The Green MSPs have today submitted proposals to give football fans the first right to buy their clubs.
Alison Johnstone, Green MSP for Lothian and sport spokesperson for the Scottish Greens, will bring amendments to the Scottish Government's Community Empowerment and Renewal Bill, which Ministers are consulting on until tomorrow (24 Feb). The party's plans are based on the "right to buy" principle established during the rural land reform process, a principle the Scottish Government's legislation seeks to extend to urban land.
The first amendment would extend the scope of the Bill beyond land and physical assets to include clubs' membership shares: important as grounds are, it is these shares which give clubs the right to play in the various leagues.
Beyond that, the party proposes a number of additional measures to empower fans' trusts, including the right of first refusal when clubs come up for sale, the right to buy a proportion of the shares where they cannot afford the club's full value, and eligibility for Scottish Government funding support. (1)
Alison Johnstone MSP said:
"Too many Scottish football fans have gone through painful cycles of boom and bust at their clubs, where irresponsible owners run up unsustainable debts in the pursuit of short-term glory, or even simply fail to pay their taxes. Hearts, Rangers and Dunfermline supporters are just the most recent to have been put through the wringer. Quite simply, enough is enough.
"Greens believe fans' trusts are most likely to be the most responsible and successful owners for their clubs in the long term, and they should not be treated just like any other buyer for a club. The international examples such as Bayern Munich and Malmo show how well fan ownership can work, just as it already does at Scottish clubs including Clyde FC and Stirling Albion."
Paul Goodwin, Head of Supporters Direct Scotland, said:
"Community and fan ownership must not be seen simply as a last resort; but as a viable and sustainable route for clubs to adopt. There are of course recent high profile, and impressive, examples of supporters and communities coming together effectively to save their clubs at a time of extreme difficulty, but those are not the only circumstances when fan ownership is appropriate.
"There are many other clubs who have either moved into, or are progressing towards, a model of increased community and fan involvement in their clubs without the spectre of doom staring them in the face. At this time we are working with Annan Athletic, Ayr United and Motherwell which demonstrates what we believe to be a new dawn for Scottish football. As we can see in different parts of the world, this model can bring real and positive change to a club and to the communities they are part of."
"The Community Empowerment Bill is headed in the right direction, but we believe it should go further. Giving communities across Scotland greater control over the assets they rely on is essential for this country's happiness, economic success, and to boost equality.
"For Greens, that doesn't just mean land: it means the full range of services that communities depend upon. Football is as good a place to start as any, given the key role clubs so often play in local economies and for local identity. We know these plans are ambitious, but we hope to secure Scottish Government support for the principle of fan ownership, and we will seek to work with Ministers to ensure the most practical and effective legislation possible."