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Labour Proposes Radical Shake-up Of Football

Fri 17th Oct 2014 | Football Governance

Labour have announced plans for a radical shake-up of football that could see fans given a place in the boardroom.

Under the plans unveiled today Labour would look to give football fans a voice in every boardroom and the opportunity to buy a significant slice of the shares when the ownership of their club changes.

Clive Efford MP, Labour’s Shadow Sports Minister, launched the proposals for the biggest legislative shake-up in the governance of English and Welsh football clubs since the advent of the game.

The plan, which has been drawn up in consultation with 95 football supporters’ organisations, would require supporters to come together to form a single accredited trust in return for the right to:

  • appoint and remove up to a quarter and not less than two of a football club’s board of directors;
  • purchase up to 10 per cent of the shares when a club changes ownership, if they so wish. 

 

Clive Efford MP, Shadow Sports Minister said: “Too often fans are treated like an after-thought as ticket prices are hiked-up, grounds re-located and clubs burdened with debt or the threat of bankruptcy. 

“Only this week, the BBC’s Price of football survey showed how average prices have risen at almost twice the rate of the cost of living since 2011. We have reached a tipping point in the way football is run.

“The Labour Party has listened to the views of fans about changing the way football is run in England and Wales. And we want to ensure they are heard by the owners of the clubs too. 

“We will now consult further on proposals to enshrine on the statute books the idea that football have a special place in people’s hearts – and should be the heart of our communities.”

Jon Cruddas MP, head of Labour’s Policy Review, said: “The Premier League is a huge success. But football is more than a business. Football clubs are part of people’s identity and sense of belonging.

“Our plan is to give fans a stake in their clubs. Labour believes in sharing power and responsibility with people, and giving football fans a voice is part of our plan to change our country by devolving power to our cities, towns and communities.

“We believe in a society that gives power to people.”

Supporters Direct, welcomed the announcement of the Labour Party’s plans which centre on the orgainistaion’s objective of ensuring fans have a real role in the ownership and running of their clubs.

In a statement they said, “The most important element of this proposal is the right for Fit and Proper supporters’ trusts to appoint and remove up to a quarter of a football club’s board of directors; this signals the establishment of the formal relationship between supporters’ trusts and their clubs, which we have sought for many years.

 “No-one in football denies the special social and community nature of football clubs, yet there has always been a resistance to measures across the board that would actually increase the role of those fans in their clubs.

 “The importance of having a seat at the table where decisions are made has been the central plank of our movement and this organisation since the seeds were sown by our founder, Brian Lomax, at his own Northampton Town in 1992.

 “We have seen the success of clubs where ownership has been shared willingly and openly with supporters’ trusts. Indeed even the most skeptical of those in football have expressed admiration for this model, not least at Premier League side, Swansea City.

 “We also welcome an introduction of a ‘Right to Buy’ of 10% of shares on offer during a change of ownership.

 “We expect to be a part of the continued discussions around this issue with Clive Efford and his team.

“We also hope that this serves as message to football itself that the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee’s findings that demanded a greater role for supporters, real and tangible transparency and more openness in the way our national game is run, are not destined to gather dust on a shelf, like the previous five reports since 1967 on football governance.

 “We would like to thank Clive Efford and his team for listening and acting on the serious concerns, and for the equally serious proposals made during his consultation process. His willingness to listen, learn – but also argue his point – with fans deserves great credit in a time when politicians are often accused of cynicism.”

Also welcoming the news, Manchester United Supporters Trust (MUST) CEO, Duncan Drasdo, added, "MUST welcomes the Labour Party announcement on football governance today, which recognises that fans and, in particular, official supporters' trusts, have the right to own a stake in their clubs.

“Football supporters have been promised a lot by successive governments but, in reality, have seen nothing of significance change. We hope today is the start of each political party laying out its clear vision for football beyond 2015 and how it will protect the rights of supporters. 

“Today's proposals are specific, workable plans rather than vague principles, which could be clearly measured in the future by supporters up and down the country.

“MUST does not object to commercial activity in football but has ongoing concerns around where those revenues go and who benefits from them. Within a commercial framework, the rights of supporters need to be further safeguarded.

“These proposals seek to assist supporters to obtain equity in their clubs - something fundamentally important to MUST - without interfering in the current ownership."

However, speaking on BBC Radio 5 Live, former Crystal Palace owner, Simon Jordan was skeptical of the plans suggesting they may not tackle the problems at the top of the game for which they are intended and that this may just be political posturing by Labour ahead of next year’s General Election.

Image: Action Images / Carl Recine

Posted by: Aaron Gourley 

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