Non League Daily

Supporter Ownership: Community "at the heart" of Magpies success

Players, managers and coaches come and go but the Supporters Trust at Dorchester Town believe that one constant factor is above all others in the success of their club and that is the local community.

The Magpies Trust are part-owners of the club, owning half of the overall shares thanks to "an act of genorosity" from club chairman Shaun Hearn.

Magpies Trust Secretary Dave Ring stressed the importance of the local community in keeping the club going and ensuring that even the toughest challenges are overcome.

"At the heart of the Club's continued success throughout the years has been the support of the local community. The Club attracts very good crowds for a town of Dorchester's size, and is a firm part of the local infrastructure.

It’s only right and proper that the local community and our supporters question and query the changes that come with the community ownership of their Club. Our supporters’ are extremely passionate and a small minority are very vocal when letting us know their thoughts. Everyone fears change, it’s up to us to ensure that the changes being made are for the benefit of not just the club and its supporters but for the whole community as well"

Ring also paid tribute to the gesture from club chairman Hearn as he invited the Trust on to the board and transferred half of his shares in the Magpies to them.

"The Trust was invited onto the club board by the club’s chairman Shaun Hearn to work in partnership towards full community ownership. To facilitate this move, Shaun transferred half of his majority shareholding to the Trust, an act of generosity the Trust will always be grateful to him for.

Supporters Trust’s tend to get involved with Clubs and become owners of last resort during times of severe financial crisis. There were no significant issues in our case, due to the club being very well run previously"

With finances playing an ever-increasing role in football Ring believes, from experience, that supporter ownership is a way of gaining the trust of potential investors. He also stated that the benefits are far-reaching for the club, with an easier route to grants being opened up by a move into supporter ownership.

However, he did conceded that due to the "current tough economic climate" there were still challenges to be faced, something that Supporters Direct have continued to help the Magpies Trust with.

"Research by Supporters Direct suggests that the community are more likely to invest in, support and trust a community owned organisation. Many organisations are keen to help on a voluntary basis or in return offer a trade-off such as advertising reducing outgoings and costs. It also allows additional sustainable income through annual membership fees. Grant funding would be easier to secure, for example, financing a 3G pitch to UEFA standard or for infrastructure development that benefits the whole community. However, in the current tough economic climate this can still be challenging.

We have always had the support of Supporters Direct and we continue to get their support, firstly for the Trust and now for the Football Club. We are extremely grateful for the work they have done and continue to do for us as we move forward towards the conclusion of a model of community ownership"

One exciting move by the Magpies is that they are in line to become the latest club to install a 3G pitch. Clubs such as Maidstone United and Harlow Town have already made the move onto an artificial turf and only this week Oxford City submitted an application to do the same.

Ring enthused about the facilities and set up already in place at Dorchester and revealed that a move to a 3G pitch would increase the community feel at the club, something that the board identified as key to their vision for the future of the club.

Dorchester Town Football Club's aim is to field the best first team it can, supported by a full structure from youth teams to under 18's and reserves, with the academy providing a mechanism to maximise potential. It will be financially sustainable, with the community at its heart, and the Club board working together to maximise income.

The Club has a fantastic stadium, situated in an easily accessible part of the town. The stadium has a lounge bar, boardroom and pitch. The lounge bar and boardroom are available for hire, but the pitch has very limited use.

Central to the board's vision is the development of these facilities. At its heart is the eventual laying of a great quality artificial pitch. This pitch would be made available to all appropriately registered teams during the football season, and be extended to all other teams outside of the season as well as community groups. There is nothing quite like the feeling of playing and training at a stadium like Dorchester's, and we want to make this feeling available to the whole community.

So would Ring recommend supporter ownership to any groups of supporters looking into it? His answer was an emphatic yes!

"If supporters are given the opportunity to run their club using a not-for-profit model of ownership they should do it. Supporters Direct can give all the help and support needed.

Supporters are not customers of football Clubs, they are and always have been the moral owners. They put their hearts and souls into the support of their Club and have the right to have their voices heard. The community ownership of football clubs not only allows supporters to have their say, they also provide a platform where supporters can make a difference"

And it is clear to see that the Magpies Trust are one set of supporters who have clearly made a difference with their club.

Interview: Mark Carruthers
Photo: Dorchester Town FC

TABLES, FIXTURES, Results, Team News & MORE