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Workers Party Congress calls for fan owned sports clubs.

Motion for Workers Party to back fan owned sports clubs.

Football with its roots in the working class of Britain is often dubbed as the “people’s game”. However, in recent years external predatory capitalist forces have sought to take the game away from the people which has resulted in ever-increasing commercialisation. Football has attracted the attentions of financial institutions, particularly from the US who seek to leach billions out of our proud football clubs and exploit the traditions that uphold this beautiful game to make ever increasing profits. In addition to pricing ordinary working class fans out of the game these profit driven owners are exploiting football clubs in a fashion that is unsustainable in the long term, often leaving our clubs burdened with debt.

The recent goings at Manchester United football club are a case in point of what can go wrong and one in which the Greater Manchester branch of the Workers party seek to campaign on in solidarity with many of its fans and the community at large. Although the situation at Manchester United is perhaps more extreme, it is by no means a worry exclusive to this club. The situation is mirrored amongst many clubs, including some of the biggest, such as Liverpool and Everton and is causing great dismay to football fans up and down the land.

Although we do note that fans who have “benevolent billionaires” such as those at Manchester City and Newcastle United may not share some of our immediate concerns, we must ask them what would happen in future if these Sheikhs fell afoul of Britain’s foreign policy goals and were deemed surplus to requirements as happened to Roman Abramovich at Chelsea.

We believe that a fan owned model would provide the best safeguard to prevent a situation where parasitical entities suck the blood out of the game. A model of club ownership that is more in tune with the fanbase would tend to be more successful and sustainable than one that runs counter to it. The success of the club is prioritized heavily by fan-owned clubs rather than predatory and parasitical profiteers lining their own pockets. The aim of fan owned clubs would be to make the club sustainable and invest money earned by the club for its further progress. This would have an additional benefit of creating a more democratic, transparent and accountable structure that would deliver greater social value for the local communities in which they operate.

We already have numerous successful examples of fan owned clubs throughout the world. In Germany, under current licensing arrangements operated by the Deutsche Fussball Liga, football clubs are obliged under law to be at least 51% fan owned. Memorably, the 2012/13 Champions League was contested by FC Bayern (which is 75% fan owned) and Borussia Dortmund, two clubs owned by their members. Big European clubs such as Real Madrid FC, FC Barcelona, are all owned by the fans. In fact, most of the football clubs in Spain and Argentina are owned by the fans. We do have 17 clubs in the English pyramid that are wholly owned by supporters – including Telford United, Wycombe Wanderers, and FC United of Manchester.

If we were to back fan ownership, not only do we believe this would be in keeping with a proletarian centred focus but would also be a popular move that could provide an opportunity to recruit new members. After we’ve seen in recent years how the far right have used football to recruit members, but why should this be their sole preserve?

Therefore, after consultations with Greater Manchester and Merseyside branch I move that the Workers Party formally establish a policy of backing fan ownership of our sporting clubs.