Fan Ownership Spreads into the Premiership

Date: 1st November 2016


In case you have been sleeping, the major fan news of last week was that fans have taken over a Premiership football club – Motherwell has entered a new era with the announcement that the ‘Well Society are in control. The Well is now fan owned.

In an extensive statement the club have gone through the background, but one of the interesting things about such a high profile Scottish club taking this plunge is now we shall see if it really, works. As both Les Hutchison and John Boyle are now historic figures the Motherwell fans can look forward to missing those sack the board chants. They will hope to look forward to the democratisation of the club whilst also getting a better feel of the way that finances dictate things – or they don’t!

Boards of football clubs, though fans might deny it, can be thankless places and even those members of Boards who place their own wellbeing at the helm of their passion for a club can get booed when they raise the championship flag – ask the bunnet, Fergus McCann.

So now the fans have the keys to their very own kingdom and I must say, I am envious.

I have worked in and around my own club as a volunteer for some time wishing I had the wherewithal to buy it as it is for sale. I have seen how it is run and how many volunteers it already takes to keep it commercially afloat – far too many. I know that the well-meaning fan on the terraces has got a world view that they have something to offer their team. The well-meaning board member does not always agree with that self-same supporter but now at the top level we have club where they are one and the same.

Of course, the idea that because you are rich you know what you are doing with the community club or because you follow the team you can make the right choices for it are wrong headed assumptions but one thing is clear. When a club and the fans are united, they make a far more formidable team – both on and off the park. Fans are not daft. They know they have unrealistic ambitions for their team on the park but they also have a realistic one for it off the park – survival. Feeling passionate and part of a successful club is what we all want and when things go badly it can be very telling when fans and the board clash.

In between them is often the manager and the manager at Motherwell shall have a critical role in all this. Mark McGhee is an interesting figure to find at the centre of this new conundrum. He does not come across as the type of manager that would be open to workings that are perhaps radical and new. Having said that of course much of his philosophy in training and on the park, is criticised because it is precisely new and radical – so who knows, this could be very white knuckle.

I said I was jealous and I am. Some time ago my club was engaged with the fans in a Community Interest Company to take over the club. That has now gone and there seems no real prospect of us having any directorial control over our club. Why should we? Well, the Well Society have now got the opportunity to show us why – I for one am getting ready to get behind them totally and fully…

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