Last Monday night saw Frome Town Football Club take its first steps toward community ownership. In a well-attended public meeting with over 120 people, there was overwhelming support for this next step to ensure the future of the club. The meeting invited members of the community to come and hear about potential next steps and to ensure that both the football community and the wider community were onboard.
Earlier this year Frome Town Football Club and Frome Town Council made a deal to secure the ground at Badgers Hill, with the understanding that there would need to be a restructuring with a potential for community ownership.
Jon Carver, Vice Chairman of Frome Town Football Club, introduced the meeting to the concept: “Most clubs our level live on financial knife edge – Frome is no exception – revenue is down, with less sponsorship and expenditure going up. We may love this ground, but it now looks tired, and we know a lot needs to be done to improve infrastructure and so amongst other things there is a need for capital injection, and we need to look at how to secure the club for long term future.
There are lots of options and we’ve not been standing still – The Clubhouse is fantastic example of the move to improve as a local social community venue and they are off to a great start, but there is much more to be done starting with engaging with the experts on community restructuring.”
Councillor Mel Usher discussed with enthusiasm the opportunities looking forward but made it clear to the meeting that there would be no more money from Frome Town Council and that there was lots of hard work to do to move the club to community ownership. He did however reiterate Frome Town Council’s commitment to support that process. “This is an exciting opportunity for the future of the club but this is where the really hard work starts – we will be on the journey with you but we need energy and commitment from you, and the wider public to really ensure that this is truly a community club.”
There was a presentation from Andy Walsh of the Football Supporters Association, who has a wealth of experience guiding over 40 Clubs through the community ownership process. He explained how it might work, beginning with the formation of a steering group to drive the club through the various steps required. And finally, Jon Bickley & Oliver Holtaway shared Bath City Football Club’s journey to be a mutual beneficial society. Jon said: “There is no doubt that it is hard work but becoming part of a community owned Bath City is one of the best things we have ever done.”
A discussion amongst attendees followed this, where they were asked a number of questions: What does the club need? How can we involve more people with the skills and experience needed? How can we bring more money into the club? Feedback revealed a number of common themes including the need for good financial management and transparency, the need for better community connection and improved marketing, many income generating ideas and thoughts about development of the club and improved facilities.
Chair Nick White then asked for a show of hands for the initiative to continue to explore community ownership, form a steering group and to take the next steps toward a Community Benefit Society that could take Frome Town Football Club forward. This was greeted with enormous enthusiasm just a smidgeon away from a unanimous agreement!
A full public report will follow but if you would like to see the film of the meeting, please visit Frome Town Council’s YouTube channel.
And if you would like to sign up to be part of the journey, either as part of a steering group or in general you would like to be kept informed, sign up here.