The Manchester United Supporters Trust has responded to the publication of the government’s “Fans Led Review” of football which was instigated after the failed attempt to establish a closed-shop European Super League.
The creation of an Independent Regulator is welcome. If the proposed powers to strengthen the owners and directors test, impose new standards of corporate governance and financial regulation, and strengthen supporter engagement are implemented as intended, they will help address some fundamental reasons why scores of football clubs have fallen into financial troubles as a result of owners focussed on short-term financial returns rather than the long-term interests of the club. We also welcome the proposal for all clubs to be required to establish a new Shadow Board drawn from supporters that will engage in strategic decision making and business plans.
Similarly, the Golden Share proposal is welcome and we acknowledge the intention for the recognised supporters trust to hold and administer that share in the democratic interest of the club’s supporter base.
The big missed opportunity from the review is its failure to address the fundamental question of club ownership. Football players, managers and owners are all temporary. Football supporters are the only permanent fixture at any football club and as such are the people who are the best custodians of a club with its long-term interests at heart. At a very minimum, the Review should have recommended measures to allow supporters who wish to invest in their club to do so, because supporters holding a meaningful proportion of share ownership in each club is the best guarantee of a club being run in the right way. We note from the Review report that 87% of supporters backed that right to invest, most of whom would be very or somewhat likely to invest personally. It is a real shame this overwhelming fans voice was ignored.
Commenting on the Review, MUST Chief Executive Duncan Drasdo said:
A Regulator and golden share powers are welcome. The government needs to make sure the Regulator is a tough one, with powers to stop clubs being run into ruin by short-termist owners, as we have seen at scores of clubs all over the country, and supporters at many clubs having no voice in how their clubs are run.
The lack of progress on the more fundamental question of ownership is deeply disappointing though. The government needs to urgently signal that following the Review it will now move to look again at the question of supporter share ownership, and how fans can be empowered to build a meaningful ownership stake in their clubs. Football fans are the best custodians of their clubs, with its long-term interests at heart, and supporter shareholders are an essential part of a better future governance model for football clubs. According to their own report, 87% back it and the government needs to listen to the fans voice.
MUST also welcomed the step in the right direction to allow alcohol to be consumed at football matches whilst watching the game, albeit this is initially a limited trial in the EFL. At present, football is the only sport where alcohol consumption is banned by law.
Football supporters attend cricket matches, rugby matches and other sports and consume alcohol whilst watching the event. It is absurd, discriminatory and out-dated that this ban exists for football alone. This trial in League Two needs to be brief, and the government needs to move quickly to legalise alcohol consumption whilst watching matches.