Chi has welcomed Labour’s announcement today (FRIDAY) on plans to give football fans a voice in every boardroom and buy a significant slice of the shares when the ownership of their club changes.
Clive Efford, Labour’s Shadow’s Sports Minister, will launch 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, including fans groups in Newcastle, 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.
Supporters have told us that this is the only way to ensure those running clubs share information, power and responsibility with them. Labour’s proposals mean fans could hold the owners of their club to account on all issues on and off the field including ticket prices, shirt sponsorship, ground naming rights, and changing the colour of the strip or the name.
Labour will now consult further on the detail of these proposals with supporters.
Clive Efford MP 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.”
Welcoming the plans, Newcastle Central MP, Chi Onwurah, who is an honorary board member of the Newcastle United Supporters Trust said:
“This is great news for football fans. One of the major frustrations for Newcastle fans is the sense of being shut out from the Club, powerless to influence decisions and met largely by a wall of silence. Under Labour’s proposals, should the club’s ownership change hands, fans would have a real say, and that should encourage the club to show fans more respect now. We’ve got to give power back to the fans if we’re going to reclaim the beautiful game.”
Jon Cruddas, 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.”
In the last two decades English and Welsh football has undergone a transformation in terms of its commercial success, and in the quality of football and the experience of the spectator.
The Premier League is a hugely successful product, both in footballing terms, but also commercially. But football is more than a business: football clubs are rooted in people’s communities and they are an important part of many people’s identity and sense of belonging. They also have a vital function to play in local economies.
Despite their importance in the lives and communities of their supporters there are no effective means for fans to have a say in how their clubs are run or to safeguard their long term interests.
This lack of accountability has led to:
- Supporters’ interests and identity being ignored: from clubs being relocated away from fan-bases (Coventry) to team colours and names being changed to satisfy traditions on the other side of the globe (Cardiff, Hull);
- Debt and insolvency: which have seen some of our oldest football clubs (Portsmouth, Leeds, Birmingham) forced into administration. 36 football league clubs (exactly half the total number of members) have gone into administration since 1992;
- Unsustainably high ticket prices: despite record turnover, average ticket prices in England and Wales remain amongst the highest in Europe – 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.
Right to appoint up to a 1/4 or a minimum of two of the directors
Labour would legislate to give a legally enforceable right to the Supporters Trust to appoint and remove up to one quarter and not less than two of the members of the Board of Directors.
This would be underpinned by the right to obtain (under an obligation of confidentiality) financial and commercial information about the business and affairs of a football club.
Supporters would not be able to block takeovers or change corporate strategy.
The option of up to 10 per cent of share ownership
The buyer acquiring control of the club (defined at a 30 per cent level) would be required to offer the Supporters Trust up to ten per cent of the shares they were buying in that transaction at the average price paid by the buyer for relevant securities in the year proceeding the change of control.
That offer would be open for acceptance for not less than 240 days but the completion of the change in control could happen in the meantime.
This automatic option would be capped once a Trust had acquired 10 per cent of the club’s shares, though that would not prevent the Trust from buying more shares if it wanted.
Accredited Supporters’ Trusts
The legislation would contain provisions requiring Supporters Trusts to become Industrial and Provident Societies. They would be accredited to an umbrella body and would be required to meet certain governance standards, including a compliant constitution, the election of a Board with one member one vote, and provision for membership fees.
The umbrella body would be required to offer training to supporters before taking up positions on Boards.
We have received expert legal advice that these reforms are compatible with European law.