Labour Party – PUTTING FANS AT THE HEART OF FOOTBALL’S FUTURE

by • October 17, 2014 • UncategorizedComments Off on Labour Party – PUTTING FANS AT THE HEART OF FOOTBALL’S FUTURE912

PLP

 

 

 

 

PLP Briefing 

PUTTING FANS AT THE HEART OF FOOTBALL’S FUTURE Clive-Efford-MP-400

17 October 2014

From the offices of Clive Efford, Shadow Minister for Sport, and Jon Cruddas, Co-ordinator of Labour’s Policy Review.

Will apply to all professional football clubs within England and Wales 

Contents:

  • Briefing
  • Op-ed by Jon Cruddas
  • Press release 

TOP LINES

Labour is unveiling 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. 

The plan, which has been drawn up after consultation with football supporters’ organisations, 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.

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. For details of your local football Supporters’ Trusts 

BACKGROUND 

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 to team colours and names being changed to satisfy traditions on the other side of the globe;
  • Debt and insolvency: which have seen some of our oldest football clubs  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.

Labour believes in conserving popular traditions and in sharing power and responsibility with people. We will provide the means for supporters to organise together into a single Trust and to have a significant but not dominant role in the corporate governance of their clubs; they would not, for example, be able to block takeovers and corporate strategy.

They would have access to the facts, and be able to hold the club to account.  They would have influence on issues such as, for example, ticket prices, shirt sponsorship, ground naming rights, changing the colour of the strip or the name of the club. 

POLICY DETAIL

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 legal advice that these reforms are compatible with European law.

Q & A 

Won’t this plan undermine the rights of ownership? It’s simply old fashioned nationalisation and the expropriation of property rights?

No. Fans will have a significant, but not dominant role in the corporate strategy of their clubs. There is an analogy in the right of owners of long leasehold flats to acquire a buildings freehold on a sale at the sale price.

These proposals will mean boardroom deadlock?

Untrue. Most day-to-day decisions in a football club require only majority Board approval. As a result 25 per cent of directors will not prevent a purchaser from ‘running the club’.

It is notable that German football clubs – with 51 per cent ownership by fans – have not suffered Board Room ‘deadlock’. Instead they are viewed as some of the best run clubs in Europe. And our proposals are much more modest than the German model.

Is this legal?

Yes. We have taken legal advice on these proposals and have received robust assurances that they are compliant with EU competition and procurement law.

Which clubs will this apply to?

All professional football clubs within England and Wales.

Don’t most clubs already ‘consult’ with fans?

The evidence does not bear this out. We have examples of team colours being changed to satisfy traditions on the other side of the globe, of names being changed on the whim of owners, and of clubs being relocated away from their traditional supporter communities. In our own consultation, over 90 per cent of the responses from fans groups from 69 different clubs agreed that their clubs did not take fans into consideration enough when making major decisions.

Doesn’t the fact that stadiums are regularly full suggest that ticket prices are not an issue?

A fan is a fan for life. Fans don’t just pick and choose who they go and support. English and Welsh football fans pay some of the most expensive ticket prices anywhere in Europe.

Aren’t most fans content with the way their clubs are run?

There are numerous examples of owners not listening to their club’s supporters. We have examples of team colours being changed to satisfy traditions on the other side of the globe, or names being changed on the whim of owners, and of clubs being relocated away from their traditional supporter communities. Our consultation revealed that 85 per cent are in favour of fans on boards.

Successful clubs with contented supporters will have a win-win situation. They will gain valuable allies on their Boards and so strengthen their relationships with their biggest asset for longer term success. Successful business is built on good teamwork – fans will bring knowledge and expertise to the Board Room about commercial opportunities and consumer preferences.

Won’t these proposals deter investment in the game?

There is no evidence that giving fans more of a say in the governance of clubs has deterred investment in Germany or Spain.

Doesn’t this proposal represent political interference in the running of football?

No, these proposals are not about how football is run.  They are about fans participating in the running of their football clubs, which already happens at many clubs in the UK – and also particularly successfully in Germany.

