Fan Ownership: What’s the Problem?

Fan Ownership is one of footballs biggest talking points at the present time. With dwindling attendances, rising ticket prices and teams going bust left, right and centre it is surely time to take action!

In the season 2011/2012 the then Scottish Premier League experienced a collective loss of over £10 million. Only two of the 10 teams analysed within the PWC report calculated a profit. Since then British football fans witnessed the collapse of Hearts of Midlothian and Rangers Football Club, two of Scotlands biggest names. During the football seasons from 2009 – 2014 Scottish footballs’ top tier has experience a loss of almost £40 million. Scottish Football has generated substantial losses in contrast to the other European football leagues. There have been similar cases of financial loss in England with regards to Leeds United, Portsmouth, Hereford, Wrexham and most recently Bolton Wanderers.

There are clearly problems with the ownership models largely in use at this current stage. The predominant models are split into two different types. There are ownership types; examples of this include benevolent family ownership and individual ownership, and there are company types; examples of this include public limited companies and private limited companies. These models share a common advantage towards either a single individual or a group of select individuals. There are obvious problems with the current models in place, therefore alternatives must be encouraged.

There are significant benefits to fan ownership. Fanatics, individuals who express a life long devotion to their club, and most supporters in broad terms provide stability and continuity in relation to financial backing. In most cases it is unlikely for a supporter to switch alliance to another club. Supporters, for the most part, remain constant. The benefit of this continuity is that the supporters are, for the most part, key investors in the company and have a significant impact on revenue. Supporters, and devoted fans, will not turn their back on their clubs. Private investors are known to let clubs, fans and communities down by mismanaging business; this is most notable in the case of Manchester United Football Club with the takeover of the Glazer family, similar cases have occurred at Liverpool and Rangers Football Clubs. To resolve this, supporters must be encouraged to own their clubs.

“Results don’t matter; I mean you’re always going to support

your football club no matter what.”

(Cork City fan, 2015)

Supporters influence their club massively. Even with the absence of fan ownership supporters engage in and influence all aspects of their club, including the clubs culture and identity. For most supporters the clubs stadium is the epicentre of their cultural expression and regional pride. It is within the realms of the football ground that supporters will express their undying support for their team. Importantly, the financial influence of the supporters comes predominantly from gate money. It is clear from a number of reports that supporters’ involvement is crucial to the financial gain of any football club. Supporters’ are fundamental to the process which allows football clubs to maximise their potential returns. The loyalty of supporters is often exploited to generate finance for the club. Merchandise is tailored to fan interests and supporters are given no choice but to pay extortionate ticket prices. This is not in the best interest of those who devote all their efforts to the club they love: the fans. There surely has to be a resolution.


A contemporary example of supporter mistreatment is the case of Leeds United Football club. The Yorkshire side have experienced financial plight for the worst part of 15 years. Despite having a unified Supporters Trust (Leeds Fans United), chairman and majority share holder Massimo Cellino has halted the supporters’ bid for their club. After agreeing to sell the club to the Leeds United Fans trust in October 2015, the controversial Chairman changed his mind a month later and withdrew his interest. The Leeds supporters were subjected to further financial and managerial mistreatment in early December 2015, when Cellino imposed a £5 increase in ticket price. This inflated price included a food voucher to be used at half time, which would be used as an incentive to encourage supporters to use the clubs catering facilities regardless of whether the loyal supporter wanted the half time pie or not. This incentive provides support for fan ownership in football. Leeds United is one case out of a multitude of others. Supporters and their clubs are experiencing a complete lack of communication and consultation. Supporters are being completely disregarded and ignored with regards to decisions that affect them. Importantly, the more fans continue to be excluded from ownership the more they become disenfranchised from their football clubs. To discourage the club from fan ownership is to discourage the club from gaining any form of stability and transparency.

“It’s now all about the football. It’s not even the case of like; I don’t go around the place saying ‘oh I run a football club’, because you know that’s not part of it.

But just for me as a fan, who’s gone through all the shite with bad owners, for me knowing that my club will never be in that situation again because its fan owned is fantastic.”

