​ Fans to get bigger voice in football

​The UK Sports Minister Tracey Crouch has announced new measures to give fans a greater voice in football.

These include new opportunities for supporters to bid to own their football clubs in an insolvency situation.

The Leagues have endorsed the introduction of regular structured engagement between clubs and supporters and clubs will be required to meet with a representative group of supporters at least twice a year.

An additional £1m will be made available by the Premier League for supporter groups on ownership and related issues and there will be access to emergency funding to help supporters when formulating an ownership bid.

The announcement followed the publication of the Government’s expert working group report on supporter ownership.

Supporters Direct (SD), which was part of the working group, said that the new guidelines must be implemented by football’s governing bodies in the spirit in which they were intended.

The new regime of “structured dialogue” with supporters must mean bi-annual meetings with trusts and include meaningful information and discussion of finance, governance and ownership. SD wants ministers would to  regularly monitor progress made by clubs.

SD pledged to continue to lobby in the areas where it would ideally have liked the report to go further to improve club governance and to make supporter ownership realistic whatever level a club is playing at.

Brian Burgess, Chairman of SD, said: “The Government must keep pressure on the football authorities to ensure that this marks the start of a new era of meaningful dialogue, both at local and national level. It is a welcome step forward in a long-term process of reform, aiming to reconnect clubs with their communities.

“We’d like to thank the football authorities for their constructive engagement with the issues, which we look forward to building on. We are expecting the structured dialogue between clubs and supporters’ trusts to be properly structured and be accompanied by suitable information to discuss the major issues of finance, governance and ownership.

“We also welcome the positive assurances from the Minister of Sport to maintain pressure on the football bodies, and other government departments, especially the Treasury.

“If the Government is serious about supporter ownership, we need their support to encourage supporters to save for, invest in and succeed as community owned sports clubs (COSC). That means help with tax breaks and support to implement our COSC proposal.

“Ultimately the success of this report will be measured by the number of supporters who feel empowered to either take ownership or secure a greater say in the governance of their beloved club.”

Tim HartleyTim Hartley, chair of Cardiff City Supporters’ Trust, welcomed the measures. He said, “A structured dialogue between Cardiff City and its supporters is crucial moving forward. Relationships with the club have improved but more still needs to be done to ensure the voices of fans are heard loud and clear.

“Continuing dialogue and building relationships with supporters should ensure the mistakes of the past are not repeated.”