August 14, 2013
Fans are the rightful owners
For far too long, Scottish football clubs have been living way beyond their means. Some have had owners with deep pockets but eventually financial chickens always come home to roost. In recent years a succession of top flight clubs have been felled by a combination of hubris, greed and a complete disregard for the most important part of any club – the fans. In advance of the draft Community Empowerment Bill, the Scottish Greens have come up with a proposal that would radicalise Scottish football.
Football supporters could be first in line to buy their clubs if they are put up for sale under a proposal by the Scottish Greens.
The party wants fan groups to be given first refusal on any sales to make clubs more representative of communities and to prevent them becoming “an extension of their owners’ egos”.
Under current right-to-buy laws rural groups have the right to buy their land and the Greens want to bring an amendment to the Scottish Government’s forthcoming Community Empowerment and Renewal Bill to extend it to supporters’ groups.
Many clubs across Europe are owned or partly owned by fans and this week it was agreed that fans’ group Pars United will take over Dunfermline Athletic, which has been in administration.
Also last week, Manchester United Supporters Trust had their application to have Old Trafford stadium listed as an asset of community value approved by Trafford Council, reducing the possibility that the stadium could be sold by the club’s owners, or that the club could move to another ground.
Green MSP Alison Johnstone said: “Scottish football continues to be beset by financial and organisational problems. Just since the last election, three iconic Scottish teams have found themselves in trouble: Rangers, Dunfermline and Hearts.
“Long-suffering fans deserve responsible owners, and it’s increasingly understood that fans themselves are the best stewards of their own clubs. It’s time to give a red card to the mismanagement from the people who’ve been running our national game.
“It’s time for a new team to take control in the game – the supporters who are the game’s lifeblood.
“It won’t be easy to find the money, especially for bigger clubs, but just knowing they’ll be first in line would make supporters’ trusts much more important in the eyes of the ordinary fans as they’d be able to position themselves as the next owners of the club.
“In the long term, clubs of all sizes will only thrive on and off the pitch when they are firmly rooted in their communities.”
The party said they will consult widely on the proposal which has already won the backing of Supporters Direct, an organisation that promotes fan involvement in clubs.
Chief executive David Lampitt said: “Fans are more and more involved in bidding for clubs but too often they are the last resort when a club has hit rock bottom and is insolvent.
“Fans should have the right to buy their club before the wheels come off. We’ve successfully argued that the right to bid for a ground – as Manchester United Supporters Trust secured this week – is an important step, but the club itself is even more important as a community asset and should be protected.”