Writer: Mikey Delap
Date:Tuesday September 25 2012
The campaign to bring Blackburn Rovers into community ownership has been given a massive boost with two major supporters` organisations joining forces to turn the ambitious goal into reality.
Blackburn Rovers Supporters Investment Trust (BRSIT) and Blackburn Rovers Supporters Trust (BRST) have united to form Rovers Trust, bringing together the two supporter organisations whose goal is to own the Ewood Park club in whole or part.
Rovers Trust has the full approval of Supporters Direct, the official independent Government body set up to advise football fans on taking a stake in their club.
The two groups have spent the summer formulating their merger plans, setting up the new trust as a Community Benefit Society and making sure all the relevant legal and financial structures are in place.
Rovers Trust is fully democratic, accountable and is being led by experts in their fields (a full list of Rovers Trust personnel will be available on the website: www.roverstrust.co.uk) who are all devoting their time for free.
A membership drive is being launched today with the aim of signing up as many Blackburn Rovers supporters as possible to give Rovers Trust credibility and authority.
Annual membership of Rovers Trust has been set at just £10 per annum.
The membership push will be quickly followed by a share-raising plan modelled on the 'pledge scheme` first launched by BRSIT earlier this year, which, to date, has seen almost £3 million pledged by supporters wanting to buy a £1,000 share in a new ownership model.
The challenge for Rovers Trust is to convert those pledges into real shares and also persuade more supporters to buy into the scheme. An initial target of £10 million is being set to help ensure the club`s future is in the hands of fans and the community.
BRST has worked towards supporter representation at the club since its creation and held the mandate as the official supporters` trust of Blackburn Rovers by Supporters Direct.
Rovers` legends Simon Garner and Glenn Keeley are official supporters among former players.
High profile supporters and local businesses have also announced they are backing the Rovers Trust.
They include local MPs Jack Straw, Jake Berry and Graham Jones as well as regional MEP Brian Simpson; Kate Hollern, Leader of Blackburn with Darwen Council; Sir Bill Taylor and Lord Taylor Of Blackburn.
Fan groups such as the BRFC Action Group, Ewood Blues, Blackburn Rovers Supporters Internet Site, and the Blackburn Rovers Supporters Club Norway all backed BRSIT`s campaign to launch funds to buy the club and it is hoped they will back the merged supporters trust.
Rovers Trust will be co-chaired by BRST founder Oliver Jones, a specialist music retailer, and Wayne Wild, one of the co-founders of BRSIT and group director of Darwen-based engineering firm WEC Group Ltd.
Oliver said: "Setting up Rovers Trust was the logical step to bring together the two supporter groups whose goal was the same - securing the future of Blackburn Rovers for the sole benefit of the club, its supporters and the wider community.
"We have brought together a talented team of fans who have spent many months working on the structure of the trust to ensure it is legally watertight and financially ready to gain an ownership interest in Blackburn Rovers.
"Our principal objective is to obtain full or part ownership of Blackburn Rovers and its assets on behalf of fellow supporters in order to represent supporters` views whilst protecting the club's short and long term future.
"Membership of Rovers Trust is very affordable for all fans and, at the very least, gives those supporters a real say in the future running of Blackburn Rovers."
Wayne said: "By uniting we can concentrate on our two main aims: Making as many supporters as possible members of Rovers Trust and persuading as many supporters as possible to buy one or more shares in the Community Benefit Society.
"This gives us the ideal platform to persuade members, supporters and the business community to raise enough capital to buy the club.
"Shares cost £1,000 each and this money will be the acquisition capital used by Rovers Trust to gain ownership of Blackburn Rovers.
"The share price has been set at £1,000 per share to raise enough money to show the owners of the club how serious we are. This aspiration of ownership will only happen if we can find enough capital to get into a position to negotiate with the owners.
"It would then be the members who would elect the majority of the board, alongside other highly skilled and respected directors. The members would hold this board to account as the ultimate owners of the club."
All money donated will be paid into an independent legally-secured Escrow Bank Account accompanied by supporting documentation from the depositor.
Nothing can happen to the money without permission and shareholders will be given the opportunity to withdraw their donations at certain times a year.
The real cash shares are necessary to put Rovers Trust in a position to purchase the club.
Should a takeover offer be accepted, a full prospectus will be made public outlining the purchase amount required, financial projections to show how Rovers will be run, plus more detail about the structure to show how supporters and the community will own the club.
Kevin Rye, spokesman for Supporters Direct, said: "It's great to see two initiatives that were set-up with the ambition of seeing the fans and wider community at the centre of the ownership structure for Blackburn Rovers coming together as one.
"We hope the Rovers Trust is equipped to reach its aim and a provides a new path for all those who follow the club."
As well as Supporters Direct, the merger between BRSIT and BRST was advised by corporate finance experts Pall Mall Capital and national law firm Gateley. Pall Mall Capital, Gateley and Farleys Solicitors in Blackburn will continue to advise the Board of Rovers Trust.
Finance expert Daniel Grabko, a founder of BRSIT, has played the leading role in devising the structure of the new trust and formulating the share offer.
For more information, become a member and to make a pledge of financial support please visit : www.roverstrust.co.uk
Date:Tuesday September 25 2012
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