HUST? What’s That?
HUST is the abbreviated name for the Hartlepool United Supporters’ Trust, which is the trading name of Hartlepool Supporters Society Limited (FCA’s register number 7159). HUST is one of more than 200 Football Supporters’ Association (FSA) affiliated Supporters’ Trusts established throughout Premier League, Football League, and Non-league football clubs, and more recently Rugby League and Union clubs throughout the UK. Established in 2015 and recognised by the FA and the Government, HUST, like other Supporters’ Trusts across the country is an independent, democratically run supporters’ organisation that seeks to represent the views of the fans to the Club and help promote communication from the club to the fans. All Trusts are formally-constituted legal bodies, and HUST, like many others, is registered as a Community Benefit Society (CBS).
What does formally constituted mean?
It means that there are rules that we have to follow and principles that we have to uphold. We must abide by the legal requirements that are established for a CBS: we must have a constitution and a properly constituted structure. As a CBS, we are compelled to be a not-for-profit organisation, to present accounts to the Financial Conduct Authority, and to have an Annual General Meeting. HUST is owned by its members and run by a democratically-elected Board.
And who makes sure that you do those things?
The most important people that make sure that HUST does as it is supposed to are the members themselves. Members make and approve policy, they elect a Board and provide feedback on the performance of the Board.
Then there is the Financial Conduct Authority, who now ensures that all registered Trusts and Friendly Societies – from the mammoth Co-Operative Society down to the smallest Football Trust – act in accordance with the rules and requirements that they’ve signed up to.
And, of course, there is the FSA, who ensure that all the supporters’ trusts are working properly and legally.
The Football Supporters’ Association? Who are they?
The Supporters Direct organisation was established by the UK Government in 2000, charged with turning the Football Task Force’s commitment to fan involvement in their clubs into a reality. They’re responsible for making sure that fans have the resources and information required to establish Trusts. They negotiate with the clubs, lobby the authorities and generally support the Trust movement. Their remit has more recently expanded into other sports outside of Football, and overall they’ve been hugely successful; since their formation around 200 Trusts have been formed with a combined membership of close to 300,000 members. Since Supporters Direct was established, supporters’ trusts have brought a financial injection of well over £30 million of new finance to football and rugby, leading to 25 clubs being owned or controlled by their Trusts, with over 65 now having board representation and over 100 with shareholdings at their clubs.
In 2018 members of Supporters Direct voted to merge SD with the Football Supporters’ Federation, a similarly minded organisation based around promoting fans’ voices in football. The newly merged organisation was named the FSA and HUST continue with our affiliated status.
You can read more about the FSA at their website https://thefsa.org.uk/.
OK, so HUST is a properly-established and regulated body, but why establish one at Hartlepool United?
HUST was formed by a committed group of HUFC fans in 2015 as they believed that there was a need for an independent supporters’ organisation that could articulate the views of Hartlepool United supporters, lobby the club and provide the basis for some element of fan involvement and influence with the football club. At the time IOR still owned the club, however, it was clear that no investments were being made and that they were likely looking for a route away from the club. Soon after HUST’s formation there was a period of significant turmoil at the club, with some early HUST members highlighting several serious and valid concerns over the TMH and Coxall/Golberg take overs, which improved little when Sage Investments got involved. Following the Singh/Stelling take-over, the time for completion of which was paid for entirely by the generosity of football fans – including HUST members – from the town and across the country, and the local community, we have reached a period of calm and relative stability. HUST continue to actively seek funds to support the current club’s owners with investment, or to retain to ensure that we do not find ourselves in the dire position again.
Now more than ever, HUST seeks to be a part of the future of the club. Even apart from the club’s own immediate future, the number of clubs in trouble in the past – and the many cases where self-serving and unscrupulous people have bought and run clubs for their own benefit – serve as a constant reminder that we need to think as much about the future as we do the present. The stronger the involvement of the fans in the life of their clubs, the stronger their voice, their powers of scrutiny and their ability to ensure that their clubs are run properly.
What happens with the money raised?
HUST continues to raise money to create an investment fund for supporting the club’s existing owners or a fighting fund that could be used in emergency situations to secure the future of the club. It takes time to raise an emergency fund, and the young age of HUST means we were not in a financial position to step in early in 2018, however, it is important that we seek to achieve that position given no one knows what the future might bring.
Membership fees and financial donations to HUST are all securely ring fenced for HUST‘s constitutional purpose – for increasing the influence and involvement in the sustainable running of our club and to act as a security back stop if the worst was to happen. HUST has several on-going fundraising initiatives to raise funds directly for HUST, and occasionally holds/promotes events to raise money for community groups. It is important to note that no membership fee payments or HUST donations are transferred to other organisations, and that when fundraising takes place for organisations other than HUST this is advertised clearly in advance.
What about the Supporters Association then? Are you trying to replace it?
Absolutely not. Many HUST members are also members of the Supporters Association, and everyone recognises what an excellent job that HUSA does. HUST’s aims and objectives are different from anything the Supporters Association, and indeed any of the HUFC affiliated fan groups do, and we firmly believe that there is a role for the separate organisations at Hartlepool United, each working in their different spheres.
We explicitly invite people to join HUST to get involved in the issues that concern the fans and to act as a voice for their interests. That may mean talking to the club, lobbying the club’s officials, liaising the FA and Football League, campaigning amongst the fans, representing the supporters’ views to local politicians and media, and working with other national and local football groups on supporter issues generally. Furthermore, as a CBS we can support local community activities for the benefit of the local people, raising the profile of HUST and HUFC while giving back our time, energy and support to the people who back our club. The Supporters Association doesn’t do most of those things because that’s not what it is there for and that’s not why people join it.