In 2001 the owners of Norwich City Football Club, Delia Smith and Michael Wynn-Jones, asked an FSA representative, a member of the Shareholders Association and Mike Reynolds to attend the inaugural Supporters Direct (SD) Conference at Birkbeck College.
Within a month SD chaired a meeting of a variety of NCFC fans groups where it was agreed to try to establish a Supporters Trust at Norwich City and later that month, at the invitation of the Club, a presentation was made to the NCFC AGM, which received popular support from the NCFC Board and the shareholders present. This was followed by an open meeting, post-match, at Carrow Road to hear a presentation from SD and the NCFC Chairman. There was a degree of scepticism from many fans present but enough were in favour of setting up a Trust that in the following January it was agreed to formally launch the Trust with an open-meeting in July.
In the summer, needing to raise funds, the Club announced a share issue and asked the Trust if it would delay the launch to maximise the uptake on the shares before the Trust got involved in fan share purchase. In return, they offered the Trust the opportunity to hold the launch meeting at Norwich Castle adjacent to the NCFC Centenary Exhibition and most importantly the ability to continue to purchase Ordinary shares at any time and to fund raise at Club events.
Prior to this open-meeting a fan loaned the new Trust £500 to make its first share purchase and the Trust was under way and in subsequent years a close relationship was forged with the Club and a programme of share purchase on behalf of the fans was put into action.
As a celebration of the first ten years of the Trust, Supporters Direct helped the Trust arrange the first informal “twinning” with an overseas fans group, “A la nantaise”, the first democratic fans group of FC Nantes, a Ligue Un team which has the same colours and same nickname as Norwich City.
To formalize the partnership, we signed a common text expressing our common vision of football, our belief in community ownership and good governance in football.
Over the years the Trust has continued to use its funds from subscriptions and events to purchase shares from the Club on behalf of fans but in 2011 the club increased the price of an Ordinary share from £30 to £100. Two years later the Trust was informed that the Club would no longer make ordinary shares available to the Trust but suggested that it might like to purchase shares from individuals seeking to sell their shares back to the Club.
The Trust Board had negotiations with the Chief Executive to explain the Trust’s constitutional position regarding subscriptions and share purchase. The outcome was that the Trust could continue submitting future applications in £2,000 blocks but with the caveat that each application would now require the agreement of the NCFC Board of Directors.
To retain access to NCFC shares the Trust agreed to assist the Club with the numerous enquiries from individuals regarding share sales and purchases by allowing the Club to re-direct individuals to the Trust website. The site would hold a list of those individuals seeking to buy or sell shares and the Club would deal with all the legalities of any share transfers.
The new price of shares duly led the Trust to change its policy to include share purchase from those individuals wishing to sell shares on the website and the Trust has now made “The Fans” the 14th largest shareholder in Norwich City Football Club.
In 2015 to coincide with a new Chairman and a closer relationship with the Football Supporters Federation, the AGM agreed to rename the Norwich City Supporters Trust as the Canaries Trust and undertake a change in approach to make the workings of the Trust more transparent.
The following year it was decided that the Trust should reach out to other supporter groups and offer each a place on the Trust board so that they could observe and have input to the Trust’s work while retaining their own independent identities. As a result Forces2Canaries, Proud Canaries and Barclay End Norwich joined the Trust board.
On 1st February 2018 the Trust signed its historic Memorandum of Understanding with the Club, only the second British trust to do so.