Would your club be better off as a co-operative

Co-operative sports club ownership

British Football clubs consider alternative ownership structures but they aren’t the only organisations who find that a “commercial” ownership structure can benefit both the community and the entity.

Football clubs have a lot of money to play with but many high profile clubs have gone bust recently and others have turned to community ownership (AFC Wimbledon and FC United of Manchester) in a bid to create a club run for the fans rather than a business run for profit.

Take a read of this article about co-operative ownerships by the Guardian Social Enterprise and Andrew Bibby.  And this by Dave Boyle and co-ops for professional football.

Have any Rowing Clubs issued shares?

To my knowledge, rowing clubs haven’t got into issuing shares yet.  But since 2002 many moved to a CASC (Community Amateur Sports Club) operational status in order to take advantage of reduced local authority rates in the UK among other advantages.

Tideway Scullers school built a boathouse extension as a gym in the 1980s and funded it by members who were repaid through rents earned from the residential accommodation created on the upper floor.

Marlow Rowing Club is working to fund raise for a new clubhouse at the moment.

Can a boathouse be a centre of the community?

Some rowing clubs are located in premises close to town centres and on very accessible sites – Maidenhead is a good example, next to the town bridge.  What’s to stop a club forming an owner ship structure whereby the community can use the premises for a range of activities (bar, gym, hall, boat bays) and by a variety of community groups?

Thames Tradesmen is located in a building owned by the local authority and shared with a Hockey Club and a Rugby club – all three use the building and accommodate the different times of day and building needs of their members and together they run the bar.

Could your club benefit from a wider ownership base and take advantage of community funding for capital projects, wider building access and use and hence a bigger budget to achieve what you want (new boats, more members, paid bar staff)?

What do you think?  Could rowing clubs benefit from becoming co-operatives?


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5 thoughts on “Would your club be better off as a co-operative

  1. bob cannell says:

    Rowing clubs can be Societies for the Benefit of the Community (BenComs in coop speak) which are owned and controlled by share owning members of the benefiting(?) community. That can be the membership or wider so long as they have open membership for anyone using their services and abiding by their rules (and arent exclusive private members clubs).
    BenComs are equivalent to charities and share many of the tax benefits of charities and access to lottery money etc.
    Many county cricket clubs are cooperative societies but only for their members’ benefit. Again because they get tax advantages.
    These legal forms have great advantages if you have a trading operation. Much simpler than setting up as a charity and more democratic than having the great and good as trustees. And you join the worldwide family of cooperatives which is a lovely supportive network and a lot bigger than you think.
    If you would like free advice on converting to a coop have a look at http://www.co-operative.coop/enterprisehub/ Just one example how big coops help little coops.

    cheers
    Bob Cannell
    Cooperative Business Consultants
    and Bradford ARC

    Look at

    You can get free advice on turning your

    • Rebecca Caroe says:

      Bob

      Thanks so much for your most informative post on our blog about rowing clubs and co-operatives! One of the things I love about rowing is that there’s an expert out there somewhere on just about anything – you are the perfect man to comment!

      Is Bradford ARC a co-operative?

  2. Jim Pettipher says:

    Hi Rebecca,

    We are about to incorporate Ross as an Industrial & Provident Community Benefit Society (CBS for short), which will then achieve charitable status either by registering as an “exempt” charity or as a “community amateur sports club” or CASC. And yes, that will indeed make us a form of co-operative (there are 6,000 or so co-ops in the UK).

    There are plenty of good money / fundraising / democracy / community related reasons for following that and similar legal structure paths, (registered charities are a possibility too) but perhaps the most important and possibly the one that clubs like to think about least is managing risk.

    Ross Rowing Club is presently an “unincorporated association” which means our members and – in particular – our committee does not have limited liability, which they would have if we were incorporated as either an Industrial & Provident Society or a limited company.

    To see but one example of what trouble this can lead unsuspecting committee members into, they might like to read this article about the case of Davies v Barnes Webster & Sons Ltd.

    http://www.bateswells.co.uk/articles/Unincorporated-Associations-The-Perils-of-Holding-Office-by-Thea-Longley-Augustus-Della-Porta-Charity-Social-Enterprise-Law-Update-Spring-2012.html?a=a

    Here are a few highlights,

    ““Mr Davies was president of a rugby club and a holding trustee of the club’s property. He found himself served with a statutory demand for £148,000 that was overdue on a building contract the club had entered into. The contract had been signed by the club’s treasurer and Mr Davies had witnessed it. Mr Davies sought to argue that as he was only a holding trustee and had not signed the contract he was not personally liable for the debt. The court confirmed that the committee entrusted with the management of the affairs of the unincorporated association is liable for unpaid debts, unless its constitution says otherwise. The committee does not necessarily have to give express authority for a transaction to be liable in respect of it – where the committee knew of and acquiesced in other transactions of the same nature it will also be deemed to have authorised the transaction in question.”

