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Supporter Ownership Week Interviews – Dunfermline Athletic

Date: 14th April 2015

East End Park

This week, we’re celebrating supporter ownership and involvement in their clubs with Supporter Ownership Week. As part of the week’s programme, we’re conducting interviews with those working at clubs and supporters trusts that are leading the way with regards to fans taking a hands-on role at their clubs. On Monday, we posted our interview with Tadek Kopszywa, Secretary at East Stirlingshire on the changes that the League Two club have gone through and what their future holds.

Today, we’re sharing an interview we conducted with Margaret Ross, who is a Director at Dunfermline Athletic. The club were saved from potential liquidation in late 2013 by Pars United, an umbrella organisation for Dunfermline Athletic supporters’ trusts, after the club had fallen into administration following financial mismanagement by previous owner Gavin Masterton.

It has been a difficult period for everyone connected with the club, but Margaret now believes that the current ownership structure provides a strong foundation for the club to grow.

“I believe that the new ownership structure is very positive and that DAFC is now a sustainable football club which is widely owned by Pars Supporters. The current structure at Dunfermline leans very much towards fans having not only a degree of ownership, but a large say in the governance of the club. 

To get to where we are now, we set up Pars United as a Community Interest Company (PUCIC) to raise funds and prepare a bid for DAFC.  A second company (under the PUCIC umbrella) Pars United East End Park Limited (PU EEP) was formed to allow us to raise the necessary funds and prepare a bid for the Stadium.

PUCIC raised sufficient funding, the bid was successful and they now own 93.6% of the issued share capital of DAFC, with the balance held by around 200 Shareholders who had acquired shares over the years, some are known to us and some are untraceable. PU EEP was also successful in the purchase of East End Park.

The Pars Supporters’ Trust currently is the largest Shareholder in PUCIC, owning 28.34%, with a number of other investors (Patrons) owning the remainder. The largest Patron shareholding is 6.46%.  Our articles state that no dividends will be paid to Shareholders, so in effect the PST and Patrons have made a donation to PUCIC. 

We have two members of the PST on the PUCIC Board and one member of the PST on the DAFC Board, and feel that this is working well at the moment.”

As well as proving successful for the club thus far, there is also a belief that this structure could potentially be implemented elsewhere, helping other clubs and supporters’ groups make the transition from one ownership structure to another.

“If you get the right balance of Business knowledge, financial and voluntary input, then this will certainly work for other clubs. We no longer have the problem of one owner being almost in total control of all things at DAFC, and the club being at the mercy of his financial and business success or failure.”

In yesterday’s interview with Tadek Kopszywa of East Stirlingshire, the issue of community was discussed and the role clubs can play as a pillar of their local communities. There was the belief at The Shire that their new structure could help build bridges and raise the club’s stature in the community, away from the on-pitch matters. For Margaret, there is a similar sentiment, reinforced by the immense support from the local community when the club needed it the most.

“During our Administration period all our fans and fan’s groups pulled together to help us financially work through this difficult time, raising hundreds of thousands of pounds to allow us to stay in business during Administration, and then raise further significant amounts to help purchase the club from the Administrator. The local business community, many of whom had lost a lot of money because of Administration were extremely supportive, as were many local supporters of other football clubs.

As usual in any football club there are always many different supporters groups who have different thoughts about how they can and should become involved, and sometimes things become fragmented; though in general all our supporter groups are still working away individually whilst continuing to pull together to ensure that we successfully move forward.”

With the future looking bright for Dunfermline Athletic both on and off the pitch and with stability being achieved after a turbulent period, Margaret and everyone else involved at the club can look towards their next set of aims.

“Well, our aim on the field was to successfully move up the divisions quickly, but it’s not as easy as just saying these words and it suddenly happens! We have struggled over the last two seasons, but still remain positive that we will progress higher in Scottish football, whether it takes one or two years, or many years, who knows. Our club survived a traumatic time, we successfully came through it, and we have every ambition to be one of the top clubs in Scotland, one day!

Off the field we have been slowly integrating ourselves again into the local community.  We have raised thousands of pounds for CHAS and Poppy Scotland in the last two years, and we have a great Community programme which sees our players and volunteers visit all the local schools, passing on health and fitness knowledge.”

Dunfermline Athletic are another fantastic example of what can be achieved when supporters and local businesses come together to help their club and the local community. By engaging not just with their own fans, but the people of Dunfermline and beyond, the club have been able to attract huge support throughout these past couple of years to find themselves in the strong position they are in now. With a solid foundation now established, there’s a terrific opportunity for Athletic to work their way back to the highest level of Scottish football; with their supporters leading the way.

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