'I don’t think now is the time to stick our heads in the sand' - Concerned Sheffield Wednesday fans lay out aims for supporters' trust at open meeting

One of the Sheffield Wednesday fans striving to set up a formal supporters’ trust feels action simply must be taken by supporters to ensure a brighter future for the club.

Monday, 16th March 2020, 8:30 pm
Updated Monday, 16th March 2020, 8:50 pm
Sheffield Wednesday Supporters' Trust

The newly-formed Sheffield Wednesday Supporters’ Trust held an open meeting at Crookes Social Club on Monday night where those fans behind the initiative laid out their aims and aspirations for the organisation, and asked for ratification from potential members.

Founder member James Silverwood gave a passionate presentation of the hopes of the group to open the meeting, citing concerns over the financial state of Wednesday and the leadership of the club under chairman Dejphon Chansiri.

“When something you love is in difficulty or in danger, you have to make a choice,” he said..

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“I don’t think now is the time to stick our heads in the sand and believe these problems are just going to disappear.

“Now is not the time to be timid and say this Trust will not succeed or have no outcomes.

“Now is the time to be brave, for us to be courageous and create something positive and constructive. Now is the time for the fans’ voice to be heard and for us to get the football club we all deserve.

“I would not be here if I did not passionately believe a supporters’ trust was the way that we might be able to achieve that.

“I hope that we will vote this Trust into existence.”

Silverwood revealed there are no plans for the Trust to purchase shares or mount a takeover of the club.

Instead, the Trust hopes to enter talks with Chansiri in the hope of presenting concerns and guiding future decisions.

While criticising the manner in which Chansiri has interacted with supporters in the past, Silverwood said the Thai businessman would be obliged to meet with the Trust formally at least twice a year.

“Under EFL rules, football clubs are required to engage with their supporters’ trusts on at least two occasions per year,” he told the meeting.

“This is the one great advantage a supporters’ trust has over other organisations.

“It means structured meetings between the trust, the fans and the football club.

“These meetings will be transparent, they will have agendas and minutes.

“They offer a better line of communication between the fans and the clubs than unstructured, chaotic and sporadic fans’ forums or private invitations for off-the-record meetings with small groups of supporters, however welcome, offer.”

The open meeting was pared down at late notice due to fresh government advice on large gatherings during the coronavirus pandemic but was streamed online, with questions taken from supporters in the room and via email.

But the attendance was enough to help deliver the mandate for the Trust to progress, after no objections were given in the room or online.

The founding members will form a steering group which will now work towards setting up the Trust as a formal organisation, within the guidelines of the Football Supporters’ Association (FSA), over the next few months.

From there, an AGM to take place later in the year where a board could be elected and the Trust be officially launched.

The main aim of Monday’s open meeting was to present the aspirations of the Trust should it be set up and explain the work it could potentially carry out.

Other founder members including Ian Brandwood and Steve Walmsley joined Silverwood in speaking about the plans.

Deborah Dilworth of the FSA explained to the meeting the purposes of a supporters’ trust and covered some of the past successes of such organisations.

And the FSA’s head of supporter engagement and governance Ashley Brown spoke about the organisation’s activities as well as the success of the Pompey Trust, which helped to save Portsmouth in 2013 before running the club for four years.

Silverwood spoke about the difficult periods Wednesday have been through over the past few decades, from relegation from the Premier League, near oblivion for the club and stagnation.

And he feels the outlook for the Owls is no brighter at this stage than it has been over that time, which has implored him to act.

“I think this current period actually hurts more than any of those times precisely because we thought those days were behind us,” Silverwood said.

“We thought these days were going to be different and we would not have to deal with those issues again.

“Yet, here we find ourselves with concerns over financial sustainability, apathy and disaffection among the fanbase, a lack of communication from the club and an organisation that all too often appears to have no leadership or strategic direction.

“That is a description that could have been any time over the last 30 to 40 years unfortunately.”

Silverwood told the meeting of his hopes that the Trust could help bring unity among supporters once again.

“We’re all here for one reason only and that is our love for Sheffield Wednesday Football Club,” he said.

“The best times for me, supporting this club, is when the fanbase has been together.

“The club has been at its best and is at its best when it is a family and a community.

“There is no better feeling than entering Hillsborough and feeling that buzz of collective purpose, when fans, players and management alike have a common goal.

“I ask, how many times has it felt like that, especially lately?”