    Many community sports clubs (rowing is not alone in this) and their committees operate as unincorporated association like Ross. I am now working with Thea Longley of Bates Wells who wrote the article above and the model constitution for an unicorporated association (10 years ago) that is available to rowing clubs for free on the British Rowing website.

    We are hoping to make the benefits of our shared expertise (like Bob, I am a co-operative development specialist in my day job) available to other clubs through a project called club.coop

    The basic idea is that by clubbing together (a.k.a. co-operating) community sports clubs can access and share expertise and resources that would be too expensive for them individually. The time and expertise of the top flight legal specialist like those at Bates Wells being a good example, as are websites, databases, book keeping / accountancy, regatta software, marquess for regattas… you can add to the list as you like!

    If you or your club would like to know more, then please feel free to contact me either through my Ross RC address, or through my work address which is jim@futures.coop

    Yours in co-operative rowing!

    Jim

  3. Jim Pettipher says:

    Hi Rebecca & Bob,

    We are about to incorporate Ross as an Industrial & Provident Community Benefit Society (CBS for short), which will then achieve charitable status either by registering as an “exempt” charity or as a “community amateur sports club” or CASC. And yes, that will indeed make us a form of co-operative (there are 6,000 or so co-ops in the UK).

    There are plenty of good money / fundraising / democracy / community related reasons for following that and similar legal structure paths, (registered charities are a possibility too) but perhaps the most important and possibly the one that clubs like to think about least is managing risk.

    Ross Rowing Club is presently an “unincorporated association” which means our members and – in particular – our committee does not have limited liability, which they would have if we were incorporated as either an Industrial & Provident Society or a limited company.

    To see but one example of what trouble this can lead unsuspecting committee members into, they might like to read this article about the case of Davies v Barnes Webster & Sons Ltd.

    http://www.bateswells.co.uk/articles/Unincorporated-Associations-The-Perils-of-Holding-Office-by-Thea-Longley-Augustus-Della-Porta-Charity-Social-Enterprise-Law-Update-Spring-2012.html?a=a

    Here are a few highlights,

    ““Mr Davies was president of a rugby club and a holding trustee of the club’s property. He found himself served with a statutory demand for £148,000 that was overdue on a building contract the club had entered into. The contract had been signed by the club’s treasurer and Mr Davies had witnessed it. Mr Davies sought to argue that as he was only a holding trustee and had not signed the contract he was not personally liable for the debt. The court confirmed that the committee entrusted with the management of the affairs of the unincorporated association is liable for unpaid debts, unless its constitution says otherwise. The committee does not necessarily have to give express authority for a transaction to be liable in respect of it – where the committee knew of and acquiesced in other transactions of the same nature it will also be deemed to have authorised the transaction in question.”

    Many community sports clubs (rowing is not alone in this) and their committees operate as unincorporated association like Ross. I am now working with Thea Longley of Bates Wells who wrote the article above and the model constitution for an unicorporated association (10 years ago) that is available to rowing clubs for free on the British Rowing website.

    We are hoping to make the benefits of our shared expertise (like Bob, I am a co-operative development specialist in my day job) available to other clubs through a project called club.coop

    The basic idea is that by clubbing together (a.k.a. co-operating) community sports clubs can access and share expertise and resources that would be too expensive for them individually. The time and expertise of the top flight legal specialist like those at Bates Wells being a good example, as are websites, databases, book keeping / accountancy, regatta software, marquess for regattas… you can add to the list as you like!

    If you or your club would like to know more, then please feel free to contact me either through my Ross RC address, or through my work address which is jim@futures.coop

    Yours in co-operative rowing!

    Jim

    • Rebecca Caroe says:

      Jim, thank you so very much for this comment. When you are ready to publish more about “Club.coop” Please send it over to us so we can help you get more publicity for the movement.

      I love the idea of clubbing together to share expertise and equipment. We often find that clubs would like to buy a Rowperfect (an expensive bit of kit) and are hampered by lack of money. A couple of times we’ve seen successful co-operation agreements. One was Avon Country RC with Bristol University BC – they both had one RP and put them into the same boathouse so all club members coule benefit. Another was Yorkshire Regional Rowing Council who bought Rowperfects and made them available to all clubs in the region on a loan basis.

      Rowperfect runs a club sponsorship scheme whereby supported clubs get a discount in our online store. We’d love to support the club.coop group – please get in touch if you’d like to join the group. Clubs currently on the programme include: Leicester RC, Weybridge RC, Teign Scullers, Tideway Scullers, Oundle Town, Aberdeen RC, Pengwern, Jersey RC and Sudbury RC.

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