The general election race is on in Britain, and the Labour Party have released their manifesto — with the previously leaked proposals on increasing supporters’ stakes in their clubs now detailed in it.
In chapter seven, the section on sport and culture in Britain, the manifesto lists “Registered Supporters Trusts enabled to buy stakes in their club bringing mutualism to the heart of football” as one bullet point in “the next stage of national renewal.”
On the next page, there is a little more detail about what this means:
We will work with governing authorities to ensure that professional clubs are accountable to their stakeholders, and run transparently on sound financial principles, with greater involvement of local communities and supporter representation. Sports governing bodies will be empowered to scrutinise takeovers of clubs, ensuring they are in the long-term interests of the club and the sport. We will develop proposals to enable registered Supporters Trusts to buy stakes in their club.
Notably, gone from the manifesto wording is the mooted idea that 25% of each club would be given to fans. But also notably, the Conservative Party manifesto includes a commitment not far off from Labour’s, as Dave Boyle notes in Sporting Intelligence:
But the crucial $64m question, or rather 64,000-votes-in-key-marginals question, is simple: Will it work? Will Labour’s promise of change actually change anything? A crucial factor is the attitude of the other parties in the campaign.
The Conservatives were saying a few weeks’ ago that the FA was ‘drinking in the last chance saloon’ some weeks back, as they too recognised that with Ian Watmore’s resignation, the serious issues of governance and control in the FA could no longer be accepted with a resigned shrug as if it were the sporting equivalent of the enduring crap-ness of a British Rail sandwich.
The Tories sidestepped the issue of the FA’s own structure in their manifesto, published on Tuesday, but have promised to ‘reform the governance arrangements in football to enable co-operative ownership models to be established by supporters’. (Page 85 in the section on changing politics, rather than in the section on sport). Like Labour’s text, there’s enough meat to grab hold of to suggest a radical departure should you be so minded, but enough fudge to allow a lot of wriggle room.
Both hinge on the meaning to which a government would place on the word ‘enable’, and with battle now joined, we’ve got the rest of the campaign to tease out what each party might be thinking.
What is clear is that the political landscape has changed, just as within football, a reliance on a laissez-faire approach to club ownership has lost credibility, as World Soccer explains at the Premier League level :
The 20 Premier League clubs met in London on Thursday to discuss changes to its current vetting process for new owners.
The Premier League hopes to introduce a new “means and abilities” test that will force prospective owners to provide proof of funds and demonstrate their ability to invest in a club.
Under the new rule, the Premier League will also demand a face-to-face meeting with any prospective owner, in an attempt to avoid a repeat of the situation whereby Faraj was never seen in the UK and was never questioned about the state of Portsmouth’s books.
The summer following the election will be crucial to determining how these words will play out, but it’s apparent enough that the common understanding of how football should be run has altered dramatically.
- Apologies for the downtime on Pitch Invasion yesterday, and a big fuck you to whoever hacked the site. We’re still catching up following the restore, normal service will be resumed shortly.
The Sweeper appears daily. For more rambling and links throughout the day every day, follow your editor Tom Dunmore @pitchinvasion on Twitter.