Co-operatives have helped to reconnect football with communities, according to former Sports minister Andy Burnham.
Mr Burnham, the MP for Leigh, told delegates at the annual Supporters Direct Summit that co-operative values are growing in the game. He said: “I am here today because I have a huge affection for this organisation, spreading those co-op values into our national game, reconnecting football with its roots and I want to see the co-op principles grow in football."
The Summit, co-organised by the Football Supporters Federation, attracted over a hundred delegates from supporters trusts around the UK and Europe to the Football Association's national centre in Burton-upon-Trent. Delegates discussed football finance, fan engagement, community right to bid, sustainability, transparency, asset protection and homophobia in football.
Calling for a solution to the growing imbalance in football ownership, Mr Burnham said co-operatives could be key to tackling this problem: “We need to see clubs owned by their fans, not by random individuals from around the world. We want clubs that know their communities, are in touch with their communities and are run in the interest of their supporters.”
During his keynote speech, Mr Burnham said he welcomed ideas about the way in which the situation can be changed adding that these could also be included in Labour Party’s manifesto for the next general election. He said that public policy is needed to support this initiative and added: “When elites run the club themselves they rarely take decisions that benefit the communities.”
The former Chair of Supporters Direct, also reflected how the organisation has helped to promote co-operative values and principles in football. He said: “I am here today because I have a huge affection for this organisation, spreading those co-op values into our national game, reconnecting football with its roots and I want to see the co-op principles grow in football."
Mr Burnham also referred to this year's Champions League Final, which had two co-operatives competing. He said the co-op model is one that could go all the way to the top: “It would be very difficult to turn Arsenal or Manchester United into a co-op overnight, but this is a long game. We are saying that over the course of time, the rest of the century, clubs will need to be returned to their supporters. And co-ops are built for the long term.”
Mr Burnham added that co-operatives can help to separate public interest from financial interests, particularly when public interest is at stake. “I think football needs to go through a Leveson moment and it needs to separate the rest of interests from the interest of the running of the national game, but I think the media too needs to go through a similar process.”
He added that the Leveson Inquiry could provide a model for football reform, calling for an independent regulator backed by the Parliament. He commented: “Surely this is the right way to go. If it is good enough for the press, it is good enough for football. I want a strong FA to run the game in the interest of all of us.”
In this article
- Andy Burnham
- David Bernstein
- Employment Relation
- Health Secretary
- Hon Andy Burnham
- Labour Party
- MP for Leigh
- Person Career
- Social Issues
- Sports minister
- Supporters Direct
- The Co-operative Group
- United Kingdom