It’s time that fans are heard in the boardrooms

Westminster Photo John Rogers3

A bill designed to increase the say fans have in their clubs will go before Parliament today for its second reading. Here Shadow Sports Minister Clive Efford MP tells us about his bill...

Football clubs are attached to the communities in which they are based like no other forms of business.

Fans do not choose their clubs after comparing prices or being influenced by clever marketing, it is an emotional attachment that lasts a lifetime.  Fans are the people that remain after club owners have moved on and they remain loyal through good times and bad.

With few exceptions it is the communities around the clubs that provide the bulk of the fans that pack the grounds and make our football so exciting and attractive to watch.  If the grounds were empty the TV companies would not be interested in paying large sums of money to televise games and the money coming into football from TV rights would dry up.

Yet time and time again we see fans being overlooked on issues that directly affect them: naming rights; sponsorship; cost of tickets – particularly for away fans; changing club colours; and costs of merchandise. These are all examples of disputes that have occurred between fans and club directors.  It is time that fans had a voice.

This bill will not give fans a controlling stake, but it will allow them, where they chose to do so, to have a voice in the boardroom and where they have the means, to take a stake in their club.  The fans’ group will be constituted to provide transparency about how funds are managed and the board representatives are held to account.  Fans that are elected to the boards will have to undertake training to ensure that they understand the legal requirements of being a board member.   It’s time to give fans a voice.

Where they chose to do so fans can set up an appropriately constituted group that will have the right to buy up to 10 percent of the shares available for purchase when there is a change of ownership, which is when 30 percent or more of the shares on offer.  The group will also be able to elect and remove two members or up to 25 percent, whichever is the greater, of their club’s board.

It’s time that fans are heard in the boardrooms of football clubs.  Too many decisions are made without fans even being consulted.  My bill will not give fans a controlling share but it will ensure they have a place at the table and will be able to put their views across.

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