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Moving the goalposts: some realities of democratic football governance


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The slides for my discussion at the Social Science Centre in Lincoln, on 29/10/13

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Moving the goalposts: some realities of democratic football governance

  1. 1. Moving the goalposts: some realities of democratic football governance Professor Richard Hall @hallymk1 A conversation at the Social Science Centre on 29/10/13
  2. 2. • Some realities of being a football fan in England • Some realities of being a football fan in Walsall • Some realities of democratic football governance
  3. 3. On being a [politicised] fan in England: it’s complicated • • • • • • • • • A long history of disasters (Popplewell and Taylor) A recent history of marginalisation (Heysel and ID Cards) Euro ’96 and New Labour’s Charter for Football The Football Task Force (c.f. The Chester Report of 1968) Supporters Direct and mutuality BSkyB and Manchester United Football Disorder Act 2000 (passport control and exclusion orders) The IFC and the IFO 92 insolvencies in the Top 5 divisions since ‘92
  4. 4. • Fan culture: independent supporters groups; fanzines; away travel • Serious investigative and academic writing • Lobbying: the Football Supporters' Association (FSA); the National Federation of Supporters' Clubs (NATFED); the Football Supporters‘ Federation • Governance: Supporters’ Direct
  5. 5. Supporters’ Direct: for co-operation • Formed in 1999: 3rd FTF Report • Based at Birkbeck; funded via the Reduced Pools Betting Duty • The example of Northampton Town supporters and Brian Lomax • Models: Company Limited by Guarantee; Industrial and Provident Societies; notfor-profit Community Benefit Society • The Social and Community Value of Football (2010) • 400k fans; 190 trusts; 73 have a Director; 33 own clubs • Germany: eingetragener Verein; 50%+1; licensing
  6. 6. Live issues • • • • • • • • • Safe standing Racism Ticket prices The future of the national team Coaching The health of the grassroots The role of the media The sale of club culture Financial fair-play
  7. 7. On supporting Walsall FC: you think it’s going to get better; but it never does
  8. 8. • Walsall: 170k; de-industrialisation; coal, limestone, leather; we don’t come from Birmingham • Walsall FC: Division 4 winners (twice); runners-up six times; play-off winners twice; League Cup semi-finalists (once); FA Cup 5th Round • Walsall 2 Arsenal 0, 14 January 1933 • 36 managers since WWII • Governance: Chairman; 6 Directors plus CE; take-overs; Company Limited by Guarantee • Walsall FC is an SME: employees/turnover • Fans’ groups: Saddlers Club (official); ISSA; WST then WSS • Websites: UptheSaddlers; WST
  9. 9. Matters arising at Walsall FC • • • • • • Ownership and the role of a pension fund Sale and leaseback of the ground AGMs and representation Relationship between Board and fans Relationship between Council and Board Perceived subsumption of Football Club’s identity to commercial interests of Walsall FC Ltd
  10. 10. Walsall Supporters’ Trust • An early (1999-2000) Trust • Active at Companies House: 10th largest shareholder • CLG then IFS • Active at AGMs: racism; ticket prices; cash turnstiles; community work; sale and leaseback; rent • 500 members at point of “crisis” in 2002 • Walsall Til I Die Book • Early political project becomes pragmatic •
  11. 11. Walsall Supporters’ Trust Community Benefit Purpose The Society’s purpose is to be the vehicle through which a healthy, balanced and constructive relationship between the Club and its supporters and the communities it serves is encouraged and developed. The business of the Society is to be conducted for the benefit of the community served by the Club and not for the profit of its members.
  12. 12. Walsall Supporters’ Trust The Society’s objects are to benefit the community by: 4.1 being the democratic and representative voice of the supporters of the Club and strengthening the bonds between the Club and the communities which it serves; 4.2 achieving the greatest possible supporter and community influence in the running and ownership of the Club; 4.3 promoting responsible and constructive community engagement by present and future members of the communities served by the Club and encouraging the Club to do the same; 4.4 operating democratically, fairly, sustainably, transparently and with financial responsibility and encouraging the Club to do the same; 4.5 being a positive, inclusive and representative organisation, open and accessible to all supporters of the Club regardless of their age, income, ethnicity, gender, disability, sexuality or religious or moral belief.
  13. 13. Walsall Supporters’ Trust: it’s a saga now • • • • • • • • • • • The relationship between Board and WST The relationship between the WST and supporters Limited resources and energy The lack of renewal of WST people Poor visibility of WST Inability to form an umbrella for various fan groups, or to produce a shared manifesto The problematic Walsall Til I Die project Ron Atkinson Limited support from other Trusts as a network/SD The lack of a crisis/disempowerment Individual burn-out and emotional disengagement
  14. 14. Walsall Supporters’ Trust: *successes*? • • • • • • • • • Initiating democratic governance of a supporters’ group at WFC Shareholding, sale and leaseback, rents, and AGMs: accountability Raising the possibility of supporter co-operation as a political project A more innovative relationship between the WST and supporters Engagement with ex-players Sponsorship of players and contribution to Walsall in the Community Walsall Til I Die as an educational and cultural project Ron Atkinson as a refusal to be cowed A pay-on-the-day turnstile
  15. 15. Some realities of democratic football governance • Personal [Disillusioned Saddler]: I love football. I just don’t like it anymore. • Social: What does “co-operative” mean in the context of a football club? • Emotional: Is it possible to be activist and to retain your self? How do you/your group balance pragmatism and principle? • Scale: is broader, regional or national associational democracy possible? • Analogy: the link between football and [higher] education [funding, regulation, governance]