Community invests to save Aldershot Town football club

Fan power kicks-off a share offer to steer Aldershot Town out of receivership.

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The Independent Online

David Cameron is hoping to tap into the growing power of community ownership. He revealed plans this week to give grants to communities to buy and run local pubs, shops and other amenities under threat of closure.

His announcement on Thursday didn't mention football clubs, but they are getting on with it without the need for government intervention. Already this season, recent FA Cup winner Portsmouth have been saved from going bust by fan power and becoming community owned.

This week it was Aldershot Town's turn. In a move that should cheer football fans everywhere, supporters of the club kicked-off a share offer to bring the club out of administration and into community ownership.

The club went into administration last month just days after being relegated from the Football League. But fans fought back and have set up the Shots Trust to launch a share offer – with support from the Co-operative Enterprise Hub – to raise £500,000 and demonstrate the reality of the supporter-owned model to the club's administrators.

"The last few months have been a difficult time for fans with relegation and then administration," said Terry Owens, chair of the Shots Trust.

"Considering all the uncertainty, the loyalty and passion shown has been incredible – the fans deserve more and that's what we believe community ownership would give them.

"Launching this pre-share offer will allow us to show there is more than just goodwill to offer and allow us to progress plans for a community purchase of Aldershot Town."

With investors needing to stump up from just £100, the share issue has every chance of success, judging by similar moves across the country. Some 33 clubs in the UK are now in community ownership or controlled by supporters' trusts, including the Football League sides AFC Wimbledon, Exeter City, Portsmouth and Wycombe Wanderers.

It's a trend that is welcomed by many football fans. Adam Smith of VoucherCodesPro is a Manchester City supporter, but says: "Having fans set up a co-operative share offer to take the club out of administration and into community ownership shows Aldershot has tremendous support.

"German clubs are a prime example of fan ownership. Look at their dominance in world football and the profits they make. Aldershot Town is making a step in the right direction."

But the football clubs are just part of the community movement which has seen several important amenities saved by local investors keen to put their savings into ventures they can support and from which they can benefit.

There has been a 10 per cent increase in UK co-operative enterprises over the last two years, rising from 5,450 in 2010 to 6,000 last year.

Michael Fairclough of the Co-op said: "Co-operation can be key to safeguarding much-loved local assets. Communities working together are a powerful catalyst for change that can overcome many of the challenges facing today's society."

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