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Government Sets Up Supporter Ownership and Engagement Expert Group

Tue 21st Oct 2014 | Football Governance

Supporters Direct, Government and football authorities all represented on group that will look at removing barriers to community-owned clubs and improving fan engagement.

The government and football authorities are to work together to explore ways in which fans can have more engagement in the running of the clubs they support, Sports Minister Helen Grant announced today. 

The Supporter Ownership and Engagement Expert group, that will have its first meeting in London next month, has representatives on it from Government, the Premier League, The FA, the Football League, Supporters Direct, the legal profession, insolvency and tax experts and representatives from clubs that are ran by supporters (Portsmouth FC, AFC Wimbledon and Wrexham).

Areas that the group will look at include seeing what more can be done to help supporters groups have stronger links with the executives and owners running clubs, look at removing barriers to clubs becoming community-owned assets, when opportunities arise for that to be a sustainable and viable option.  

Helen Grant launched the group on a visit to Portsmouth Football Club, which is owned by its Supporters following a takeover by fans in 2013, after the club had fallen into administration for a second time. 

Helen Grant said: “Football fans are the lifeblood of the club they support. Owners, executives and managers may come and go but it is the fans that are the constant, loyally following their clubs through thick and thin. We want to see what more we can do to give fans a stronger voice in how their club is run as well as looking at ways in which we can help remove some of the barriers to supporter ownership.” 

Supporters Direct chief executive Robin Osterley said: “It’s very gratifying to see the Government addressing the problems that prevent an increase in supporter ownership. We’re immensely pleased at the cooperation that we’ve seen across the game, and between Government departments, and we’re grateful to the Minister for making this happen. This is something that can directly and tangibly benefit supporters’ trusts, and we look forward to making swift progress on the issues."

Portsmouth FC Supporters Trust chairman Ashley Brown said: "Portsmouth FC are proud to host the launch of this DCMS Expert group. At Pompey we have repeatedly seen the impact of our club being managed poorly by people who did not share our passion for this historic club. Our supporters have shown what is possible when working together for a common cause and we hope our involvement in this group will help to find ways for other clubs to break down barriers between owners, boardroom and supporters."

The group will be independently chaired by Joanna Manning-Cooper who is a member of the Portsmouth Supporters Trust, a community shareholder in Portsmouth Football Club – the biggest supporter owned club in the country – and a long-term season ticket holder at Portsmouth Football Club. She is also a trustee of Pompey in the Community.

Manning-Cooper has worked in sport for many years and is currently the Director of Marketing and Communications for England Rugby 2015, organisers of next year’s Rugby World Cup. Previously to that she was the Head of Media for LOCOG, organisers of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, and, prior to that, Director of Communications for the Financial Times.

The group will make recommendations to government, reporting into the Sports Minister.

Image: Action Images / Paul Redding

Posted by: Aaron Gourley

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