Backing Pools – straight answers from HUST

The Coronavirus crisis has hit everybody hard and football clubs, particularly those in non-league and in the lower divisions are suffering from the loss of the regular income generated by matches. Pools are no exception and two responses we’ve seen to this crisis so far are the GoFundMe campaign, asking fans to donate to the playing budget, and the club’s proposal for an Equity Participation Scheme.

Lots of supporters want to help Pools so both have attracted considerable interest and lively discussion on social media. The HUST board can’t possibly join in with all these discussions and the nature of Twitter, Facebook and other platforms means that misunderstanding or confusion can spread very quickly. To clear up any confusion on a few key issues we’ve put together some frequently asked questions with clear answers:

Do you support fundraising such as the current GoFundMe appeal?
Donations to football clubs isn’t the main thing Supporters Trusts are formed to do but we don’t have any problem with direct fundraising. Similar campaigns over recent years have seen a lot of our members contribute quite significantly, not least because a number of members, including Board members, are involved in other fan-groups too. We still think these groups and fundraising efforts are vitally important for the Club. However, HUST wasn’t set-up to donate funds directly to the Club, and this would go against the rules as a Supporters Trust. We can, and have, conducted special fundraising for this type of donation, and the Legends Day in October was a good example of this, raising over £1200 for the Pools Youth system. HUST always encourages people to support the club directly by getting to matches and buying merchandise, but we’re also passionate about the need to secure effective and democratic fan representation, through buying shares, and the need for a “club rescue” fund in case one is ever needed. That makes HUST a bit different from other fan groups but we can certainly co-exist and lots of fans might want to back both approaches.

What about the club’s Equity Participation Scheme?
The EPS could has the potential to be a means of starting to buy shares and build supporter representation at the club. However, the club presented it as a “high level” idea and because Supporters Trusts have clear rules we’ll need to get a much clearer picture of how the scheme will work in practice before considering committing money to it, and any input from fans needs to be achievable and sustainable. If the detailed scheme is the sort of thing a something a Supporters Trust can invest in, and enough HUST members were keen on the idea, we’d put it to a vote open to all members. This type of democracy is one of the requirements of being a properly organised and
recognised supporters trust – the Board can’t just spend the funds even if we think something is an excellent idea.

What is the money in the HUST bank account for then?
Ultimately at some point this will all end up in the Club, possibly to obtain shares in exchange for some formal fan involvement, now or in the future. That’s HUST’s preferred route. However, outside the Premier League and Championship life is increasingly hard for football clubs so we also have to recognise that some funds we build up might be saved required as a safety net if anything unfortunate happens to the club.

So do you want to take over the club?
We don’t. Like many other supporters trusts we aim to represent the views of fans and increase the influence and involvement of Pools fans in HUFC. We have always said we are keen to build up a strong relationship with Pools and the current owner Mr Singh. We do favour an ownership model that includes formal fan representation as we strongly believe that this can benefit the Football Club and the wider community. Some members may actually prefer HUST to develop ways of becoming a fan-owned club, but the current HUST board only view this as being a last resort, only to be considered if all other options were cut off.

Did you want to start a Phoenix Club though before Mr Singh took over?
Absolutely not, but at that stage needing a last resort was a possibility and the timing specified by the Football Association for new club applications meant we had to make some arrangements in case it was needed. As soon as a new owner came forward these basic, precautionary arrangements were dropped. Some did believe that this was the best option, but the HUST Board and the vast majority of our members didn’t agree then and don’t agree now.

Why do you not just answer these questions on social media?
We’re volunteers with families and jobs to consider. The HUST board simply can’t afford the time to continuously defend the organisation on social media pages. We hope that this page helps clarify some matters that come up quite regularly.

Some of your members fuel arguments with what they post on social media. Why don’t you do something about them?
Social Media has its downside, in lots of discussions, on all topics, and some people go over the top. We encourage all of our members to be respectful to other supporters and remember that we’re all Poolies at heart. We have asked a few members to remove comments that directly mentioned HUST where they were inaccurate or worded in a way that might be seen as provocative, however, even if we could, we wouldn’t want to police the opinions of our members every time they go online. Being a HUST member means they support our efforts regarding fan representation at Pools, as long as they don’t seem to be speaking on behalf of HUST their views on all other aspects of football, and the wider world, are their own business.

Do the HUST board actually go to games?
All of the current HUST board are season ticket holders and long-term supporters of the club. You can read a bit more about the Board here. We don’t check if HUST members go or not, and we have members in countries across the world which makes getting to matches regularly impossible, but we know the majority do. Like the wider fan-base some have circumstances that mean they don’t go as often as they would like to but all clubs have a mixture of fans who are always there, home and away, and others who go less often. They’re all still fans and are welcome to join HUST.

Have HUST membership numbers dwindled?
To some extent, yes. Our numbers have reduced since peaking at around 1100 two years ago. This is disappointing but it is also a pattern seen at other Supporters Trusts nationally where membership tends to mirror the stability of the club. For example, Bury had around 750 members in January last year but, as the crisis that threatened them developed, it rapidly doubled. We’d like to get away from this pattern so please consider renewing your membership if it has lapsed or joining HUST if you haven’t before.

If you do have any other questions or feedback, please contact us directly via social media or by emailing membership@hufcsupporterstrust.org.uk

And when the new season does start remember that as well as attending games we’re always happy to talk to members and non-members about HUST so feel free to introduce yourself.

You can read more detail about HUST here.