Should fans have the right to buy into their clubs?

March 29, 2010

SOCCER-SPAIN/BARCELONA-PRESIDENTInteresting story in the Guardian this morning, saying Britain’s Labour government, if re-elected, are ready to unleash plans to give fans the right to buy their clubs when they come up for sale, and to insist that current club owners give up a stake as high as 25 percent to their supporters.

If we can leave the politics aside (there is an election on the way, and the opposition Conservatives have said acting now, after 13 years in power, makes it a pre-vote gimmick) do you think this is a good idea?

It comes after the high-profile Liverpool campaign to get 100,000 fans of the club to raise 500 million pounds in a “Barcelona style” member share scheme, and more recently the Red Knights proposal of a buy-out of Manchester United from a smaller group of wealthy individuals. 

This latest proposal,as reported, seems to be acceptanace that football is not just a business, and would presumably make club ownership less attractive for anyone wanting to get involved just to make a profit.

Certainly, giving fans the opportunity to take on a quarter stake, and with it a big say in the running of the club, sounds a radical idea in the current era of leveraged buy-outs and PIK notes. Similarly, giving fans time and persumably the help they would need to put together a full takeover bid whenever a club goes up for sale also seems a world away from the laissez-faire capitalism we’ve had of late.

Other countries, notably Spain and Germany, cherish their models of full or part fan ownership, even if neither is without its problems (consider the heavy debts Real Madrid and Barcelona have had in the recent past and the inability of carefully run Bundesliga clubs to compete for top-draw players with Spain or England).

More caution in terms of strategy and more modesty when it comes to expectations might be attractive to a lot of English football fans bruised by rising ticket prices and left wondering why so much money is being spent on loan interest payments.

And if it means the end of Premier League teams monopolising the Champions League knock-out phase, would that be a price worth paying?

PHOTO: Barcelona club president Joan Laporta poses at the Nou Camp, February 10, 2010. REUTERS/Gustau Nacarino


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Whatever the politics, something certainly needs to be done to take football back closer to the fans. Maybe after this we can talk about a salary cap and ticket price freezes.

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