The Swansea City Supporters’ Trust has played a vital role in the club’s recent history, but the events of the past week have seen it slip further into the realm of insignificance.
The Trust was established in 2001 at a time when Swansea City’s future was in jeopardy and drastic measures were needed to save the club from extinction.
The grassroots organization, founded and run entirely by fans, quickly became a force. As well as organizing protests and public meetings, the Trust has brought together people with the skills and means to get things done.
Formed out of love and concern for Swansea City but built on a foundation of ingenuity and determination, the Trust played a vital role in the club’s recovery and rescue from ruin.
The Trust was represented on the Swans Board of Directors, a shining example of the involvement of supporters in the management of their football club.
We know what followed. The club have gone from strength to strength on and off the pitch, rising from the doldrums of League Two to the heights of the Premier League and European competition. The Supporters’ Trust’s role in running the club throughout this period was a major source of pride.
He holds a special place in Swansea City’s history books, but recent years have not been kind to the organization.
In 2016, the Trust claimed it was sidelined during the US takeover, to help the deal go through. This caused major resentment among fans who felt their voice on the board was being deliberately silenced.
Since the change of ownership, the Trust has struggled to find its place.
It retains a presence on the board of directors but its influence is diminished.
He still owns a 21% stake in the club, but those shares could be diluted over the next few years if the majority shareholders decide to convert existing loans into new shares.
Membership has stagnated and member engagement in key votes has been disappointing.
In 2019, a vote was held to decide whether or not legal action should be taken against those who sanctioned the sale of the club in 2016 and 81% of those who voted opted for legal action.
Members were told that the odds of success were favorable and that a victory in court could potentially net several million pounds.
Several members saw it as a chance to build up a fund that could be used in the future to buy the club out if it ran into trouble again.
Members overwhelmingly supported pursuing legal action and although it was understood that negotiations between the parties would continue, it was assumed that the default position remained to go to court, so that news of a deal being approved earlier this week came as a huge surprise.
It wasn’t a pleasant surprise either.
A joint statement published on the club’s official website, an odd choice of platform given that the Trust was acting against individual shareholders rather than the club itself, said an agreement had been reached which could allow the parties to move on.
This included a one-time payment of £500,000 from former and current shareholders to the Supporters’ Trust, with the promise of further payments in the future should the Swans return to the Premier League.
The Trust will also retain its place on the board and be guaranteed a minimum five per cent share in the club, regardless of any future dilution.
For many members, this outcome seems like small fry given the potential spoils of a court case they were told had a good chance of succeeding.
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But that’s not the main reason so many people feel disappointed with the Trust this week.
A large number of supporters are furious that those who agreed to this agreement did not consult the fans beforehand.
The Trust had no legal obligation to consult its members on this, but a clear precedent had been set and supporters have always played a vital role in the decision-making process on the issues.
Bargaining officials claimed they couldn’t do it on this occasion for privacy reasons, but that’s hard to swallow for members who now feel a searing sense of betrayal.
In their eyes, the Trust’s leaders are guilty of hypocrisy, having done exactly what they accused former shareholders of doing in 2016.
The Trust’s Board of Directors argues that this was the best course of action and may very well be. It is possible that the risks of legal action were no longer worth taking and this could turn out to be the right choice.
But as was made clear in an emotionally charged meeting on Thursday, many members believe it was a decision that needed to be made by the members.
Ironically, we now have a Supporters’ Trust that has lost the trust of supporters.
It’s a sad situation for a once proud organization, but it’s hard to see how the Trust can still claim to represent supporters.
Only a small proportion of fans are actually paying members of the Trust. His influence at the board level appears to have diminished significantly over the past few years and he has now alienated a significant portion of his membership by making a major decision without first soliciting their views.
Where does the trust go from here? It’s hard to say.
Swansea still need a strong force to represent their fans’ interests, but many have lost faith in the Trust.
In the end, what good is a Supporters’ Trust if it doesn’t have the support of supporters?
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