Trust member David Collins will sing Abide with Me at the FA cup final this year, representing Cardiff City

David of Cardiff was one of the winners of the Songs of Praise  FA Cup Fans choir competition. He had applied to take part in a once in a life-time experience to sing ‘Abide With Me’ on the pitch at Wembley before the final.

Sixty-four lucky football fans, who are a mix of male and female fans with ages ranging from early 20s right up to 100 years, will be representing their football club as they join with The Band of The Brigade of Gurkhas in front of almost 90,000 people on Saturday, May 30. Each fan represents one of the 64 teams who’ve made it to this year’s third round in the FA Cup.

Songs of Praise, who teamed up with BBC Sport as part of their FA Cup programming, asked for people to submit stories that reflect their personal memories and passion of the cup from every level of the game. The winning tales – selected by a panel of judges from the worlds of football, music and journalism – are a combination of amusing and moving stories which capture the spirit of the FA Cup and have a strong thread of family, community and tradition throughout.

Over 1,300 people applied to take part in the unique experience to sing ‘Abide With Me’, which has become a constant fixture since it was first sung at the FA Cup Final in 1927. In recent years, a celebrity solo singer has performed the song and this year the fans choir will join them on the football pitch. They will be led by international music producer and Songs of Praise conductor Steve Thompson, who is also a life-long fan of the FA Cup.

No singing experience was necessary to apply for the competition; those selected to perform the hymn at the FA Cup Final will now be able to practise singing ahead of the event with an online lesson which will be available on the Songs of Praise website shortly.

All the winners will also meet each other for the first time at Wembley the day before the final, where they will practice singing together and find out what it’s like to walk out onto the pitch in front of 90,000 people.

Aaqil Ahmed, Head of Commissioning – Religion, TV and Head of Religion & Ethics, said: “We’ve had a great response to the competition which has really sparked the interest of those who have a passion for football. We wanted to make the competition open to anyone to apply hence why no singing experience was necessary. The concept was to involve the whole football family and to find the emotional and personal connection between football and singing. It truly is a once in a life-time opportunity to perform at the FA Cup Final and for two members of the choir, whose clubs will be playing in the final, it’s the stuff dreams are made of.”

All the winners’ stories and details can be found on the Songs of Praise website

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The Trust wrote to Labour, Plaid Cymru, Conservative and Liberal candidates who are standing in Cardiff in next month’s General Election to seek their views on the Supporters Direct manifesto on fan involvement and governance of football clubs.

So far the following responses have been received

JO STEVENS (LABOUR CARDIFF CENTRAL) As a lifelong football fan and Cardiff City season ticket holder, I know what experience, knowledge, skill and innovation, fans in the stands and at home can bring to our clubs. Football clubs are an integral part of our communities, binding people together in a way that few other things can.

That’s why I’m a longstanding supporter of the campaign to ensure that we, as supporters, have a formal role in the ownership and governance of our clubs.

I’d urge every Cardiff City supporter to get behind the Supporters Direct “Manifesto To Reform Football” and make sure you ask every candidate in Cardiff Central seeking to be your MP from May 2015 to do the same.

MARTIN POLLARD (PLAID CYMRU, CARDIFF CENTRAL) I believe strongly in localism, and I fully support the Supporters Direct manifesto for fans to have a formal role in the ownership and governance of their football clubs. This model has led to strong fan involvement in Swansea City, Merthyr Tydfil, Newport County and Wrexham clubs.

ELIN WALKER (PLAID CYMRU, CARDIFF NORTH) I was pleased to read your manifesto, and very interested in the concepts espoused within it. As you may know, Plaid Cymru is keen to promote grassroots participation in decision making, so it makes perfect sense for supporters to take a key role in such activities.

If elected, I would be keen to support the implementation of these core policies as outlined in your manifesto. Looking forward to seeing these ideas implemented!

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This season promised so much at Cardiff City but has sadly delivered very little with the only real positive the return to blue.

In recent times players have been suddenly loaned out for what we have been told are business reasons while other players have departed permanently to reduce the wage bill.

We fully appreciate the need for the club to operate on a more sustainable footing in the future following heavy investment by the owner, Vincent Tan, in recent years.

But, as fans we deserve a detailed explanation on the way forward for our club – a vision on where Cardiff City will be in a year, three years and five years. The club needs to be open and state clearly what its ideas are for rebuilding. Are there plans, for instance, to dispose of more of our more high profile players in the run-up to the new season?

We fear that without a blueprint for the future loyal fans, many of whom have been season ticket holders for years, will just stop coming to games and attendances will dwindle further next season. Fans have told us they are concerned about the quality of football this season.

Cardiff City has to become a club where everyone is pulling together – and fans need to have hope that things will get better sooner rather than later.

The club has started a process of re-engagement with fans after the rebranding and we acknowledge the return to blue and the development of a new badge. But it is our belief that the owner and senior executives need to go much further and quicken the pace.

We are disappointed at the lack of promised fans’ forums and Russell Slade’s apparent reluctance to meet with the fans. There also still seems no date when the club’s enormous debt will be converted into equity and members are asking us what has happened to the money from the Premier League season and parachute payments.

The re-engagement with fans should include having an elected supporter director on the board, to act as a powerful voice for ordinary fans, as soon as possible. This must not be allowed to drift if fans are not to be disillusioned further with a continuance of what some see as a separation between the club and its supporters.

Without supporters once again feeling that Cardiff City is their club, we fear, as stated, that many fans will just stay away.

Therefore, we invite the club to keep its supporters and the Trust fully informed of its plans and to take every opportunity to make constructive use of the goodwill and the desire to help which undoubtedly exists.

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SD Cymru study - launch photoe

Trust chair Tim Hartley joined the Deputy Minister for Sport, Ken Skates, to launch a study to look into the potential of Supporters Direct establishing a full-time presence in Wales.

SD offers guidance to supporters who want to take over sports clubs in their communities. It is already working with trusts in Wales, but with the financial backing from the Government it is investigating whether its work can be introduced more formally in Wales.

Speaking at the launch at Merthyr Town FC, Ken Skates said, “Sports clubs can play such an important role in regenerating an area and creating a sense of community solidarity. It is always a great disappointment when any area loses a club, which is why the guidance Supporters Direct offer is so valuable.”

The Cardiff, Swansea and Merthyr Supporters’ trusts and the Welsh Premier League joined together to lend their support for the study. Mr Skates added, “It’s great to see the positive developments at Merthyr Town F.C. and I’m sure they would agree that the invaluable guidance offered by Supporters Direct has played an important role in the club’s development.”

Tim, who is also a director of Supporters Direct, said, “We know that sport brings people together and how important rugby, football and hockey clubs are to our communities.  Having our own SD Cymru is an exciting prospect. This study will help us identify how best to ensure all kinds of sports clubs remain true and sustainable community assets.”

Pictured left to right is Tim Hartley, Ken Skates AM, Meurig Price, MerthyrTown and James Mathie of SD.

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