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Victoria Highlanders Supporters' Board - the first fans' trust in Canada


<i>by Devon Rowcliffe</i>

Dear Canadian soccer fans: the supporter-ownership movement has arrived here in the land of the maple leaf.

Victoria Highlanders Football Club (VHFC) has recently changed its organizational structure, giving Victoria fans ownership of 30% of the club. Rather than having individual fans purchase shares in the club, a provincially-registered society – known as the Highlanders Supporters’ Board – now legally owns 30% of Victoria Highlanders. The Board will be operated and controlled by club supporters, and it will be independent from the club.

To put things in perspective: the Highlanders Supporters’ Board is the only supporters’ trust in Canada, and is the only supporters’ trust in Canada/USA that owns part of its club.
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All 2013 VHFC season-ticket holders automatically become a member of the Highlanders Supporters’ Board for the year. Supporters’ Board members are eligible to vote on several club matters during VHFC’s annual general meetings (to be held every November), and may nominate themselves for one of seven elected Supporters’ Board positions. Two of the seven elected Board members will also sit on the Victoria Highlanders Advisory Board, which will hold quarterly meetings to discuss club matters.

The creation of the Highlanders Supporters’ Board ensures that the opinions of VHFC fans are both heard and collectively voiced to the club through a formalized and regularized process. The Supporters’ Board’s opinions and suggestions will enable the club’s decision-makers to have a better understanding of what VHFC fans want from the club. The creation of the Supporters’ Board (and its ownership of 30% of Victoria Highlanders) will mean that fans will have a greater say in how the club is run.

Nominations for Highlanders Supporters’ Board positions are open for another week (until Tuesday, February 19th). For more information about the elected positions and the nomination process, <a href="http://us6.campaign-archive1.com/?u=084456821cfa0f40952fa86aa&id=470d7f88d7" target="_blank"><u>please click here</u></a>.

<b>Background info about supporters’ trusts:</b>

A supporters’ board, more commonly known around the world as a "supporters' trust", is defined by Wikipedia as, "a formal, democratic and not-for-profit organisation of fans who attempt to strengthen the influence of supporters over the running of the club they support."

In Great Britain, where modern football began, clubs were established in the late 1800s as private businesses. However, the concept of supporter-ownership has grown rapidly in England in recent years – <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_fan-owned_sports_teams#England" target="_blank"><u>almost 30 English football clubs are now partially or completely owned by supporters</u></a>. The club with the highest profile is Swansea City of the English Premier League, which has a setup similar to Victoria Highlanders: season-ticket holders automatically become members of Swansea’s supporters’ trust (which owns 20% of the EPL club). There are more than 100 supporters’ trusts in Britain – including the <a href="http://www.chelseasupporterstrust.com/" target="_blank"><u>Chelsea Supporters Trust</u></a>, which was officially launched this past weekend.

In some European countries, all football clubs must be majority-owned by their supporters and/or must be registered as membership organizations (rather than as private businesses) – including in <a href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/football/david-conn-inside-sport-blog/2012/dec/01/german-fan-owned-clubs-bundesliga" target="_blank"><u>Germany</u></a>, Sweden and Turkey.


<b>Further reading:</b>

<a href="http://us6.campaign-archive1.com/?u=084456821cfa0f40952fa86aa&id=470d7f88d7" target="_blank">Highlanders Supporters' Board: nominations process for elected positions</a>

<a href="https://twitter.com/VHFCFansBoard/" target="_blank">Highlanders Supporters' Board: Twitter account</a>

<a href="https://www.facebook.com/VictoriaISTA" target="_blank">Highlanders Supporters' Board: Facebook account</a>

<a href="http://www.supporters-direct.org/homepage/research/structuredrelationship/" target="_blank">"Recognizing Value: developing a structured relationship between supporters’ trusts and clubs"</a> – <i>Supporters Direct</i>

<a href="http://www.supporters-direct.org/homepage/research/social-value/" target="_blank">"The social and community value of football"</a> – <i>Supporters Direct</i>
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<center><b>"Victoria Highlanders FC chairman Alex Campbell announces Highlanders Supporters' Board. (Photo by Julian Anderson, Director of Communications, Lake Side Buoys)"</b></center>
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