Call to give Scottish fans greater say in running of football clubs

Supporters of Dunfermline, one of the teams that has led the way in fan ownership. Photograph: Craig Foy/SNS Group
Supporters of Dunfermline, one of the teams that has led the way in fan ownership. Photograph: Craig Foy/SNS Group
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FOOTBALL supporters should be given a greater say in the day-to-day running of clubs, according to Scotland’s sports minister.

Jamie Hepburn believes the move would make Scottish football stronger.

This suggestion comes after the Scottish Football Supporters Association (SFSA) called for a national conversation on “sweeping changes” aimed at preventing a Rangers-style financial meltdown. Around 10,000 fans responded to a survey run last year by the SFSA about the future of the game.

It 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.

A consultation on supporter involvement remains open until 15 January and Hepburn is urging more people to take part.

Speaking at the Supporters Direct Scotland Supporters’ Summit at Hampden Park, 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 consultation closes on January 15. After that, we will analyse and assess the responses and publish a report.

“Then we will work closely with the football authorities, clubs and – of course – supporters and supporters’ groups to consider the best way forward.”

The SFSA, which has a membership of around 50,000 people, has called for a “big conversation” about the future of the game, ahead of May’s Holyrood election.

However, in a keynote demand it called for the “regular, independent auditing and review of the performance of governing bodies and clubs” that would see organisations such as the Scottish Football Association (SFA) and the Scottish Professional Football League (SPFL) forced to submit to outside scrutiny.

The report said the move was needed due to a “complete lack of transparency throughout the game”, stating that “often it is only when a crisis emerges that we get to see how a club is actually managed”.

In a scathing criticism of the sport’s two main governing bodies the SFA and the SPFL, it said the attitude of fans to those in charge was “revealing and concerning”.

“The gulf between those who run football and those who love it and pay for it is far too wide to be healthy, which is why substantial reform in the boardrooms and throughout the governing bodies is in their interest, the fans’ interest, and the interests of Scottish football as a whole”, the report said.