Ownership Of Football ClubsWed, 14 November 2007
A shrewd move by Ebbsfleet chairman Jason Botley, one might say. If nothing else, an assortment of fans taking over a club will garner publicity and attention for an otherwise anonymous Conference club – in keeping with the reasons for the change of name from Gravesend & Northfleet to Ebbsfleet United earlier in the year.
Of greater significance was the agreement this year that the history of Wimbledon prior to August 2004 would be transferred by the legal entity that was formerly Wimbledon FC, but is now known as Milton Keynes Dons to AFC Wimbledon, a club formed by the former supporters of Wimbledon FC. This was one of the conditions imposed by the Football Supporters’ Federation (FSF) as a condition for allowing Milton Keynes Dons Supporters Club membership of the FSF and ending its call for a boycott of matches involving Milton Keynes Dons.
FC United of Manchester were formed by disgruntled fans of Manchester United for whom the Glazier takeover of the club was the final straw. However, despite the rapid rise of FC United of Manchester from the tenth tier to the eighth tier of English football in two seasons, the hostility towards the takeover has been wearing off, thereby undermining the principal reason for the existence of the club.
In the end, the issue was not big enough to significantly affect Manchester United.
There has also been a trend over the past 15 years for fans of clubs that have gone bust (primarily due to overspending by the owners) to re-form the club with ownership held by a supporters’ trust. Although a new legal entity is formed, the fans carry with them the history and traditions of the old club. The clubs include:
While the shareholders of football clubs may control the business of the club and its assets, including the legal rights over players, the ground and the revenues of the club, it is the football fans of the club that “own” its history and traditions.