Fan ownership: Green MSP wins major concession

After a two-year campaign, Alison Johnstone MSP has secured Scottish Government agreement that their Community Empowerment Bill will contain powers to introduce a fans’ right to buy their football clubs.

Scottish Government amendments to the Bill, which is expected to pass on Wednesday 17 June, will set out the basis for those powers, and a consultation on fan ownership and other issues will be carried out over the summer.

The Green MSPs will support the Scottish Government’s amendments, and will also seek to bring other changes designed to meet three objectives: to protect fans and club owners, to allow loans or grants to be made available to support fan buy-outs, and to guarantee that the Scottish Government acts promptly once the consultation is concluded. The principle of a fans’ right to buy has been supported by Labour and Liberal Democrat MSPs throughout the process, and the Greens are now calling on all parties to support both the Government’s changes and the Green amendments to them. In polling conducted last year, the principle of a fans’ right to buy was backed by almost three quarters of respondents expressing a view, and 89% supported the option of loans or grants to help fans complete buy-outs (1).

AJ in chamber for webAlison Johnstone MSP, who has led the campaign, said:

“Over the years, far too many fans of Scottish football have had to watch from the sidelines as their clubs excluded them from decision-making, as clubs were spectacularly mismanaged, and as far too many clubs fell into administration. It’s time for supporters to be put at the heart of the game, and a fans’ right to buy is essential for that. While a club is in good hands, as many are, this right to buy would never be used, but even at those clubs, fans know good owners come and go. Fans will always be the best long-term trustees of a club’s interests, and now, for the first time, Ministers will have the powers to bring in that crucial right to buy. It’s not good enough for fans to be called on only when a club has gone bust.

“I therefore welcome the Scottish Government’s agreement that these powers should be delivered, and I am also grateful to Labour and Liberal Democrat MSPs for their support for a fans’ right to buy during this process. I urge Parliament to accept these additional measures on Wednesday, to protect fans and club owners, to make loans or grants available where fans have a good business model but are struggling to get over the line, and to ensure that these powers are implemented during this Parliamentary session. The polls show that there is overwhelming public support for a robust fans’ right to buy, and it is time for Parliament to listen to the public and to the terraces, and to put Scottish fans first on Wednesday.”

1. Results of a Survation poll conducted between 11-15 April 2014. The questions asked were:

A number of clubs in the Scottish Professional Football League have recently been purchased by their fans. Many other clubs face financial difficulties. In Scotland, there are already laws that give communities the first right to buy land in their area in certain circumstances, and it has been proposed that these rights should be extended to give football fans’ trusts the right to buy their clubs.

Which of these measures would you support?

– Fans’ trusts to have first refusal (i e being given the first chance to make an offer) when their clubs are sold

– Fans’ trusts to have first refusal if their clubs go into administration

– Fans to have the right to buy their clubs for a market value at any time

Full results available here:

http://survation.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/Scottish-Green-Party-Football-Trust.pdf