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Twenty years and counting for Swindon Town’s Trust

One of the country’s longest running supporters’ trusts is celebrating their 20th anniversary this year, and so we asked TrustSTFC to fill us in on the ups and downs of the past twenty years…

Twenty years is a long time in football – a lot can change, and yet so much stays the same.

As TrustSTFC, the Swindon Town Supporters’ Trust, turns 20 this year, the parallels between then and now are hard to avoid; threats of administration, disputes with the hierarchy at the County Ground, co-ordinated fan protests and continuous false dawns on the stadium front.

But the most obvious parallel is the unwavering dedication of Swindon fans and the wider community to play a role in building a football club that is fit for purpose as a true asset to the town.

Like all good rollercoasters, after the steady climb comes the big dip. At the turn of the century, after more than a decade of success on the pitch, Swindon Town found themselves back in the third tier and with little to show for their foray up the tiers and into the Premier League.

The club were in a perilous state financially and in the Spring of 2001, TrustSTFC was launched to play a more active role in the club’s survival, with a focus on fundraising for the benefit of the club.

Initially, the trust’s fund-raising efforts helped pay the rent on the club’s training facilities, before pivoting to be solely focused on providing more cash to improve the playing squad.

And while Michael Proctor’s debut goal was a high point, behind the scenes, the club were drifting closer and closer to the rocks.

After more than 18 months of trust-organised protests, missed CVA payments and infighting, the club’s future was seemingly secured when local businessman Andrew Fitton was finally successful in his trust-backed attempts to buy the club.

For the following few years, the trust returned to being a community-focused fan group; raising cash for community and club projects, assisting in local schools programmes, and securing the ‘Asset of Community Value’ designation for the County Ground.

As the club changed hands from owner to owner, the trust’s focus from 2015 onwards began to move towards the long-term security of the club. After an incredible amount of hard work behind the scenes, the trust and Swindon Town joined forces in 2018 to formally announce their bid to buy the County Ground from the council in a Joint Venture Partnership.

And in February 2020, the Joint Venture agreement, sale agreement and the lease back to club were finally agreed in principle – a huge high point in the 20-year life of the trust.

The high did not last – as the world slipped into the pandemic, the club’s ownership was dragged through the courts on a number of conflicts between shareholders, as well as high-profile FA charges.

As we celebrate our 20th anniversary, the fight to secure the club’s future goes on, but with hope on the horizon. On the pitch, this summer and next season look like a huge challenge, but off the pitch, our fate will soon be resolved, one way or another.

With the pressure on and our Football League status at stake next season, the trust have made their toughest call in their 20-year existence – a full boycott of Swindon Town FC until the ownership dispute is resolved and the club is once again in the hands of an ownership that has the best interests of the club and the town at its heart.

And perhaps as TrustSTFC enters our 21st year of existence, the rollercoaster can start steadily climbing once more.

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