Canaries Trust – 15 years and going strong
Posted on 22nd September 2017
The Canaries Trust celebrates its 15th year anniversary this month so we asked the trust to write up a short summary of their history and how the trust was formed. Mike Reynolds, the secretary of the trust, starts back in 2001 when it all began.
“In 2001 the owners of Norwich City Football Club, Delia Smith and Michael Wynne-Jones asked an FSA representative, a member of the Shareholders Association and myself to attend the inaugural Supporters Direct Conference at Birkbeck College.
Within a month SD chaired a meeting of a variety of NCFC fans groups where it was agreed a Norwich City supporters trust would try to be established. Later that month, at the invitation of the Club, a presentation proposing a trust was made to the NCFC AGM which received popular support from the NCFC Board and the shareholders present. This was followed by an open meeting, post-match, at Carrow Roadd to hear presentations from SD and the NCFC Chairman. There was a degree of scepticism from many fans present but enough were in favour of setting up a trust. The following January it was agreed to launch the Trust formally with an open-meeting in July.
In the summer, with the need to raise funds, the Club announced a share issue and asked the Trust if it would delay the launch to maximise the uptake on the shares before the Trust got involved in fan share purchase. In return, they offered the Trust the opportunity to hold the meeting at Norwich Castle adjacent to the NCFC Centenary Exhibition and most importantly the ability to continue to purchase Ordinary shares at any time and to fundraise at Club events.
Prior to this open-meeting a fan loaned the new Trust £500 to make its first share purchase and we were under way but it wasn’t all plain sailing.
Within a couple of years there were complaints from some NCFC supporter groups centred mainly on different Trust initiatives. The Club called a meeting, under an independent Chairman, of the nine major supporters clubs, to discuss their objections at the how the Trust was operating and to allow the Trust to respond. The Trust had to explain the difference between itself, as a formalised democratic Industrial and Provident Society, and the other groups but the mistrust lingered.
As a celebration of the first ten years of the Trust, Supporters Direct helped the Trust arrange the first informal “twinning” with an overseas fans group, “A la nantaise”, the first democratic fans group of FC Nantes, a Ligue Un team which has the same colours and same nickname as Norwich City
To formalize the partnership, we signed a common text expressing our common vision of football, our belief in community ownership and good governance in football.
Mike explains how the trust has negotiated purchasing shares of the club on behalf of the fans:
“Over the years, the Trust has continued to use its funds from subscriptions and events to purchase shares from the Club on behalf of fans, but in 2011 the club increased the price of an Ordinary share from £30 to £100. Two years later the Trust was informed that the Club would no longer make ordinary shares available to the Trust but suggested that it might like to purchase shares from individuals seeking to sell their shares back to the Club.
The trust board had negotiations with the Chief Executive to explain the Trust’s constitutional position regarding subscriptions and share purchase. The outcome was the Trust could continue submitting future applications in £2000 blocks but with the caveat that each application would now require the agreement of the NCFC Board of Directors.
To retain access to NCFC shares the Trust agreed to assist the club with the numerous enquiries from individuals regarding share sales and purchases by allowing the club to re-direct individuals to the Trust website. The site would hold a list of those individuals seeking to buy or sell shares and the Club would deal with all the legalities of any share transfers.
The new price of shares duly led the Trust to change its policy to include share purchase from those individuals wishing to sell shares on the website and the Trust has now made “The Fans” the 14th largest shareholder in Norwich City Football Club
The Canaries Trust story has not been without difficulties but massive achievements have been made due to the hard work and volunteering hours of Trust members. Here is to the next 15 years.
If you would like to read more about the great work the Canaries Trust is doing then please visit here.