MP says: Time to trust the fans
Football has been urged to reject plans for regionalisation and breakaways and instead embrace a tried and tested solution to its ills.
On the eve of the new Premiership season, Andy Burnham, Chair of Supporters Direct and MP for Leigh urged the game to look to the only people who can be relied upon to care in troubled times - supporters.
With the collapse of ITV Digital threatening the survival of many clubs, various suggestions have been made, from going back to Divisions Three North and South, to the First Division increasing its share of the power and the money.
But with the growth of supporters' trusts across the country, clubs have a ready-made solution on their doorstep.
Andy Burnham said: "Supporters' trusts are the right idea at the right time. Fans everywhere are saying they are no longer prepared to be taken for granted. Many are ready to dig deep to help the clubs they love through these hard times. But, in return, they are rightly demanding a proper say in club affairs and seats on boards."
Since its launch two years ago, the government-backed Supporters Direct has helped:
Burnham added: "We firmly believe that these new partnerships between clubs and supporters should in future form the basis of football in all divisions. As football struggles to come to terms with the harsh economic realities of this new season, Supporters Direct stands ready to help with a tried-and-tested solution that can be of benefit to all clubs."
- 60 Supporters Trusts to form - with another 14 on the way
- 32 trusts get a shareholding in their clubs, of which 5 now have the majority holding, including Lincoln City, Chesterfield and AFC Wimbledon. Wycombe Wanderers are also owned by season ticket holders - like Barcelona and Real Madrid
- Get supporters' representatives on the Boards of 22 clubs
One change that Supporters Direct will be urging the league to make though is to allow football clubs to become mutual co-operatives, instead of just normal companies.
Brian Lomax, Managing Director of Supporters Direct explained: "Clubs are said to be community assets, but those communities can't own them to preserve and protect them. Allowing them to be owned by the supporters and the wider community gives them the best chance of riding out the storm and protect the assets built up over the years from predators more interested in building houses on the ground than building a healthy football industry."
Supporters Direct will be seeking a meeting with the new Chairman and Chief Executive of the League when they are appointed, to press upon them the need to make sure that assets built up by generations of supporters and clubs aren't sold in haste to developers to get clubs through a difficult time, and that the communities who will ultimately rescue clubs in difficulty can play a full part in owning them after a crisis.
For more information about Supporters Direct, who support the work of LOFT, see their website at www.supporters-direct.org.uk