Football fans in Scotland could soon be given help to buy their cash-strapped clubs if plans for a new lending pot are passed.
Backers of the proposed community sports fund hope the offer of tax breaks for investors would allow a stockpile of cash to be built up to help rescue troubled clubs.
According to a study published today by the independent Lolben Consultancy, the fund would soon become “self-financing” with the help of private social investors and allow supporters to borrow the necessary funds to save their clubs.
The report, commissioned by Supporters Direct Scotland (SDS) and published to mark its annual summit at Hampden, also claims that social investors could be attracted by qualifying for 30 per cent income tax relief.
It says: “The proposal of creating a sports specific fund providing affordable social investment to community trusts has merits and will meet a recognised need.”
SDS, founded in 2002, has helped to establish more than 30 supporters’ trusts, 18 of which have a director on the board of their club.
Sports minister Jamie Hepburn was a keynote speaker at the summit, which welcomed supporters and politicians to discuss the future of fan involvement in football governance.
A government consultation on supporter involvement remains open until January 15 and Mr Hepburn wants more people to take part.
He said: “I firmly believe there is a powerful and persuasive case for supporter involvement and - where appropriate - ownership of their clubs.
“It is commonplace in the Bundesliga (German league) so often held up as an example of best practice on and off the field.
“And supporter involvement and ownership is gaining momentum here in Scotland too. Hearts and Motherwell are pursuing high-profile fan ownership models, while other clubs like Clyde, Dunfermline and Stirling Albion have led the way.
“So fan involvement and ownership can - and does - work.”
The Scottish Football Supporters Association (SFSA) has called for a national conversation on “sweeping changes”. Around 10,000 fans responded to a survey run last year by the SFSA about the future of the game.
The group, which has a membership of around 46,000 people, has produced a manifesto based in part on the responses, setting out how to “renew, reform and reclaim” football for fans and communities.
It was launched in the Scottish Parliament last week with backing from former first minister Henry McLeish and Green MSP Alison Johnstone, among others.
The Transforming Scottish Football document contains nine key points, including rebuilding the game with larger leagues, expanding community ownership, more diversity and participation in the governing bodies.
Ms Johnstone said: “Fans can be trusted to have their club’s long-term interest at heart, but at the moment, fan ownership is too often seen as a last resort rescue option for a failing club which no-one else is willing to take on.
“We should give fans the rights and support they need to purchase their clubs in a more secure way.”