(Cork City fan, 2015)


There are certainly indications that fan ownership is met with a positive response from the majority of fans. In my opinion football will only be better when owned by its supporters. However there are certainly negatives amongst the positives. There is a huge question as to whether or not supporter associations can control, or at least affect, the power within the board room. Can the representative individual, or individuals, successfully engage in important decisions especially when these representatives are likely to be the ‘outsider’ on the board. Furthermore, supporter associations have even been accused of exploiting their own clubs by forming unfavourable alliances with board members who possess majority shares in order to strengthen their own authority. When instances like this have occurred it has naturally caused distrust amongst supporters, which has a negative effect on transparency and assurance.

However, there are too many positive examples of supporter ownership that greatly outweigh any such negatives. Hereford FC dropped out of the Football League through relegation in 2012 and since then the supporters were made to endure three seasons of financial mismanagement under two different owners in David Keyte, who refused to sell to the Hereford United Supporters Trust, and Tommy Agombar. Under Agombar’s rein Hereford was ejected from non league football due to large sums of debt and in December 2014 Hereford FC collapsed. Since 2015 under fan ownership, Hereford FC, have created a sustainable future attracting no fewer than 2,000 members, the club have acquired kit sponsorship and have even obtained possession of Edgar Street stadium, the ground the original club used since 1924. Fan ownership has brought sustainability, democracy, inclusion and continuity to the club. There are many examples of this positive change in the light of supporter ownership at other clubs, such as FC United of Manchester and Portsmouth FC, which is why I strongly believe supporters’ should be given the right to own their club.


Majority ownership has led to the collapse of many British football clubs. Supporters’ loyalty and devotion to their clubs have been exploited by owners, and the common aspiration for success has been employed as a rational explanation for groundless, unreasonable and unmanageable economic abuse.

There are successful cases of fan ownership at both the bottom and top end of professional football. Importantly, there are far too many cases of bad ownership.

Football, is about community. British football must regain this sentiment.  The supporters, the people who invest time and money into their club, should be the ones who own it and make decisions in regards to what is best for their club. A great man once said “Football without fans it nothing.”, and never have those words resonated more with football supporters than right now. Everyone who loves this game has a responsibility to take a good hard look at themselves and ask, ‘What am I doing to make a difference?’.




BBC Sport (2015a) ‘Massimo Cellino: Leeds chairman calls off plan to sell club to fans’, BBC Sport website accessed on 7 December 2015

BBC Sport (2015b) ‘Hereford FC: New club to play in Midland Football League’, BBC Sport website accessed on 8 December 2015

BBC Sport (2015c) ‘Hereford FC supporters crucial to future of phoenix club’, BBC Sport website accessed on 8 December 2015

BBC Sport (2015d) ‘Hereford FC shirt sponsor deal agreed for new season’, BBC Sport website accessed on 8 December 2015

Beech, J. (2010) ‘Finance in the football industry’, in S., Hamil and S., Chadwick (Eds.), Managing football: An international perspective, Butterworth Heinemann, Oxford.

Begbies Traynor (2015) Begbies Traynor Red Flag Alert Football Distress Report: Scottish Football League – March 2015, University of Stirling website accessed on 3 December 2015

Fitzpatrick, C (2013) ‘The struggle for grassroots involvement in football club governance: experiences of a supporter-activist’, Soccer and Society, Vol. 14, no. 2, pp. 201 – 214.

FourFourTwo (2015) ‘“Come on both teams!” Westfields vs Hereford’, FourFourTwo. November 2015, pp. 60 – 64.

Garcia, B & Welford, J. (2015) ‘Supporters and football governance, from customers to stakeholders: A literature review and agenda for research’, Sport Management Review, Vol. 18, no. 4, pp. 517 – 528.

Giulianotti, R. (2002) ‘Supporters, followers, fans, and flaneurs: a taxonomy of spectator identities in football’, Journal of Sport and Social Issues, Vol. 26, no. 1, pp. 25 – 46

Kennedy, P. (2012a) ‘Supporters Direct and supporters’ governance of football: a model for Europe?’, Soccer and Society, Vol. 13, no. 3, pp. 409 – 425.

Kennedy, P & Kennedy, D. (2012) ‘Football supporters and the commercialisation of football: comparative responses across Europe’, Soccer and Society, Vol. 13, no. 3, pp. 327 – 340.

