English clubs · Football finances & business · Football history · Sociology & community

Ownership Of Football Clubs

So fans’ community website MyFootballClub are to acquire 51% of Ebbsfleet United for £700,000.

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.

(This article was first published on BBC 606)


7 thoughts on “Ownership Of Football Clubs

  1. In reply to

    The last statement on the thread may be true, but can you imagine 3,000 fans trying to pick a team.
    You just have to read some of the numpty’s postings on here to know half of them would not know a player if they fell over one.
    You would probably get 2,900 different teams out of the 3,000

    Well, owners aren’t supposed to pick the team. That’s why professional clubs have professional managers to run the club and choose the team. Of course, that doesn’t stop a fair number of owners from trying to influence team selection (without naming names!)

    (First posted on BBC 606)

  2. the supporters are the club the club are the supporters,wimbledon still have a club because the community cared enough to fight theres a lesson here for us all don’t let the money and greed destroy our game and the community built around it,the choice is simple poverty and freedom or robotic enslavement by the powerfull.

    (First posted on BBC 606)

  3. If Bloggs the Bakers is bought by Mr Jones who keeps the shop open and continues to trade as Bloggs the Bakers no one would consider it a different shop. But if Bloggs of Brighton is bought by Mr Jones who closes the shop and opens a new one in Bristol called Jones of Bristol no one would say it was the same shop (except the FA maybe).

    (First posted on BBC 606)

  4. The business and assets of a football club may well be owned by a private company, which in turn is owned by the shareholders of the company.

    When the company is wound up, it comes to an end. Any new “club” formed to replace the old club is a new legal entity. There is no continuity in the legal persona.

    On the other hand, if the fan base of the club remains the same as the fan base of the old club, there is a non-legal continuity of emotion, loyalty and tradition.

    Is Newport County, now attracting average home crowds of close to 1,000, the non-legal continuation of the old Newport County, a club that died in 1989?

    Is Maidenhead United, now of the Conference South the same Maidenhead that was two matches away from an FA Cup Final on several occasions in the 1870s, despite several mergers in the intervening years? Ignoring the changes in the legal constitution of the club, the FA have acknowledged that Maidenhead’s York Road is the oldest continuously used senior football ground in the world.

    On the other hand, while Milton Keynes Dons are the same legal entity as the Wimbledon that upset Liverpool to win the FA Cup in 1988, they are not widely regarded as the same “club”.

    The support of the non-legal continuum, which provides the business with its revenue, is potentially a powerful tool to ensure that the legal owners of the club heed the views and interests of this continuum. However, this is more effective with smaller clubs, where the fan base is sufficiently communal to take action with sufficient cohesion and commonality of purpose, as compared to clubs with a national or international fan base, where the owners can afford to lose the support of those with dissenting voices.

    As football fans, we have a choice which category we fall within.

    (Article first published on BBC 606)

  5. Liverpool fans are now trying to take over the club they support.

    However, the top clubs in England are so heavily leveraged, I cannot see the fans of any of these clubs raising sufficient funds to successfully take over the club they support.

    Even if the fans of a major English club were ever to take over the club they support (whether by way of a co-operative, a trust or a corporate structure), how would the vehicle used to own the club finance the bringing in of top players in order to meet the fans’ expectations? Given how quickly fans can turn against a manager and players, how long would the manager and players be given to achieve success?

    (Article first published on BBC 606)

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