Co-operatives and Mutuals Wales in partnership with Supporters Direct and Sport Wales are organising a free event as part of the Co-operative Congress in Cardiff on June 29th. The event is free to attend, and is also open to all full Congress delegates.
In the UK Spectator Sport of all kinds was once owned by its fans. Where business people were involved it was often out of a desire to return something to the community, and most people reckoned that a town football club was a money pit from which investors would never get a return.
In 1900 a maximum wage of £4 per week was set by the FA to limit the “horse trading” of players by clubs and keep excessive commercialism out of the sport. The lifting of the maximum wage for players in 1961 was a pivotal moment in the history of professional football in this country. The campaign that preceded it caught the imagination of people in a way that no other such football battle had before, or has since, with a great deal of the attention centring on Jimmy Hill, the successor to Jimmy Guthrie as the Professional Footballers Association Chairman.
With the increased television coverage that had started in 1938 and increased steadily from then on, football became more and more commercial. From the first formal deal in 1960 the price of the TV contracts rose to £2.6m per year in 1983 and to £11m per year by 1988. The price today is close to £1bn.
Slowly ownership of football has been moved to the private sector and today has become in many cases a vehicle not for community benefit but for private land value speculation. Stadia that had been built at the edge of town after the First World War were slowly surrounded by new developments and became prime real estate, and TV rights now account for far more income than gate receipts.
Many sports grounds have been, and are still being turned into shopping malls with a sports stadium attached. Many clubs are now so focussed on TV rights they have forgotten the fans who turn out week after week to support them.
The grass roots movement, led by Supporters Direct has reversed this process.
Football is not unique in this drift to private ownership and commercialisation. Other spectator sports have followed suit, with increasing corporatisation in both codes of Rugby Football.
Now, Spectator Sport is returning to its roots and the pace of change is accelerating.
At the same time, much work is being done by Sport Wales and others to build participatory sports clubs from the ground up, developing their sustainability, bringing in a business focus, strengthening their governance, and encouraging them to build consortia to work together. Where appropriate clubs are developing and operating shared facilities such as gyms, sports halls and sports fields.
Come and find out what has changed in the world of spectator and participatory sports, and how you can get involved.
Celebrate success in community owned sport and hear about:-
§ The story of a Welsh football club that has been taken back 100% by its fans, Merthyr Tydfil
§ The story of the campaign to take back a Rugby Union club into community ownership
§ The work being done at grass-roots in Wales to strengthen and develop all types of community owned sports clubs, focussing especially on community based participatory sport
§ Alex Bird – Co-operatives & Mutuals Wales (Chair)
§ Tom Hall – Head of Policy and Development, Supporters Direct
§ Owen Smith MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Wales + Pontypridd RFU
§ Mark Evans, Merthyr Town Football Club
§ Mark Frost, Corporate Director, Sport Wales
Come along to this free event run as part of the Co-operatives UK Congress and find out what has changed and how you can get involved.
Book tickets at https://