Supporter Ownership Week – A Time To Celebrate
Fri 17th Apr 2015 | Football Industry Events
What do you think of when you hear the phrase supporter ownership?
Is it about saving clubs? Is it about obsessed fans going head to head with unwilling private owners? Is it about a bunch of bearded lefties trying to impose an impractical, idealistic and unworkable solution?
You won’t be surprised to hear that Supporters Direct takes a rather different view.
For us, supporter ownership is about community.
Football exists because people want to watch it as well as play it, and because it offers an unparalleled way of connecting those people together. The connection is made because they have a shared joy in watching a game together; but also because of the sense of community and place that supporting a club provides – just look at the outrage that is created if a club tries to move from one town to another.
This sense of place, this thread of connection, is what makes football and other spectator sports so special. People’s lives are intimately bound up with their club; their leisure time and social lives are often dependent on their club; it can be the focus of their lives, second only to family, and sometimes even before that. A friend of mine, a very busy man with a very high profile and well-paid job – and a season ticket at Gillingham –, told me recently that he spends far more time with his fellow season ticket holders than he does with his best friends.
Clearly, it is this thread of connection that is under most threat from modern football. The players no longer all belong to the community, at least not above a certain level. As it progresses up the pyramid, a club starts quite soon, for sound financial reasons, to want to treat its supporters as customers and extract maximum financial value from them rather than serve them with the best possible experience.
In our view, breaking this thread represents a genuine threat to the continuation of football, most especially in non-league environments where money is so tight. If you don’t have huge sums of television money to fall back on, where does your income come from? Supporters of course, the community in which you operate. You ignore them, abuse them, and exploit them at your peril.
For the last few months we have been participating in an Expert Working Group on supporter ownership and engagement, a government-backed initiative to help remove barriers and create incentives for supporter ownership, as well as to examine how best supporters’ groups can engage with their clubs.
Very encouragingly, this group has had full and enthusiastic input from the Premier League, Football League and Football Conference. It is fantastic that this group has been set up – and we are very keen to see it continue beyond the election - and it indicates that the time is right for supporter ownership in many levels of football (and other sports).
Because supporter ownership is by no means some academic, socialistic or obsessive pipe dream. It is a living reality: we now have 35 supporter owned football clubs in our membership, five more in rugby league. Four of these play in the Football League. Others clubs, such as Swansea City, have a substantial supporter shareholding. The time is right for a major push in this area.
And that is why Supporter Ownership Week ahs featured a range of activities and celebrations of the real stars; the supporter owned clubs and the people that make them tick.
With our development work with clubs we are feeling a groundswell of momentum for supporter ownership; particularly in the non-league where clubs are looking to reinvent themselves and become more relevant to their community. That’s why we are looking to raise money to help meet this demand and assist the next Exeter City or Wrexham AFC.
Robin Osterley, Chief Executive - Supprters Direct
To contribute or to buy an experience - such as being a Director for a day at one of the clubs - please visit http://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/supporter-ownership-week.
NonLeagueDaily.com looks at how supporter ownership has had an impact at clubs in the Non-League. Read the articles HERE
Posted by: Aaron Gourley
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