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FootballNewsManchester United fans’ group wins praise in Westminster as MPs debate club ownership

Manchester United fans’ group wins praise in Westminster as MPs debate club ownership

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By Pete Wilson

8 September 2010

A parliamentary debate on football ownership today in Westminster Hall heard praise for the Manchester United Supporters Trust (MUST), which had lobbied so effectively that 632 MPs (97 per cent of the total of 650 MPs) had received letters from their United-supporting constituents in recent days. (Which must say something about where United fans live, ie: all over the place).

Among those in attendance were Sports Minister Hugh Robertson, former Sports Ministers Gerry Sutcliffe and Kate Hoey, and former Culture Secretary Andy Burnham.

MUST members also asked MPs to urge Hugh Robertson to keep his promise to “take a serious look at reforming the governance and structure of football in this country” and intervene by the end of summer if football hadn’t got its own house in order.

Steve Rotheram MP (Labour, Liverpool Walton), who led the Debate, said: ““There is a crisis of governance at the top end of the football industry.” “The government has no excuse to procrastinate on this. It made an explicit commitment in its coalition agreement to encourage the reform of football governance rules to support the cooperative ownership of football clubs by supporters.”

Hugh Robertson said: ““These are aims that are shared across the political spectrum. The Arsenal chief executive said recently that “we are moving into a post-materialistic world” and that is a sentiment that I wish to be my guide. Those who think that football can just be a business are wrong. It is a business with a social conscience. The fact that this debate has been so well attended will certainly help me when I go back to the football authorities [to ask for greater reform and at a faster pace].””

Hugh Robertson also confirmed that Supporters Direct will continue to receive its funding and agreed to meet with SD and with fans’ groups such as MUST to take the agenda forwards.

More MPs views and links can be found here on the MUST website

Or just go direct to Hansard

A new EDM (Early Day Motion 663) has this week been tabled by Greg Mulholland MP (Lib Dem MP, Leeds North West) and supporters of all clubs are urging their MP to sign.

CO-OPERATIVE OWNERSHIP OF FOOTBALL CLUBS (EDM 663)

“That this House commends the commitment within the Government’s Coalition Agreement to encourage the reform of football governance rules towards the co-operative ownership of football clubs by supporters; is disappointed that so many rich owners have bought clubs despite fans’ protests and continued to run them against the wishes of their fans, resulting in ticket price hikes and, in some cases, the accumulation of huge debts; recognises that facilitating co-operative ownership would protect the true spirit of football by increasing the accountability of clubs to their fans and the communities they represent; and calls for the timely enactment of concrete reforms in this regard.”

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Duncan Drasdo, MUST’s chief executive, said: ““The response from MUST members has been incredible. In just a few short days, United fans across the country contacted nearly every single MP in the UK (97% – 632 of 650 latest figure here http://bit.ly/mpspeak). Those with a vested interest in maintaining the debt-ridden and exploitative status-quo retain expensive lobbyists to try to stifle positive change in our national game, so it’s up to supporters to try to counter that with sheer weight of numbers and people power. And today’s debate shows that such efforts can have a real impact.”

He continued: ““The response our members have been getting from their local MPs has been overwhelmingly positive too. All three of the main political parties promised during the election campaign to act to protect our national game as a matter of urgency, and the tide has certainly turned in our favour, with virtually everyone now agreed that self-regulation has clearly failed and that a new system of effective and independent oversight needs to be brought in.

““This isn’t about government running the game, as some of the lobbyist scaremongers would have you believe – it’s simply about giving an independent FA the tools to do its job properly, from controlling dangerous levels of debt, to providing greater levels of transparency and scrutiny, to ensuring that only fit and proper people with sustainable business plans can become involved in investing in our football clubs.

““Our football clubs are cultural sporting institutions and community assets, so the football authorities and the government have a duty to protect them. It is time for supporters to have a greater say in how their clubs are run and how our national game is governed. Clearly a huge number of MPs share that view and there is now an appetite for reform.””

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What the leading sports-related politicians told sportingintelligence in the run-up to the election

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