Kennedy, D. (2012b) ‘Football stadium relocation and the commodification of football: the case of Everton supporters and their adoption of the language of commerce’, Soccer and Society, Vol. 13, no. 3, pp. 341 – 358.

Margalit, A. (2009) ‘“You’ll Never Walk Alone”: On property, community, and football fans’, Theoretical Inquiries in Law, Vol. 10, no. 1, pp. 217-240.

Morrow, S. (2015) ‘Football finances’ in J., Goddard and P., Sloane (Eds) Handbook of the Economics of Football. Edward Elgar, Cheltenham.

Morrow, S. (2015) ‘Power and logics in Scottish football: the financial collapse of Rangers FC’, Sport, Business and Management: An International Journal, Vol. 5, No. 4, pp. 325 – 343.

Morrow, S. (2012) ‘The financial collapse of Rangers: lessons for the business of football’, Perspectives, Vol. 33, pp. 15-18.

PWC (2013) Turbulent times ahead: Scottish Premier League Football, The University of Stirling website accessed on 2 December 2015

Szymanski, S. (2015) Money and football: A soccernomics guide, Nation Books, New York

 The Guardian (2015) ‘Leeds fans up in arms at imposition of £5 pie tax in South Stand, The Guradian website accessed on 7 December 2015

The Independent (2015) ‘Massimo Cellino will not sell Leeds United until next year’, The Independent website accessed on 7 December 2015

The Scottish Government (2015) Consultation on Supporter Involvement in Scottish Football Clubs, The Scottish Government website accessed on 2 December 2015

The Telegraph (2015) ‘Leeds United’s pie tax is an abuse of supporters’ loyalty’, The Telegraph website accessed on 7 December 2015

 UEFA (2015) The European Club Footballing Landscape: Club licensing benchmarking report financial year 2014, The UEFA website accessed on 2 December 2015

Working Group Report (2015) Supporter Involvement in Football Clubs, The Scottish Government website accessed on 2 December 2015

Working Group Report (2014) Key Messaging Document – ownership and governance in Scottish Football, The Scottish Government website accessed on 2 December 2015

Copa90 (2015) Cork City FC – The Rise of the Rebel Army, YouTube website accessed on 19 January 2016




Australian Open 2016, British success.

Johanna Konta has continued her remarkable run of form and has reached the semi finals of the Australian Open by beating China’s Zhang Shuia.

Andy Murray also had success in the quarter finals beating David Ferrer, to reach his 6th Australian Open semi final.

It has taken 39 years for two Britons to reach this stage of the competition. Sue Barker (semi finalist) and John Lloyd (runners up) were the last British tennis players to do so.

Good Luck Andy and Jo!

THE GREAT ESCAPE: Champions League Preview

Olympiakos v Arsenal, Wednesday 9th December (7.45pm KO)


Arsenal require a win against the Greek outfit this evening to progress through to the last 16 of the Champions League knock out stages.


Last night Manchester United crashed out of Europe’s elite football competition after a 3 – 2 away defeat to VfLWolfsburg. This sent shockwaves around Britain. How could a club of this stature be prematurely KO’d from the Champions League, a competition they won merely 7 years ago?


Will the Gunners suffer the same fate?


Arsenal can only qualify for the last 16 as Group F runners-up if they better Olympiakos 3-2 win at the Emirates.


A 1-0 or 2-1 win will not be enough. The Gunners require 3-2 or a higher score line to give them a better head-to-head record than their Greek rivals in the group.


With this score line, Arsenal would then finish above Olympiakos on overall goal difference.


The Stats

  • In Greece, Arsenal have drawn one and lost four of their last five games


  • The Gunners have won seven and lost four of their last 13 European away fixtures


  • Olympiakos are aiming to progress to the knock out stages of the Champions League for the second time in three seasons.


  • Olympiakos are currently unbeaten in six home Champions League ties against English opposition; winning five of those games




There have been many great escapes in Champions League folklore, from which Arsenal can draw strength.


Here are some of the best.


FC PORTO 2003/2004


FC Porto after being crowned UEFA Cup winners in season 2002/2003 began their attack on the UEFA Champions League under the leadership of a young, Jose Mourinho.


