‘Stop secrecy over who owns our football clubs’

Protesters outside Easter Road for the Hibs AGM. Picture: Andrew O'Brien
Protesters outside Easter Road for the Hibs AGM. Picture: Andrew O'Brien
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MYSTERIOUS owners and the main shareholders behind Scottish football clubs must be identified to supporters to improve transparency, a government report on improving fan involvement in the sport has stated.

Football authorities in Scotland were urged to look at “how best supporters can be represented in its formal governance structures”, as part of a radical shake-up of the way clubs and the game are run.

The report comes after the launch of the Hibernian Supporters Limited, which aims to buy up to 51 per cent of shares in the Edinburgh club – the group is chaired by former justice secretary Kenny MacAskill.

He told The Scotsman yesterday the government’s package of reforms could “encourage greater moves towards fan ownership at clubs across Scotland”.

Mr MacAskill said: “These recommendations will be welcomed by everyone who has the best interests of Scottish football at heart.”

Another key recommendation in the proposed shake-up is that details of directors and board meetings should be made public to supporters.

Sport minister Jamie Hepburn called for supporters to be placed “at the heart of their football club”, as he unveiled the findings of the Working Group for Supporter Involvement in Football, aimed at giving fans a greater say in the national sport.

The working group, which included senior figures from the Scottish Professional Football League (SPFL), Scottish Football Association (SFA) and national agency Sport Scotland, recommended the identity of the “ultimate beneficial owner of a club” should be declared.

It added that if the owner was a trust, the individuals should also be identified, in a recommendation relevant to Rangers, where a number of trusts and firms hold major shareholdings without fans at the crisis-ridden club knowing who they are.

The report said: “To participate in the Scottish Professional Football League, a club must declare to the SPFL and to the SFA, and publish, the identity of the ultimate beneficial owner of the club.

“Should that owner be a trust, the club must disclose the ultimate beneficiaries of the trust and the name of the trustees. Of fundamental importance to supporters are the risks to their club where an owner does not have, or does not appear to have, that club’s best interests at heart.”

There continues to be challenges in “identifying the owners of some clubs” in Scottish football and this should be resolved, the report said.

It added: “Given the contribution these clubs make to communities and to the nation, it is clear that supporters and others in a community should have the right to know who owns their football clubs.”

The implementation of these recommendations will be overseen by the working group and taken forward by the clubs and governing bodies, who welcomed yesterday’s report.

Stewart Regan, SFA chief executive, said: “The Scottish FA acknowledges the need for greater supporter involvement in the national game.”

Neil Doncaster, SPFL chief executive, said: “Supporters are the lifeblood of the game in Scotland. We welcome initiatives designed to increase fans’ engagement with their clubs.”

Mr Hepburn said: “Supporters should be at the heart of their football clubs, but too often they have felt marginalised.”

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