By Nick Harris
13 April 2010
Dave Boyle, the chief executive of Supporters Direct, the organisation that works with football fans’ groups to help them acquire shares and influence at their clubs, has today welcome the unprecedented inclusion in the Labour and Conservative election manifesto documents of proposals on supporter ownership.
Writing for sportingintelligence today on the importance of football in the election, Boyle also heaps praise on the campaigning work of the Manchester United Supporters Trust (MUST) for forcing fan ownership onto the political agenda.
In Labour’s manifesto, launched yesterday, there is a pledge to “develop proposals to enable registered Supporters Trusts to buy stakes in their club”. This falls short of a leaked earlier claim that Labour will somehow legislate to allow fans to buy 25 per cent of clubs, but is nonetheless the first manifesto commitment of its kind.
In the Tory manifesto, launched today, the Conservatives promise “to reform the governance arrangements in football to enable co-operative ownership models to be established by supporters”.
Boyle says: “I’ve been reading manifesto documents for years and sport, let alone football, has never been an electoral issue before, so I’m delighted.” He adds in his column: “The job of organisations like Supporters Direct will be to urge that our politicians move as boldly in power as they have in the seeking of it.”
On the subject of MUST, Boyle believes that politicians from all parties, in what is shaping up to be the closest election of recent times, have been galvanised by United fans’ public appetite for change.
He writes: “A big part of the reason [that politicians are paying attention to fans now] is because of the Manchester United Supporters Trust. The astonishing and unprecedented growth of MUST has been impossible to miss, and takes the issues to an audience well beyond the usual suspects (like myself) who have been banging on about this stuff for years with seemingly minimal impact.
“MUST has profited from the anger of fans who have seen how little productive use their increasingly hard-earned, inflationary ticket money is being put to, and how much of United’s income is tied up in the payback for the Glazer takeover in 2005. The organisation has grown from 30,000 in January to more than 150,000 today as a result.
“The thousands who’ve worn green and gold scarves as the club has played a series of important televised matches means that for the first time, TV has not been unable to ignore the protests. Commentators were discussing the ins and outs of leveraged buyouts.”
Coming during the British general election on sportingintelligence: Labour’s Gerry Sutcliffe and his Conservative and Liberal Democrats counterparts, Hugh Robertson and Don Foster, tell us what they’ll each do as the next Minister for Sport (not to mention who’ll win the World Cup).