Monday January 18th 2016 - For immediate release
The plight of Bolton Wanderers, who face a winding up petition in the High Court today owing £3m in debts, highlights once again the need for football supporters to have a greater say in the running of their clubs and the game generally, says Supporters Direct, the body representing fan-owned clubs and supporters trusts in the UK.
Supporters Direct, who are already working with Bolton supporters to help them set up a supporters trust, say that the latest in a long line of clubs with financial difficulties shows a glaring need for fans to be involved at the highest level in running their club. “There is an alternative model of ownership out there that can and does work and that alternative is supporter ownership,” said Brian Burgess, chairman of Supporters Direct.
“We have been working very closely with an organised group of Bolton supporters who want a greater involvement in the running of their club. Football fans are the life blood of the game and for too long they have been marginalised by clubs and the authorities. We believe that the tide is turning and the success of supporter-owned clubs like AFC Wimbledon, Portsmouth, Exeter, Wrexham, FC United of Manchester, Chester and others shows that fan-ownership is a viable alternative,” Burgess said.
There are 192 clubs in the UK with either a supporters trust or that are fully community owned and 75 clubs have a supporter director on the board of the club. 107 supporters’ trusts have a shareholding in their club, showing that fan involvement can and does work, according to Supporters Direct.
“Our recent work with Bolton Wanders is typical of the work that we do with many clubs to put supporters at the centre of the running of the game. What makes the situation at Bolton so sad and frustrating is it hasn't come from a lack of money, indeed it's quite the opposite. Until there are measures in place to protect clubs from owners withdrawing their money this situation is inevitable. The assets of the club need to remain for the club to have a secure future and the supporters need to have a formal role in it. When supporters are properly involved in discussing the major issues of finance, governance and ownership through a supporters trust then greater scrutiny and better stewardship of clubs is the result,” said Burgess.
“We will continue to work with Bolton Wanderers supporters to ensure that supporters have a real say in the running of their football club. Supporter ownership and involvement offers a real and sustainable alternative to the way football is currently run and financed and is a much better bet than relying on wealthy individuals who may not always have the best interest of the club at heart and won’t be there for the long term,” Burgess said.
About Supporters Direct
Inspired by Brian Lomax - the first supporter elected director at an English professional football club - Supporters Direct has been working since 2000 to help supporters gain influence in the running and ownership of their club. Our work now spans 23 countries.
Stats in the UK
GROWTH: Supporters’ trusts are established at more than 190 clubs, representing 70% of clubs in the top five divisions of football in England, and the top four divisions in Scotland MEMBERSHIP: More than 400,000 people are members of supporters’ trusts
FINANCE: Supporters’ trusts have now brought in well over £40 million of new finance for their clubs and communities
OWNERSHIP: More than 40 clubs in the UK are in ownership or in control by supporters’ trusts, including Football League clubs AFC Wimbledon, Exeter City, Newport County, Portsmouth and Wycombe Wanderers.
BOARDROOM: More than 70 supporters’ trusts have directors on the boards of their clubs, including Premier League Swansea City FC.
STAKE: More than 100 supporters’ trusts have a shareholding at their club.