The Portuguese side did not get off to a good start in their first group game against Partizan. Porto drew one all with the Serbians in their away fixture. There home leg against Real Madrid seen Jose Mourinho’s side hammered 3 – 1. All seemed lost, until the young Mourinho wielded his magic and defeated French side, Marseille in a double header (3 – 2 away then 1 – 0 at home). Porto would later go on to win 2 – 1 at home against Partizan and draw with Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu.


After the home defeat to Real Madrid left the Portugese side one point from two games all seemed lost. But eventually, Porto stormed through the competition taking a staggering 10 points from a possible 12.


Porto went on to reach the final in Germany, and were crowned the Champions of Europe defeating Monaco 3 – 0.


LIVERPOOL 2004/2005


In their opening group match Liverpool comfortably won 2 – 0 against Monaco. The Reds struggled to pick up points in Greece however, and Olympiakos finished them off with a 1 – 0 win. Liverpool again struggled to make the grade, and drew 0 – 0 at Anfield against Deportivo La Coruna. That meant Liverpool had only taken four points in three games.


In the return leg against Deportivo away, Liverpool won 1 – 0. However defeat at Monaco meant that Liverpool required a victory by two clear goals against Olympiakos (sound familiar?).


Liverpool initially went behind after a well worked Rivaldo free kick. This set piece set the stage for one of the most dramatic comebacks in Liverpool’s and Champions League history.


Liverpool scored two minutes after the game restarted through Florent Sinama-Pongolle. The second goal came from Neil Mellor who scored in the 81st minute. The Reds needed a goal, and who better to pop up and deliver it than Captain Fantastic himself – Steven George Gerrard.


25 yards out, dying minutes of the game, in front of the Kop and boom – GOAL!!


3 – 1 Liverpool.


Of course, if you know your history, the Reds later went on to produce arguably the greatest Champions League final ever. Does anyone remember the certain heroics of one Jerzy Dudek? Simply unforgettable.




The German side collected merely four points from five games during their Champions League campaign. Going into their final fixture against Greek side Panathinaikos they needed a victory, of four or more goals and Barcelona to beat Italian side Udinese. To summarise, they needed a miracle. And by God, did they get one.


The Germans battered Panathinaikos 5 – 1, they has done their bit. Barcelona however left it late to seal a victory over Udinese, scoring twice in the final 5 minutes of the match.


Bremen would later be knocked out by Juventus in the last 16 but they gave us a hell of moment to remember.




Will there be another great escape?


Arsenal awaits their fate this evening. If they do drop out of the competition it will be the first time in 16 consecutive seasons.


The Gunners will have to progress without star striker Alexi Sanchez and midfielder Santi Carzola. Arsenal did secure a comfortable 3 – 1 at home against Sunderland at the weekend taking the London side to 2nd place in the Premier League. They will have to build on that confidence and their success in domestic competition to give them any sort of chance of completing the great escape.


“Que sera sera, whatever will be, will be.

The Future’s not ours to see. Que sera, sera!”


British Association Football

History comes to life today in Scotland and England as 4 teams battle it out to win their respective national football tournament. 

The Scottish Cup was first held in 1873.  The trophy presented to the winner of the competition is the oldest in association football and the oldest national trophy in the world. The first team to win the Scottish cup was Queen’s Park in March 1874.

The first ever Scottish cup game was won by Kilmarnock, who beat opposition Renton 2 – 0.

The most successful club in this competition is Celtic, who have won the worlds oldest trophy 36 times.

The Football Association Challenge Cup ( commonly known as the FA cup ) is the oldest association football tournament in the world. The inaugural tournament was held in 1971.

Arsenal were the winners of the 1971 tournament.

Arsenal and Manchester United are joint leaders of the record number of tournament wins. Both sides have 11 FA Cup wins to their name.


British politics has not always had an interest in sport. Even now many involved in politics feel that the two should never mix.

For a long time it never did. A huge step was taken in 1972 when the Sports Council (now known as UK Sport) was established in Britain.

This organisation launched the ‘Sport for All’ campaign. The aim behind it was to promote wider public awareness of the value of sport across the United Kingdom. ‘Sport for All’ wielded a dual message; it wished to promote access to sport for marginalised or disadvantaged groups, such as women, the disabled or those of a low socio-economic status, furthermore ‘Sport for All’ wished to promote sport as a part of everyone’s day to day life.  Over the course of the campaign new facilities where built to offer sport provision, or there was simply improvements made to existing facilities.

