Can co-operatives keep football clubs alive and kicking?
As football fans prepare for the World Cup, many clubs, big and small, are wondering how they’re going to make ends meet and survive into next season. Football clubs are finding themselves deeper in debt, yet all the usual talk of close-season, megabucks transfers is as rife as ever.
In the Premier League, though, many of us will be aware of the ‘green and gold’ protest that’s been fronted by the Manchester United Supporters’ Trust which is trying to pave the way for a fan-led takeover.
A Supporters’ Trust is a formal, democratic and ‘not-for-profit’ organisation of fans who attempt to strengthen their influence over the running of the club they support. Power at a football club doesn’t need to lie in the hands of an overseas billionaire – it can be kept in the heart of the community.
Barcelona is arguably the most famous example of a football club that runs as a member-owned co-operative society. Bayern Munich, who play in the Champions League final this weekend, operate a membership-led structure that puts the majority of control in the hands of supporters, with finances on an even keel.
There are plenty of Supporters’ Trusts in existence in Wales, with the establishment of Cardiff City’s ‘CCST’ supported by the Wales Co-operative Centre and Supporters Direct. We’ve also helped rugby’s new development region, Rygbi Gogledd Cymru, to register as a co-operative business.
As businesses in other sectors look at alternative ways of sustaining themselves and keeping the wolf from the door, it’s clear that those in sport are no different.