As the new football season begins this weekend, the Green party is proposing to put forward the plan at the Scottish Parliament this year, arguing that fans should have the first right of refusal over their club.
The proposal would give football supporters groups the same rights as rural groups who want to buy their land, as enshrined in Scotland’s right- to-buy laws. It would, for example, have given a Rangers supporters group the right to purchase the club when it was put up for sale by former owner Sir David Murray three years ago.
The Greens say the recent buy-out of Dunfermline Athletic by supporters group “Pars United” provides an example for other clubs in Scotland. It comes with a Hearts supporters group also having put its name forward to buy the ailing Edinburgh club.
Scottish Government officials last night said the plan would be considered as part of a new bill going through Holyrood later this year.
Alison Johnstone MSP said: “Scottish football continues to be beset by financial and organisational problems. Just since the last election, three iconic Scottish teams have found themselves in trouble: Rangers, Dunfermline and Hearts. Long-suffering fans deserve responsible owners, and it’s increasingly understood that fans themselves are the best stewards of their own clubs.”
She added: “It won’t be easy to find the money, especially for bigger clubs, but just knowing they’ll be first in line would make supporters’ trusts much more important in the eyes of the ordinary fans.”
The reform will be proposed by the party as an amendment to the Scottish Government’s Community Empowerment and Renewal Bill, which is being tabled this autumn. As part of the bill, ministers are already proposing to extend the right to buy from rural communities to urban land.
European clubs such as Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund, owned by fans, have been lauded as examples for British clubs to follow.
The proposal was backed last night by Supporters Direct, a group that assists fans who want to get involved in the ownership of their clubs. Chief executive David Lampitt said: “Fans are more and more involved in bidding for clubs, but too often they are the last resort when a club hits rock bottom and is insolvent. Fans should have the right to buy their club before the wheels come off.”
A Scottish Government spokeswoman added that it intended to “consult on proposals for the Community Empowerment and Renewal bill later this year. We expect to hear the views of people from across the country and the parliament. We want to enhance the role of supporters’ trusts in football and already fund Supporters Direct Scotland.”
Last week, Pars United was given the green light to proceed with purchasing Dunfermline Athletic after it was forced to enter administration. A creditors’ voluntary agreement has been secured to write off debts, with the supporters’ group to take control.