Fans United

Date: 9th April 2015

‘Without fans who pay at the turnstile, football is nothing. Sometimes we are inclined to forget that. The only chance of bringing them into stadiums is if they are entertained by what happens on the football field’
Jock Stein.

WHEN Jock Stein said this, he was part of the game when fan-ownership was almost unheard of. But he realised how important the fans were, even at this time.

Football is often touted as the sport for the working class, especially compared to the likes of rugby, golf and tennis. But is it just for the working class? Or is football for everyone? The answer is — of course it’s for everyone!

Fan ownership is uniting fans all over the world, from all sorts of backgrounds. Rival fans, too, are even linking arms. However, this is not the case everywhere; which is disappointing when you consider if some fan groups were to come together, they could potentially play a real part in the boardrooms of the clubs they love.

In Scotland at the moment, there are already some clubs in the hands of the fans, as well as a couple more that are looking towards fan ownership.  Some supporter groups are trying in vain to take control of their clubs, but boardroom powerbrokers are keeping the door firmly closed.

However, it is not just ‘ordinary’ fans that are trying to help get the clubs we love under the control of the people who actually care about them — us, the fans.

In Scotland, several footballers, and former footballers, have worked hard to change the board at Rangers. Gordon Ramsay, Richard Gough, Jorg Albertz, Nacho Novo, Dado Prso, Vladimir Weiss, Alex Rae and Claudio Reyna are all reported to have joined fans’ organisations and contributed to funds raised to purchase shares in the club, with a view to one day, taking control of the troubled Glasgow side. In addition to this, Scottish Commonwealth silver medallist, Lynsey Sharp has also signed up to help take control of the club. Novo, in particular, is an interesting case as, following his move to support the fans’ bid; he was subsequently banned from training at Murray Park.

As I sit here, writing this article, RangersFirst has 9,983 registered contributors — the largest in the UK. I refresh the page and already that number has increased by another one — bearing in mind I’ve only been on the homepage for a few minutes. Then, as I click on another page on the site, researching the group, the number has increased once more, as it now sits at 9,988.

In addition to this, Rangers Supporters Trust reports 5,300 members on their website. Granted, some of these registered members may be members of both fans groups, but assuming they aren’t, that’s over 15,000 fans who are registered supporters of community ownership, truly a staggering number.

These two groups control around three per cent of the shares in Rangers. They are currently the highest-profile fans groups in Scotland, but there are other interesting examples to be found elsewhere, e.g. Cristiano Ronaldo and Andy Murray are rumoured to have donated to the Stirling Albion Supporters Association’s cause when they were raising funds to buy the club.

We are starting to see more and more political support for fans groups in Scotland.  In general, the Green Party is a strong backer of fan-ownership in football, with numerous releases found on their website backing supporters’ groups. We are told that the leader of the Labour Party in Scotland, Jim Murphy MP, supports fan ownership while the Liberal Democrat leader in Scotland, Willie Rennie MSP backed the ‘Buy The Pars’ campaign. Last month, Kenny MacAskill MSP backed Hibernian supporters bid to own their club — alongside one half of the Proclaimers, Charlie Reid.  Both are among the directors of Hibernian Supporters Limited.

So there we have it, sport stars, politicians and famous singers are among the people backing fan ownership of football clubs in Scotland. It’s worth noting that the majority of people who are members of supporters trusts work in local businesses. Some may just be on the first rung of their career ladder, while others may be near the top of their company. But what it is safe to say, is that people from different backgrounds all share the same idea that fan ownership is the best way forward for football in our country.

As I begin to close this article, I have a quick glance back at the RangersFirst page. 40 minutes ago, the number was at 9,983. It now reads 10,012. Having only launched around a year ago, to reach 10,000 members in such a short space of time is truly a phenomenal achievement.  Support for fan ownership is growing at this club – and it’s growing at many clubs all over Scotland. Rangers fans realise it’s their club; just as every football fan around the country knows that the club they support is theirs. They have the right to have a say in what happens at the club they love. It’s time to get that say.

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