A major summit in Manchester will discuss whether billionaire football club owners are turning local people away from the game.
More than 100 academics from around the world will attend the conference at Manchester Metropolitan University on June 1 and will look at different ways clubs are owned – such as global brands like Manchester United and fan-owned clubs like FC United.
In particular the academics will look at how Premiership clubs with international owners can remain rooted in local communities.
Conference organiser Deirdre Hynes, from Manchester Metropolitan University, said privately-owned clubs could enjoy huge investment from wealthy owners – but could face trouble if they walked away.
She said: “Many other European countries – particularly Germany and Spain – have different ownership models in which fans are heavily involved.
“Barcelona is an example. It is the most famous and successful club in the world where the fans are also the owners.
“Manchester United and Real Madrid are massive global brands in football and there is a debate in how big clubs re-engage with their communities.”
Dr Hynes, who researches football crowds and will be speaking at the event, is interviewing fans of FC United for a research project.
She said fan-owned clubs such as FC United could end up being more sustainable.
Dr Hynes added: “Placing the ownership of a club within the hands of the community could prolong the life of the club.
“Clubs with a large, wealthy owner are often dependent on their goodwill to make investment after investment.
“If they decide to withdraw their support, or take money out of the club. You have a huge problem. You only have to look at Rangers to see how things can go wrong.”
The experts will consider the commercial pressure on clubs and how Twitter and Facebook can keep clubs in contact with core fans. The conference – Football and the Community – was due to be held at the National Football Museum which doesn’t open until July 6.