St Mirren could be the first top-flight football social enterprise

Community interest company has approached fans and local businesses to fund the scheme

Plans are afoot to make St Mirren a social enterprise
Plans are afoot to make St Mirren a social enterprise

Supporters of St Mirren, the Scottish Premier League football club, have given financial backing to a scheme to turn the club into a social enterprise.

After a meeting between fans and 10000 Hours CIC, which was set up to buy a majority share in the club, almost 600 supporters have agreed to pay £10 a month to support the scheme.

Richard Atkinson, founder of 10000 Hours, said the numbers were growing steadily and he was close to his target of signing up a dozen local businesses to pay £10,000 a year each into the venture, as well as 24 community organisations.

Atkinson said the current majority shareholders had agreed to sell to him if he could put a deal together.

"We're now working very hard to fulfil the criteria of the sale," he said. "We need to show we've got the cash and the community support."

The decision to sell the club to a social enterprise came about because the owners of the majority shareholding in the club had decided to sell, he said, but they were interested in making sure it remained sustainable and debt-free.

Atkinson said he became aware the club was for sale and approached the board with the idea of a CIC.

"I gave them a presentation and they said they quite liked it," he said. "They were particularly keen on the asset lock that a CIC provides."

The group had approached several specialist social lenders for finance that could be used to buy the club and had had some promises of funding, he said.

"We'll repay that money with membership fees and the new social enterprises we will start within the ground," he said. "There's a lot of under-exploited space in the stadium that we can use to generate revenue."

If the deal went ahead, said Atkinson, St Mirren would be the first top-flight football team in the UK to be owned by a social enterprise. Other supporter-owned clubs already exist, including Stenhousemuir in the Scottish Second Division and Brentford in League One in England – in effect, the third tier.

"This project has shown that the community is emphatically interested and can create a project on this scale," said Atkinson.

He said that many community organisations, including churches, sports clubs and local and national charities, were interested in using the facilities at the ground.

Atkinson said he hoped the deal would be completed later this year.

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10000 Hours CIC

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