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From Stands to the Boardroom

by Gordon Waddell & Gavin Berry

From the terracing to the boardroom - possibly the greatest divide in football.

For decades, the collars and ties and camel coats of the directors' box have been an anathema to the rank and file who have paid their hard-earned cash at the gate. They never listened, never coughed up when the club was in trouble, never cared as much as YOU. And up went the cry. Sack the Board. Sack the Board. Sack the Board.

Now, though, bridges are being built all over the country. Never has either side needed the other more as football from one crisis to another. Suddenly, their hearts and minds are becoming one as BOTH realise they have to work together for their teams' survival. That realisation has seen the rise and rise of the supporters' trust, bodies of fans who are fighting for a say in the running of their club - and the news is they're winning the battle. Already, 22 of Scotlands 42 senior clubs have establish Trusts. Ten have shareholdings, Eight have been forward thinking enough to invite Trust representatives on to the board of directors to voice the fans' views at the highest level. And the sooner the rest follow suit the better the chance they will have of guiding each other into the future.

Most Trusts have been set up through a Scottish Executive-funded agency called Supporters Direct whose aim is to help people "who wish to play a responsible part in the life of the football club they support".

"It's all about accountability," said development officer James Proctor. "Ideally it's a reasonable aim for us to encourage every club to have a Trust and have them represented in some way at boardroom level. But the key point is that the board are held accountable for their actions. There's no doubt that in Scotland most directors ARE also fans. The Marrs, for example are huge Dundee supporters but they weren't accountable for the decisions they took and look where they are now. But since Partick Thistle and Hibs set the ball rolling five years ago more and more clubs have welcomed the idea. Dunfermline are the next we expect to be up and running, with the full support of their board, and we have enquiries from East Fife, Queen of the South, and, ironically, Dundee. When Trusts were being set up they were born out of protest. Save the Jags, Hands Off Hibs, AFC 2000 were precursors of their clubs' Trusts. But now they're coming about more through consensus"

And it's true, the more clubs open their doors to the people who fill their ground every week the less the fans will feel the need to kick them in. Here we tell of one of the fans who has already crossed the gulf from the terraces to the directors box.



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