Monday, May 24, 2010

Football, supporters' trusts and the Big Society

One little noticed point in the coalition agreement drawn up by the new government runs:
We will encourage the reform of football governance rules to support the co-operative ownership of football clubs by supporters.
Supporters Direct says this is part of
a growing political consensus about the potential for football fans to buy out their clubs by setting up co-operatives, similar to those that already own and run clubs like FC Barcelona and Hamburg SV. The new Coalition Government has pledged to support the creation of mutually-owned clubs in its "Programme for government".
And the group is organising a conference on 12 and 13 June in London to further this idea, which you might call the Big Society's incursion into football.

The programme promises sessions on football finance, a grown-up debate about the future of football with club chairmen, activists from the leading campaigners from supporters' trusts and leading political thinkers.

As the first day of this event sees the England vs USA World Cup match, it will be shown on a live screen at the conference venue (8.30 p.m. kick off).


Greg Stone said...

to be fair, this is essentially borrowing from Labour who made far more of this in the election and have had a good record on this front in govt, led by Andy Burnham.

have had direct experience of this through work with York City FC's supporters trust - the principle is good but I'm cautious about seeing at as a solution to every problem of football club governance. Without serious amounts of financing, these schemes are destined to struggle either to take over in the first place, or to keep the ship afloat if they do. Certainly that was York's experience, and the burnout rate of the ST combined with inexperience ended up with the club being relegated to the Conference and returning to control by a majority shareholder, with the Trust increasingly marginal.

Kevin Rye said...

Absolutely agree on the point you make Greg. Supporters Trusts are just one part of other changes needed to football, including reform of the football authorities and financial regulation etc. York were screwed by overspending, the sale of their ground by the chairman and a terrible replacement as owner who nearly finished them off, problems which can't be solved alone by ownership by the fans.

Dave Page said...

I fail to see why this is something that needs regulation. Football clubs are businesses. If they go bust, it's not the end of the world.

The market is already working here - many people in Manchester, fed up with the Glazers and Shinawatras of this world have chosen to support and invest in FC United, which is a supporters-owned club, rather than fork over money at Old Trafford or Eastlands.

Kevin Rye said...

That’s a lazy analysis, Dave, and one that has long since failed to hold water.

If there's no failure, then why do swathes of the entire sector fail to regularly pay their tax – costing us all money? If there's no failure then why has about half its membership gone bust in an 18 year period, leaving a trail of creditors from local authorities and businesses to individuals and corporations accounting for hundreds of millions of pounds over that period? Do you think it’s also acceptable football – specifically players and those clubs failing to pay their tax for example – is effectively getting an exemption from the Insolvency regulations because it has the Football Creditors’ Rule? HMRC don’t seem to agree with you that they should be allowed to just get on with it like any ordinary ‘business’; the banks failed on an epic scale and there was an intervention. Football clubs have been failing on an epic scale for years; Cardiff City currently own nearly £2m to said taxman, Portsmouth owe just under 25% of £130m to the same. I could go on.

As for your views on FC United and the reason they were formed, maybe we should start a new thread on that. Next minute you’ll be telling me that franchising was a good thing for the fans of Wimbledon.

Dave Page said...

Kevin, I didn't say that football clubs should be able to get away with tax avoidance or evasion, I just said that they shouldn't be forced to become co-operatives...

Kevin Rye said...

Dave, you said

'I fail to see why this is something that needs regulation. Football clubs are businesses. If they go bust, it's not the end of the world.'

That's what you said, and I said as a response that it does need to be forced to be responsible and pay its tax etc. That means regulation in anyone's world. That's not saying 'they should be forced to become co-operatives'. So we actually agree on that then?

On top of that, yes, of course I'm saying that they do also need regulation in other ways more than being forced to pay their dues to the taxman, and that the fans should be involved in the ownership of clubs as part of that.