Jon Cruddas, Head of Labour’s Policy Review:
FOOTBALL means more to people than politics.
Support is passed down from fathers and mothers to sons and daughters, even though they may have moved away from the towns they were born in.
And football clubs are one of the very few institutions that give people a sense of belonging and community.
It’s one of the few places left where people can be together and sing together, love together and hate together.
Saints v Pompey, Arsenal v Spurs, Liverpool v Man United, Celtic v Rangers — these are events that bring tribes together and stir the heart. They matter.
The Premier League is still physical, passionate and unpredictable, and the engagement of fans is a central part of the success of the Premier League as a global brand.
It’s an essential part of what makes the league the most popular in the world.
And yet the football clubs, which are part of the civic inheritance of every Englishman, are treated as just another commodity to be bought and sold.
The fans have no power, no say and no voice in how their clubs are run.
Owners have no link to the club and its traditions and there is no one to hold them accountable.
Owners can change the colour of a strip or the name of a club.
And in a world where the rewards are astronomical — for owners, managers and players — who is representing the interests of the club as an inheritance to be passed on, thriving and intact, to the next generation, rather than just an asset to be sweated?
Fans want their clubs to be competitive. They want their clubs to succeed. They want their clubs to win.
That is why Labour is committed to having football fans on the boards of clubs.
Not as a dominating force but as a quarter of the board.
They will be elected by independent supporter trusts, like the magnificent Spirit of Shankly at Liverpool.
When the club changes ownership, the supporter trusts should have first choice in buying ten per cent of the shares bought.
Partnership and the common good, rather than domination, is the way ahead.
That way they can hold the club to account when the board are selling off assets, which has happened too much in the past decade.
They can ensure that the fans are not the only stakeholders who have to pay.
It is not the job of the state to boss football clubs around and set policy.
What is needed is to bring the fans back in so that clubs can pursue their own strategy.
For some it will be ticket prices, for others shirt sponsorship. That is up to the clubs and their supporters.
What is vital is that the fans have a role in that and can keep the clubs honest. It means a lot.