Our Chair, Andrew Pope, says:
“We welcome these proposals as they implement Labour Friends of Football’s objective since we began, of involving fans in the clubs that they are a part of.
“The proposals also implement part of our campaign goals for 2014-15 which are:
1. A Living Wage at all professional clubs
2. Fair ticket prices, distributed fairly
3. Reform of football governance
I would like to thank Clive Efford, Ed Miliband, Jon Cruddas, all those involved in forming these proposals, and the Labour Friends of Football Board, its members, supporters and followers.
Labour Friends of Football will continue to put Labour, and football fans, at the heart of our campaigns.”
LABOUR: PUTTING FANS AT THE HEART OF FOOTBALL’S FUTURE
At the National Football Museum in Manchester, Labour will today unveil plans to give football fans a voice in every boardroom and buy a significant slice of the shares when the ownership of their club changes.
Clive Efford, Labour’s Shadow’s Sports Minister, will launch the proposals for the biggest legislative shake-up in the way football clubs in England & Wales involve the fans since the advent of the game.
The plan, which has been drawn up in consultation with 95 supporters’ organisations, would ensure those running clubs share information, power and responsibility with the fans that support them through good times and bad.
It would enable accredited supporters trusts to:
• appoint and remove a quarter of a football club’s board of directors
• purchase 10 per cent of the shares of a club’s new owner.
Labour will consult on legislative proposals to provide the means for supporters to be a genuine part of their clubs, giving supporters a significant – but not dominant role – in corporate governance.
They would have confidential access to information and the chance to discuss at boardroom level finances and future plans so they can hold those running the club to account on all issues on and off the field including ticket prices, shirt sponsorship, ground naming rights, and changing the colour of the strip or the name.
Ed Miliband said:
“Millions of people in our country love their football and love their football clubs. Our national game can only benefit from the voices of fans being heard in the boardroom and ensuring they have the chance to play their part. The proposals Labour is publishing today for clubs to share power and responsibility with their fans will help everyone win, strengthening the long-term competitiveness of clubs, whilst re-building the bonds between clubs and local communities, and rebuilding trust for the long term health of football as a whole.”
Jon Cruddas said:
“The Premier League is a hugely successful commercial product. But football is more than a business: football clubs are rooted in people’s communities and they are an important part of many people’s identity and sense of belonging. These proposals – giving fans a voice and a stake in their football clubs – are of a piece with Labour’s wider agenda to reform society by breaking up unaccountable concentrations of power and pushing power and responsibility outwards.”
Clive Efford said:
“Too often fans are treated like an after-thought as ticket prices are hiked-up, grounds re-located and clubs burdened with debt or the threat of bankruptcy. Only this week, the BBC’s Price of football survey showed how average prices have risen at almost twice the rate of the cost of living since 2011. We have reached a tipping point in the way football is run.
“The Labour party has listened to the views of fans about changing the way football is run in England and Wales. And we want to ensure they are heard by the owners of the clubs too. We will now consult further on proposals to enshrine on the statute books the idea that fans should have a voice and a stake in the way football clubs are run because we believe they are more than just commercial businesses; they have a special place in people’s hearts –.”
In the last two decades English and Welsh football has undergone a transformation in terms of its commercial success, and in the quality of football and the experience of the spectator.
The Premier League is a hugely successful commercial product. But football is more than a business: football clubs are rooted in people’s communities and they are an important part of many people’s identity and sense of belonging. They also have a vital function to play in local economies.
Despite their importance in the lives and communities of their supporters there are no effective means for fans to have a say in how their clubs are run or to safeguard their long term interests against the short-term maximisation of returns.
This lack of accountability has led to:
• Supporters’ interests and identity being ignored: from clubs being relocated away from fan-bases (Coventry) to team colours and names being changed to satisfy traditions on the other side of the globe (Cardiff, Hull);
• Debt and insolvency: which have seen some of our oldest football clubs (Portsmouth, Leeds, Birmingham) forced into administration. 36 football league clubs (exactly half the total number of members) have gone into administration since 1992;
• Unsustainably high ticket prices: despite record turnover, average ticket prices in England and Wales remain amongst the highest in Europe – only this week, the BBC’s Price of football survey showed how average prices have risen at almost twice the rate of the cost of living since 2011.
Right to appoint 1/4 of the directors
Labour would legislate to give a legally enforceable right to the Supporters Trust to appoint and remove up to one quarter and not less than two of the members of the Board of Directors.
This right would be supported by a ‘special share’ issued for a nominal sum to the Supporters Trust. The ‘special share’ would also confer on the Supporters Trust the additional right – in normal circumstances to obtain (under an obligation of confidentiality) financial and commercial information about the business and affairs of a football club. They would not be able to block takeovers or change corporate strategy.
10 per cent of share ownership
Supporters would be given a ‘pre-emption right’ to buy up to 10 per cent of the shares purchased by a person acquiring control of their club. This right would be triggered by a changeover of control of the club defined at a 30 per cent level. In practice this permits the Supporters Trust to acquire up to 10 per cent of the shares that are offered for sale.
The buyer acquiring control of the club would offer the Supporters Trust ten per cent of the shares acquired at the average price paid by the buyer for relevant securities in the year proceeding the change of control. That offer would be open for acceptance for not less than 240 days but the completion of the change in control could happen in the meantime.
The ownership share would be capped at a maximum of 10 per cent to prevent Supporters Trusts from being able to acquire an unspecified proportion of shares through multiple changes in ownership which would be a deterrence to future investors.
Accredited Supporters’ Trusts
The legislation would contain provisions requiring Supporters Trusts to become Industrial and Provident Societies. They would be accredited to an umbrella body and would be required to meet certain governance standards, including a compliant constitution, the election of a Board with one member one vote, and provision for membership fees.