The establishment of the Sports Councils for a short time provided a positive step for sport. All would soon change under Thatcher’s Conservative Party.


Margaret Thatcher, the woman that would change it all.

Lady Thatcher, and the Conservative party, would form the role as British Prime Minister for 11 years from 1979 – 1990.

Beginning with the 1980 Moscow Olympics, Thatcher desired all British athletes to boycott the international sporting event because the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in 1979. That GB athletes that did attend, did so without government support.

Thatcher was ever keen to reduce public spending would never allow for a home Olympics. When Birmingham bid for the 1992 Commonwealth Games, it did so without financial support from the government.

Thatcher and Football were two words that certainly did not mix well. Following two “crowd disaster” in 1985 (Heysel and the Bradford Fire) Thatcher and her Conservative government introduced fan ID cards under the Football Spectators Act of 1989. The ID cards were required by fans to gain admission to football grounds in Britain.

Critics of the scheme complained that a vast majority of supporters may have been law-abiding citizens. There were also technological difficulties associated with the cards and heavy queuing was another major issue.

The Prime Minister also failed to consider the possibility that most disturbances were outside grounds rather than inside.

Hillsborough would be the final “crowd disaster” that would lead to the abolishment of the ‘National Membership Scheme’.

School Sport, and the work of the Sports Councils, was to take a heavy toll during the Margaret Thatcher era. The Prime Ministers 1981 Regulation 909 gave education authorities the right to sell school land that they considered surplus to their requirements. Over the next decade an estimated 5,000 playing fields were sold, many converted to housing developments, supermarkets or car parks.

A survey by the Secondary Heads Association showed that the proportion of pupils under 14 spending less than two hours a week in physical education rose from 38% to 71% between 1987 and 1990, a shocking statistic which completely summarises Thatcher’s indifference towards sport.

JOHN MAJOR: The sports fan not without failure

John Major, and the Conservative party, would succeed Margaret Thatcher and form the role as British Prime Minister for 7 years from 1990 – 1997.

Major aimed to place sport at the top of the Westminster agenda. He believed that School Sport was the first step towards a lifetime participation in sport. To achieve lifetime participation John Major aimed to provided links been school and club sport.

Sport: Raising the Game released in 1995, was to be the Conservative Party’s new sports policy plan. The plan committed to correcting Thatcher’s failure and looked to reinstate a minimum of 2 hours a week dedicated to Physical Education and School Sport for ALL children. Traditional British sports and team games would be central to the plans. The cultural heritage surrounding team sports in Britain was to be used to promote pro school values and character building.

Under Major’s Conservative government huge funding was put aside for the provision of extracurricular activities and school – club links. The establishment of the National Lottery in 1992 was used for this exact purpose. The Lottery funds were to be split amongst the UK Sports Councils with the sole purpose of providing school sport.

Under Major sport appeared to be in good hands, however there are issues with his policy.

Major valued traditional, team games and while this appeared to be harmless in reality it divided genders. ‘Traditionally’ boys played rough, competitive, tactical games like football or rugby while girls played low intensity, aesthetically pleasing, technical games like netball and gymnastics.  The plan was critiqued for not engaging everyone at school level.

The idea of ‘traditional’ school sport mirrored Victorian ideology that resided in the English public and Scottish private schools. The plan was deemed as ‘more of the same for the more able’.

TONY BLAIR: The Game Plan

Tony Blair, and the Labour party, would succeed John Major, and form the role as British Prime Minister for 10 years from 1997 – 2007.

It was now Labour’s turn to create an inclusive and proactive sports environment in Britain. The Game Plan was Blair’s proposal for improving sport in the UK. For the first time in British history the plan outlined physical activity objectives.

Sport under Blair’s Labour government was going to be used as a tool to benefit not only education but wider society. Sport would be used to benefit UK health, crime, social inclusion and educational outcomes. The Game Plan strategy sought to increase opportunity equality, allowing people to participate within the social structures of British society. Blair’s plan targeted women, the elderly, school leavers and economically disadvantaged groups.

