Plan to give football fans the ‘right to buy’ failing clubs

Football fans will receive a ‘right to buy’ their club under plans being developed by the Co-operative Party.

Football fans will receive a ‘right to buy’ their club under plans being developed by the Co-operative Party.

In a bid to increase the influence of supporters’ trust, the Party, alongside Supporters Direct, is calling for a reform of Football Association rules and legislation to strengthen investment at a grassroots level.

Last week, the Green Party in Scotland also reiterated its 2011 pledge that supporters should be given first refusal on a sale of a club. This echoes a similar pledge in the Co-operative Party’s 2011 Scottish Manifesto. The Green Party is proposing an amendment to the Scottish Government’s Community Empowerment and Renewal Bill in autumn that will allow fans the ‘right to buy’.

Meanwhile, the Co-operative Party is initially calling for a change in rules governing Premier League and Championship football clubs to give supporters the opportunity to run their clubs, with Spanish and German clubs being cited as a template. Plans will also be submitted to Labour's continuing policy review.

Among the proposals being considered are reforms to FA rules to give supporters a guaranteed ‘right to buy’ their club if it gets into financial trouble. A club would be allowed six months grace to enable fans to take over, before penalty points were deducted.

The Co-operative Party said it is taking action after Premiership club owners have been stalling on these issues, as well as showing a reluctance for trusts to have a voice in the boardroom of a club.

Part of the Co-operative Party’s campaign will allow a fans’ representative to have the ‘right to observe’. This would allow a representative from a trust to attend club board meetings, so long as the trust held a set percentage of season ticket holders in its membership. In the UK, only Swansea City in the Premiership has a representative of the trust on the board.

Gareth Thomas MP, Chair of the Party, said: “Football fans are the foundation of every successful football club and deserve a greater say in how their club is run. Giving fans a guaranteed ‘right to buy’ when their club is in trouble and a ‘right to observe’ the Board for the Football Supporters Trust would help to ensure that clubs are not the sole preserve of wealthy owners and have the interests of grassroots supporters taken seriously at every Board meeting.”

Mr Thomas also said the Party is also considering proposals to introduce legislation to create a ‘backstop’ power to levy the broadcasting income of football clubs to boost investment in grassroots sport; including coaching facilities and school sport.

The Co-operative Party originally developed the supporters’ trust concept, which later evolved into the national Supporters Direct network of over 190 trusts.

• Read: What Premier League clubs can learn from Germany

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