Chelsea Supporter of 50 years or 1 years standing, Season Ticket holder or member, regardless of where in the world they live.
We also believe that the Fans Forum, while laudable in intent, has distinct limitations in that the supporter representation is not universal or democratic and the format is within the Club’s control.
Given the ownership model in place at Chelsea, and the value of the club, it is obviously unrealistic for a Supporters Trust to aspire to own the club. Instead, our aim is to simply increase the voice of Chelsea supporters by formalising a collective engagement with the club. We see our role as acting as a bridge between club and supporters, so the more members we have, the more effective our voice will be.
Supporters Trusts have been created at clubs when they have run into severe financial or administrative problems but have been successful at a number of clubs where such problems have not been experienced. We have worked to ensure that Chelsea supporters have a structure through which they can engage with the club both now and in the future. We believe that whilst the club board has a duty of care to run the club in the interests of the supporters, we as supporters have a duty to make sure there is an open and transparent mechanism in which problems can be addressed and issues dealt with. The Supporters Trust model is a successful way that supporters can work through.
Many people look at how top-flight football has changed over the past 30 years and feel that the community roots of a club in some places have been lost, with clubs seeming to care more about money, or sponsors, than supporters, many of whom are priced out of watching the club they love. The club could represent the absolute best of the community it plays in and can act as a symbol of that community for everyone to support. Trusts are about making that really happen. It is usually the supporters who care most about these things as they often live in the community or used to.
Our board members are from a variety of walks of life, age groups and backgrounds – and are, of course, massive Chelsea supporters – just like you! We actively want more Chelsea supporters to get involved, helping to build a united, powerful voice.
We are most certainly not just a protest group. We do not believe that supporters can successfully engage with the club if the basis for that relationship is negative, knee jerk or based on single issues. Instead, we aim to create an open, transparent and democratic structure through which supporters can raise their voice and help the club better communicate with its supporters. We also have a clear sense of what we want. We aim to continue to build supporter influence within Chelsea FC. We are clear that we can only claim to speak for our members, but we are united in the belief that we want Chelsea to be all it can be.
As the Trust is a not for profit organisation, there is no need for exorbitant membership fees. We therefore charge a small annual membership fee, £5, which will cover the costs of running the Trust. Details on various membership grades and fees can be found at
Supporters Trusts are formal, non-for profit legal entities and as such subject to company law and strict auditing procedures. They must prove their transparency and openness – by law. It is for the membership to decide how any surplus should be used (e.g. donation to charity, purchase of CPO shares, retention for future campaigns etc.)
We want to make your voice heard to the Club. To do this we need your support. Please sign up to become a member of the Chelsea Supporters Trust. We pledge to do all we can to get your voice heard where it matters – at senior levels of the club. The more members we have, the louder that voice will be, so get your friends to sign up and become members too and get involved with the Trust; come along to the meetings, and let us know how we can help you get your voice heard.
If you have any questions about any aspect of the CST, please contact us at [email protected]
The Chelsea Supporters Trust Board