On Thursday night, flaked out on a couch and armed with a laptop and a cup of coffee, I had one of my most rewarding experiences as a football fan in recent memory. And no, before you ask, I wasn’t rabidly celebrating the outcome of an overseas match viewed through a dodgy delayed stream with Arabic commentary; I joined The 1895 Trust.
The 1895 Trust is a supporter’s trust founded by Shelbourne FC fans in October 2012. With guidance from Supporters Direct and support from FORAS (the fan group behind Cork City FC), the trust officially launched on March 28th in Tolka Park, with the first AGM coming up on April 22nd.
The trust is arguably the most positive development to have emerged from Shelbourne since the club last won the Premier Division title in 2006. Promotion back to the Premier Division, after four years in Ireland’s second tier, hasn’t proved to be a remedy to the club’s financial ailments. Indeed, despite finishing comfortably mid-table in their first season back in the big time, manager Alan Matthews has had to operate on a reduced budget this season which can only have contributed to the Reds’ dismal start to the 2013 campaign. The financial problems currently hindering the club, a hangover from the crisis which seen Shelbourne demoted from the top division as league champions in 2006, haven’t been aided by largely unremarkable match attendances and the uncertainty regarding the club’s future at Tolka Park.
Of course, whether The 1895 Trust can assist Shelbourne in overcoming these hurdles, and indeed eventually bring about fan ownership of the club, depends on the willingness of Reds’ fans to get involved, but based on the reaction to the launch that certainly should not be an issue. In fact, the presence at the launch of Shelbourne chairman Joe Casey and manager Alan Matthews provides evidence that the Trust, even now during its infancy, can be the vehicle to end, or at least lessen, the perceived lack of communication from the club towards its supporters that has festered in recent years.
The League of Ireland has paid witness to successful supporters’ trusts before, with Shamrock Rovers’ 400 club wrestling control of the club through the courts from the former owners in 2005 and more recently, in 2010, FORAS brought Cork City back from the ashes after the club was liquidated and delivered them back to the Premier Division at the first attempt. Hopefully, The 1895 Trust’s journey will be that bit smoother as chairman Joe Casey proclaimed at the launch that he and the board of the management see “the trust as an integral cog in the club’s machinery in the future.”
As a Shels fan, the future is looking quite bleak at the moment. Matthews’ side look like realistic candidates for relegation having picked up just one point out of a possible 12 in the first four matches of the season and the team have already been eliminated from the EA Sports Cup. The chances of a long-term stay at Tolka also look to be diminishing. The situation is far from ideal, but, to paraphrase Mark Twain, you should plan for the future because that’s where you’re going to to spend the rest of your life. Joining The 1895 Trust could be the first step taken in securing the future of Shelbourne and eventually transforming it into something better and brighter.
There was a Briogaid Dearg banner displayed when Shels were demoted which declared: ‘And When They Heard of The Resurrection Some Mocked But We Rise Again’. Running with the religious theme, it turned out the spoils of Premier Division promotion were the dreams of a false prophet, but this supporters’ trust, aptly launched over Easter, finally offers us the chance to get the club off of its knees. Judging by the post-launch reaction from club legends and fans, it has certainly restored some hope for the future.
The 1895 Trust