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Worcester City – our latest community-owned club

Late last year Worcester City became the latest club to achieve community-ownership. Luke Cox, former-Worcester City director and supporters’ trust board member tells us more about their journey…

It has been a long-travelled journey comprised of a myriad diversions, stalls and u-turns, but finally, Worcester City can call itself a genuine community-owned football club.

On 6th November 2021, the WCFC Supporters’ Trust gained 51% of the shares in the club. This was carefully planned to land on a specially organised ‘Club & Owners Day’ in front of 710 fans for our home league match against Bewdley Town, to celebrate the milestone.

Some may consider it a miracle the football club is still here today.

2010 to 2020 saw Worcester City experience a decade of grave uncertainty during which many supporters feared the worst. The club experienced the sale of its beloved ground St. George’s Lane. A series of attempted plans for a new stadium, which despite best efforts ultimately never came to fruition, saw the club spend seven years cast out in exile from the city of Worcester.

This was accompanied by a drop from the National League North to Midland Football League Premier Division (Step 5 of non-league) in one season owing to voluntary relegation. The club was losing money hand over fist trying to cover the cost of playing away from its city whilst missing out on vital revenue streams.

After the relegation, the club was at its lowest. However, as is often the case, the supporters’ trust and volunteers had been working in the background.

In the summer of 2018, a new-look football club board was appointed including lifelong supporters and supporters’ trust board members with the three sole aims: to return to Worcester; to become a community-owned club; and to become financially sustainable.

Not long after, a warts-and-all extraordinary general meeting was held to explain the situation the football club was in. This was followed by a meeting to facilitate a vote from shareholders in favour of transferring all unallocated shares (48%) in the club to the supporters’ trust making it the largest single shareholder.

In the following seasons, with the supporters’ trust in control, the football club rebuilt trust and relationships with local stakeholders and the community, culminating in an agreement between it, the Worcestershire FA and the City Council to deliver Worcester City’s return home. The club agreed a long-term deal to return to Worcester and play from the regional FA’s new headquarters at Claines Lane, which is less than a mile from the club’s old home ground.

With its long-awaited homecoming taking place in the summer of 2020, it was time to deliver true community-ownership. Following a short campaign to convince shareholders of the model’s benefits for the club, enough shares were donated to the supporters’ trust to pass over the all important 51% line.

Many will ask whether community-ownership has the answer to everything. The answer is no, of course not. Worcester City still has a lot of work ahead, which we are well aware of. 

We have to contend with the clubs that rise and inevitably fall each season armed with local benefactors pouring cash in, whilst we rely on membership subscriptions and successful commercial activity for our income.

Now in 2022, plying our trade in the Midland Football League Premier Division it is a modest reality compared to the National League North days and giddy highs of knocking Coventry City out the FA Cup in 2014.

However, if well-nurtured with an engaged membership and a community around it that values having influence in how the club is run and who appreciates that it is quite literally theirs, as a community-owned club playing at home in its city, it has the potential to grow sustainably and reclaim ground on its previous non-league stature.

After all, a community-owned football club is only as strong as its membership. A club with 150 members will live a content and sustainable life, a club with 800 members (as many as the WCFC Supporters’ Trust has had in the past) or even 1,000-plus is a force to be reckoned with.

What the future holds for Worcester City is down to its supporters – what it becomes is theirs to decide.

If you are interested in joining the Worcester City Supporters Trust, you can become a member here.

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