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Fans’ group funding crisis prompts chief executive’s resignation

Mon 13th Jun 2011 | Clubs Ownership

The board of directors of Supporters Direct held an emergency meeting at the weekend to discuss its funding crisis following a Twitter outburst by chief executive, Dave Boyle.

Supporters Direct, an Industrial & Provident Society supervised by
the Financial Services Authority for community benefit working to promote supporter ownership and involvement in the governance of professional team sports has been told they face a cut in funding follow Boyle’s comments on the social networking site.

It is understood that the Football Stadia Improvement Fund (FSIF) has rescinded the money it pledged to Supporters Direct over the next three years. Instead, it will invite individual fans' groups to apply for the funding directly. Under the last three-year funding formula, the FSIF channelled £1.8m over three years through Supporters Direct.

In an emergency session held on Saturday 11th June, the board expressed confidence in its past and continuing role in promoting the supporter trust movement – a model of football ownership that allows fans to re-engage with their local clubs.

A statement released by Supporters Direct read: “On Wednesday 8th June 2011 SD was informed by the Football Stadia Improvement Fund, administrators of the Premier League Fans' Fund, that it would not be making an offer to fund SD.”

“The reason given was the FSIF's concern over a number of tweets posted by SD chief executive on his personal account on twitter.com during the evening of Saturday 21 May 2011.

“SD has deplored the comments and disassociated itself from them completely.”

Following the emergency meeting, the board announced that they had accepted the resignation from office of chief executive Dave Boyle, who made the comments following fan owned, AFC Wimbledon’s play-off win which saw the club promoted to the football league.

Boyle’s resignation has now prompted the appointment of Brian Burgess as acting chief executive and the organisation will now establish an executive committee of the board consisting of three directors and the acting chief executive to steer the organisation during its current funding crisis.

But the organisation has some way to go to convince the Premier League to rethink its decision to withdraw its funding. Supporters Directs’ key task now is to seek early discussions with the Premier League Fans' Fund with a view to resubmitting its application which was acknowledged by the FSIF to have merit that would have attracted funding, whilst also pursuing other possibilities and sources of funding.

Commenting on the situation SD chair Dame Pauline Green said:

"The development of Supporters Direct over the past ten years has seen the trust movement grow and make a substantial contribution to a significant number of football clubs and their local communities. We have also made an impact in other sports such as rugby league.

"As an example the promotion to the Premier League of Swansea City, in which the supporters' trust is the third largest equity investor in the club with 19.99% of the shares, makes it the first club at the top level to have a substantial trust shareholding. In Scotland, Dundee FC is now under supporter ownership.

"The trust movement must now take stock and reflect on how it can most effectively contribute to the development of a healthy, more sustainable football industry at all levels.

"The Annual General Meeting and conference in Chester on 15th and 16th
July will be an opportunity for us to debate this with our members and the wider football public."

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