It was estimated that £2 billion was the cost of physical inactivity each year. Physical Activity and Sport would be the miracle cure for chronic diseases. Labour admired sport as a money saving tool; it provided a preventative medicine which in the long run would decrease NHS costs.

The Game Plan outlined the value that Blair placed on International sport participation and success. He believed a successful sporting nation created a ‘feel good factor’ that could have incalculable benefits on British people.

However, it would be too simple to say that Tony Blair’s Labour party had got it entirely right. It is very difficult to evaluate the success the Game Plan had on social inclusion for obvious reasons. Furthermore, its success in the area of improved educational outcome can be questioned.

It appeared that many leading educational organisations jumped on the bandwagon in support of educational improvement. The Qualification and Curriculum Authority (QCA) attached themselves to Labour’s Game Plan as did Youth Sport Trust (YST). However there could be many reasons for this.

Perhaps to be seen that they are doing there jobs right, the QCA agreed that the strategy was working. They were hardly going to disagree. Similarly the YST who aims to increase sport opportunities for all young people, working within the realms of social inclusion, were never going to oppose the “success” of Blair’s Game Plan.

GORDON BROWN: Competitive School Sport, the Revival

Gordon Brown, and the Labour party, would succeed Tony Blair, and form the role as British Prime Minister for 10 years from 2007 – 2010.

Competitive School Sport was Brown’s war cry following the news in 2005 that London would host the 2012 Summer Olympic Games. Brown’s Labour government channelled the use of new school sport such as cycling, canoeing and boxing in order to broaden inclusion and improve participation rates.

His proposal set out to increase the minimum 2 hours of Physical Education to a weekly 5 hours of PE time. This proposal however has not since been met. It was a fairly unrealistic proposal which would require a huge increase in volunteers and specialised teaching staff.

As for the use of new sports such as canoeing and boxing well there is very little evidence to suggest that they have been used in the British school system. The equipment and facilities required, not even mentioning the specialist coaching, was far beyond the reach of Gordon Brown.

DAVID CAMERON: Cuts to school sport – A Conservative Carbon Copy

David Cameron, and the Conservative party, would succeed Gordon Brown, and form the role as British Prime Minister for 5 years from 2010 – present.

Cameron faced the hard task of attempting to continue an Olympic Games Legacy after the success of the home nation event. This is a task that the current Prime Minister has never really accomplished.

Cameron and the Conservative government in their first year in power backed major cuts for school sport partnerships, which had helped to increase the quality and range of sport available in schools.

Ironically, for a government that values competition, competitive sport between schools has suffered after Cameron cut school sports partnership funding.

The £162 million annual funding for school sports partnerships was cut in October 2010. However, with such a backlash the Conservative government had to make a partial U-turn which resulted in a £65 million a year investment in school sport. This however would only last until the year 2013.

Cameron and his love of ‘competitive sports’, like Major’s Sport: Raising the Game policy, can cause mass exclusion. Again a Conservative government singled out talented and sporty pupils, while ignoring the indifferent. This would be another downfall discrediting the Olympic game legacy.

Cameron, after dismissing the idea of reintroducing the 2 hour Physical Education target, because schools were meeting it “by doing things like Indian dance or whatever, that you and I probably wouldn’t think of as sport”, provided a new draft PE curriculum published in 2012 that will make it compulsory to take part in what his Conservative party believe to be “recognised and recognisable sports” such as football, hockey and netball.

This may well be a carbon copy of Major’s Conservative ‘Traditional’ Sports Policy, the difference being that John Major placed a fair amount of funding behind sport. Cameron obviously has different plans for his purse, and indeed he was not the man to “Inspire a Generation”.


A sport called ‘CYCLE SPEEDWAY’ that began in Britain post World War 2 from the remains of the bomb sites that struck the island. The sport gripped the youth of the time, and became a cultural hit!

“The riders might only have been aged 16 and 17, but many became minor celebrities in their local area.”

Joe Foster, now 79, who raced for the Bermondsey Greyhounds and Lynton Lynx said:

“It was exciting – it would be absolutely chock-a-block, quite an atmosphere with people cheering you. I’d say there were more than 3,000 people sometimes,”