The proposals 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.
This announcement, combined with the recent policy motion adopted by the Liberal Democrats at their conference earlier this month, suggests political parties are finally taking meaningful steps to address the longstanding problems in football governance. Problems that the Premier and Football Leagues seem unwilling and incapable of addressing themselves.
However, THST’s optimism about these proposals is a cautious one. Various political committees, reports and taskforces have promised reform before but have repeatedly failed to deliver meaningful change. It is, therefore, natural that fans are sceptical of politicians’ proposed solutions. Concrete plans, setting out exactly how and when these ideas will be implemented, will need to be seen to abate supporters justified concerns that these proposals will amount to little.
Attention must also be paid to the idea of having supporters on the Board of Directors of a football club. While this move would undoubtedly bring transparency to the dealings of the club and improve the information flow to fans, there are legitimate questions over what real change it would make to decision making. With fan representatives in the minority on a board, with no power of veto and unable to block takeovers or change corporate strategy, there is a risk that, in reality, the proposal would be nothing more than a token gesture towards fan engagement.
And the caveat that: “Supporters would not be able to block takeovers or change corporate strategy” could be used by clubs to block any meaningful input from supporters.
Fan representation at board level should not be used as a fig leaf by clubs, allowing them to claim engagement and consultation but in reality continuing to ignore the wishes of their fans.
We believe it is key for football supporter organisations to continue to mobilise and put forward constructive and detailed suggestions for reform of our game, to ensure that not only the letter but the spirit of reform is observed.
17 October 2014