There are currently four community owned clubs in senior Scottish football – Stirling Albion, East Stirlingshire, Dunfermline Athletic and Clyde. Supporters Direct has played a role in each of these cases, ensuring that supporters groups were listened to and that the process of clubs moving into community ownership was conducted in the best interests of supporters.
Why Community Ownership?
There are several key beneﬁts to community ownership. Below are some of the areas in which such an ownership structure can greatly beneﬁt a football club and its supporters.
• It allows clubs to develop deeper and more long-term strategic partnerships.
• A greater sense of shared agendas and partnerships between local authorities, clubs and business.
• Ownership structure and increased transparency helps build trust between organisations.
• Easier for supporter community owned clubs to align agendas with public or private strategic partners, meeting strategic objectives.
• Community ownership creates a greater sense of ﬁnancial responsibility; an increased recognition for clubs to live within their means.
• It allows clubs to raise ﬁnance in other, more innovative ways; such as through ‘Community Shares’.
• Placing clubs in the hands of supporters allows more transparency in terms of clubs’ ﬁnances and makes relevant information more accessible to fans.
• Sponsors are attracted to community owned clubs due to their high attendance ﬁgures when compared with competitors at the same level; e.g. FC United of Manchester and AFC Wimbledon.
• It is also the reputational value of sponsors being associated with a club owned by its’ supporters that is added value for sponsors.
• Reputational value can help to forge longer-term relationships between club and sponsor.
Transparency, Openness and Trust
• All supporters trust owned clubs have to publish annual accounts which have to be approved by members at their AGM.
• Provides a level of scrutiny and recourse for supporters as well as a level of public transparency that is often lacking at other clubs.
• Level of openness and transparency a key factor in developing and maintaining strategic partnerships, notably with public authorities and with fans.
Business Meets Pleasure
While community ownership is all about democracy, governance and further fan involvement in the ownership of cultural and social institutions, individual investors can still get something out of involvement in fan owned clubs. As the cases of Pars United and Foundation of Hearts show, supporters are happy to work with the business acumen of the investors, especially if they help by providing funding to buy the club or stadia.
The Future of Fan Ownership in Scotland
Supporters Direct Scotland have recently worked with (and are working with) clubs such as Heart of Midlothian, Motherwell, Kilmarnock, Annan, East Fife, Livingston and Falkirk to further involve supporters in the ownership and governance of clubs. We are confident that we can further assist respective fans organisations and supporters trusts in growing the community ownership model in Scotland.
Our recent research, the National Football Supporters Survey, revealed a strong belief among supporters that the fan and community ownership model can work in Scotland (as shown below).