In British sports, a supporters' trust is a formal, democratic and not-for-profit organisation of fans who attempt to strengthen the influence of supporters over the running of the club they support. There are over 140 supporters’ trusts across England, Wales and Scotland and the majority of these are affiliated to football clubs, however trusts also exist for Rugby League and Rugby Union.
With government and with cross-party support, Supporters Direct was established to encourage the formation of supporters' trusts to promote democratic supporter ownership. Supporters Direct encourages these bodies to be formed as Industrial and Provident Societies (IPSs) and assists with their formation, legal and start-up costs.
Supporters' trusts were commonly founded in response to a financial crisis which threatens the future of a team, as was the case at Chesterfield, Lincoln City and York City. Their involvement has reportedly ensured the survival of over 20 different clubs entering into administration, particularly during the period of crisis as a result of the collapse of ITV Digital. Supporters' trusts are now more commonly founded in order to increase influence at clubs through a financial stake in the club.
The first trust established was at Northampton Town in January 1992. The largest is the Manchester United Supporters Trust, which used to be known as Shareholders United and currently has over 163,000 members. Other large trusts such as Leeds, Exeter City, Dundee United, Reading, Spurs and Glasgow Rangers have between 3,000 and 7,000 members.
Methods for influencing clubs
The main objective of a supporters' trust is to provide a vehicle for fans to influence the running of their club. This is achieved by a number of different strategies, including gaining control by fundraising to finance the acquisition of shares in the club or direct board representation.
The most effective method of influencing the running of a club is club ownership. More than 110 supporters' trusts currently hold equity within their football clubs while supporters' trusts have outright or majority ownership or control at two Football League and others. These are as follows:
- AFC Wimbledon - The Dons Trust
- Exeter City F.C. - Exeter City Supporters' Trust
- Portsmouth F.C - Pompey Supporters' Trust
- Wycombe Wanderers F.C. - Wycombe Wanderers Trust
- 1874 Northwich - (club established as an IPS itself)
- A.F.C. Telford United - Telford United Supporters' Trust
- A.F.C. Liverpool - (club established as an IPS itself)
- AFC Croydon Athletic
- Cambridge City FC - Cambridge City Supporters Trust
- Chester FC - City Fans United
- Dorchester Town F.C. - Dorchester Town Supporters Trust
- Enfield Town F.C. - Enfield Supporters' Society Ltd
- FC United of Manchester - (club established as an IPS itself)
- Fisher F.C. - Fisher Supporters Association
- Forest Green Rovers FC - Forest Green Rovers Supporters Trust
- Gloucester City AFC - Gloucester City AFC Supporters Trust
- Grimsby Town FC; Mariners Trust - 
- Hendon F.C. - Hendon Football Club Suppoters' Trust
- Newport (IOW) F.C. - Newport (Isle of Wight) Supporters' Trust
- Runcorn Linnets F.C.
- Scarborough Athletic F.C. - (club established as an IPS itself)
- Wrexham F.C. - Wrexham Supporters Trust
Rugby League Clubs:
- Rochdale Hornets - Rochdale Hornets (RL) Supporters Trust
Over 40 football clubs currently have supporter representation within the boards of their football clubs, such as the Rangers Supporters Trust at Rangers F.C., Lincoln City Supporters' Trust at Lincoln City F.C., ArabTRUST at Dundee United F.C., the Oldham Athletic Supporters Trust and the Swans Trust at Swansea City A.F.C..
About 100 football trusts currently have shares in their clubs.
Supporters' trusts in other sports
The following are Rugby Union supporters' trusts currently in the UK: -
- Bristol Rugby Independent Supporters (BRIS), representing Bristol Rugby.
- Friends of Newport Rugby, representing Newport RFC.
- CRYS16 - The Scarlets Supporters Trust, representing Llanelli RFC and the Scarlets.
The following are Rugby League supporters' trusts currently in the UK:
- Swinton RLFC Supporters' Trust, Swinton, near Manchester, Lancashire. (Trust website http://www.lionstrust.co.uk/)