Tuesday, March 30, 2010

'We look forward to fans being at the heart of the game'

Source: The Guardian

Interested parties give their reaction to Labour's plans to give fans more influence in the way football clubs are governed

o Owen Gibson
o guardian.co.uk, Monday 29 March 2010 21.25 BST

Andy Walsh, general manager of FC United of Manchester, said he welcomes the debate about club ownership going mainstream. Photograph: Christopher Thomond

Dave Boyle Chief executive Supporters Direct

"If you have got both parties – one of whom will be the government next time round – saying we want to put fans in a much more entrenched position within the clubs, then that's brilliant. It's great news for the trust movement and long-overdue recognition that clubs aren't businesses like any other. We look forward to the next government – whoever it is – putting fans at the heart of the game and we will work with them to make it happen. If it's a line in the manifesto, then that's great. This feels like a change in tone and pitch. I'd like to think it's both parties realising the power of football supporters but it's also a recognition that on the back of what has happened at Manchester United and what has happened at Portsmouth there's a need to act. It's not a minority issue any more. It's great to see it rising up the political agenda but it will come down to how good the proposal is and how strong the will is. We can help with the former but the latter is very much down to the government"

Michel Platini Uefa president

"Personally, I think it is a great idea ... that the supporters invest in a club because they, at the end of the day, defend the club's identity. They are always there. They are always watching the games. There are clubs now where the president is not a national of the country, the coach is not a national of the country and the players are not nationals of the country. The only ones to have any kind of identity are the supporters"

Hugh Robertson Conservative shadow sports minister

"I believe there is widespread consensus that action needs to be taken but it is important to understand the full implications for insolvency law and target this precisely. One concern is that giving supporters a 'right to buy' some or all of the club may not always be the best solution, because it can screen out better-funded local businessmen with community backing. You could logically forgo the first stage by giving fans direct involvement in the first place"

Don Foster Liberal Democrat culture, media and sport spokesman

"Supporter ownership is a nice idea but will be nothing more than a pipe dream for most fans. We urgently need a radical overhaul of the FA to better represent supporters and act in the interests of the game. Ministers need to promise to look at other issues of desperate importance to fans, like ticket prices, safe standing and facilities for disabled supporters"

Andy Walsh General manager FC United of Manchester

"I know they have been in discussions over it for the last few months. We welcome this debate going mainstream. We have been campaigning on these issues for a number of years. Last month we had a rally in which we said that, if the FA don't feel they can move on legislating on ownership, the government should intervene. People can be cynical about the motives and, looking back to what was said at the end of the Football Task Force, you can see why some people are cynical. But something needs to be done. You can't impose the German model on England but there are strong lessons to be learned from it. We would support a regulatory requirement of ownership to be held in trust for the good of the football club"

Lord Ouseley Chairman Kick It Out

"I'm not sure the government's interference has been helpful [in terms of reforming the Football Association]. My worry is that government interference has not helped this process, although clearly it tried to help for all the right reasons. The Burns report [Lord Burns's 2005 proposal of how to restructure the FA] was very important in detailing how a modern body like that should be constructed. It should go ahead and implement Burns fully. But I just get the feeling that people in the FA will stick two fingers up at the government and say 'what the hell are you playing at?' The Premier League will say they are running a very successful competition and why should government stick their noses in? I do agree with what is being suggested, that fans should have a greater role and be better represented, and clearly I believe the FA board should have greater inclusivity. But my main concern is that government pressure is counterproductive"

The Premier League, the Football Association and the Football League declined to comment on the government's proposals