Won’t FIFA sanction National Football Associations that seek to interfere in the running of the game?

These proposals are not about how football is run. Moreover, they go completely with the grain of what governing bodies, such as FIFA and UEFA, have said about the ‘special status’ of football clubs (not just businesses) and the need for clubs to encourage fan participation.

Won’t the plan put amateurs in board rooms?

Our reforms would strengthen the governance and inclusivity of Supporters Trusts by putting them on a statutory footing and requiring them to meet certain standards of governance – this would ensure that potential directors will receive training to prepare for taking up positions on the board.

The voices of a clubs fans should be an asset to a Board of Directors, bringing to the table the thoughts of the supporters.

Aren’t the pre-emption proposals without precedent and too complex to be implemented in a complex modern group structure?

Arrangements of the type proposed are common in contractual agreements between different shareholders in joint ventures and other arrangements between shareholders, albeit in a somewhat different context. Also there is an analogy in the right of owners of long leasehold flats to acquire a buildings freehold on a sale at the sale price. This was introduced by legislation. These provisions are both capable of being drafted and implemented. The asset concerned (the football club concerned) is definitively within England and Wales.

Football has much deeper problems – this isn’t a panacea?

Putting fans on the Boards of their clubs will not solve all the problems in the game.  It is about One Nation Labour’s commitment to use government to give people a share in power. The future success of our economy and society is about reforming the institutions of the market and state to spread opportunity and to employ people’s skill, knowledge and energy. It’s a long term vision of shared prosperity and a better democracy. Change will be incremental but it will be enduring.  This plan is a major step forward in the right direction. 

Jon Cruddas op-ed

Friday, 17 October 2014 

Supporters have no say, no voice and no power

FOOTBALL means more to people than politics.

Support is passed down from fathers and mothers to sons and daughters, even though they may have moved away from the towns they were born in.

And football clubs are one of the very few institutions that give people a sense of belonging and community.

It’s one of the few places left where people can be together and sing together, love together and hate together.

Saints v Pompey, Arsenal v Spurs, Liverpool v Man United, Celtic v Rangers — these are events that bring tribes together and stir the heart. They matter.

The Premier League is still physical, passionate and unpredictable, and the engagement of fans is a central part of the success of the Premier League as a global brand.

It’s an essential part of what makes the league the most popular in the world.

And yet the football clubs, which are part of the civic inheritance of every Englishman, are treated as just another commodity to be bought and sold.

The fans have no power, no say and no voice in how their clubs are run.

Owners have no link to the club and its traditions and there is no one to hold them accountable.

Owners can change the colour of a strip or the name of a club.

And in a world where the rewards are astronomical — for owners, managers and players — who is representing the interests of the club as an inheritance to be passed on, thriving and intact, to the next generation, rather than just an asset to be sweated?

Fans want their clubs to be competitive. They want their clubs to succeed. They want their clubs to win.

That is why Labour is committed to having football fans on the boards of clubs.

Not as a dominating force but as a quarter of the board.

They will be elected by independent supporter trusts, like the magnificent Spirit of Shankly at Liverpool.

When the club changes ownership, the supporter trusts should have first choice in buying ten per cent of the shares bought.

Partnership and the common good, rather than domination, is the way ahead.

That way they can hold the club to account when the board are selling off assets, which has happened too much in the past decade.

They can ensure that the fans are not the only stakeholders who have to pay.

It is not the job of the state to boss football clubs around and set policy.

What is needed is to bring the fans back in so that clubs can pursue their own strategy.

For some it will be ticket prices, for others shirt sponsorship. That is up to the clubs and their supporters.

What is vital is that the fans have a role in that and can keep the clubs honest. It means a lot. 

PRESS RELEASE

LABOUR: PUTTING FANS AT THE HEART OF FOOTBALL’S FUTURE 

Labour is unveiling 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 Sports Minister, has launched 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, 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 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.”

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.”

END

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