Monday, April 25, 2005

How Football clubs could be owned by their fans

Anyone interested in a half-baked idea for a scheme that would put a well-financed club in the control of it’s fans?

Here’s how it could work:

There are – say – about 30,000 adults who have an active interest in supporting a medium sized football team that was once was worth watching.

Of these, say, 50% are homeowners of whom 50% have endowments underpinning their mortgages.

Say that 40% of the 30,000 have pension schemes that are ‘with profits’ of some kind (based on accumulated investment).

So now we have 7,500 people who are contributing an average of £100 pcm towards their endowment. £9 million per year.

And we have 12,000 contributing an average of £100 pcm towards their pension scheme - £14.4 million per year.

Now there is an established market for ‘ethical’ funds. This is where people chose funds that either avoid ‘bad’ investments (arms, exploitative employers etc) or funds that support ‘virtuous’ schemes (fair-trade brands, employers with a good record for fairness etc).

So we apply this to football. We go to the big ‘with profits’ providers. We know that they are always keen to upsell. We tell them to write to all of their current customers:

Dear Mr Footiefan,

We at Mendacious Financial Holdings Ltd (MFH) note that you currently spend £100 per month on your pension. We understand that you support Anytown United. We would like to give you the chance to own your favorite club. It’s easy! All you need to do is increase your monthly investment to £110. We will invest the extra £10 per month in Anytown United with a view to acquiring a majority shareholding in the company.

You will still have a great pension scheme – but if AUFC enjoy a good performance thanks to the investment of yourself – and thousands like you – then your pension scheme will benefit accordingly. AND, we at MFH will hold an annual meeting that you will be invited to. This meeting will hear from other supporters and representatives of AUFC – and you will have a vote to mandate your own named representative on the Board of AUFC on how to vote on all of the issues that effect your club!


These figures are all, of course speculative. I don’t know how many AUFC fans there are really – worldwide – and I don’t know the % of pension / endowment holders. Not all pension companies would go for it either. But my speculative figures (all a fair stab at reality I think) would unlock over £2m worth of investment every year. Most clubs would be in the hands of the fans fairly quickly I reckon….

And I DO know that a Labour government would absolutely love the idea and may even weigh in with possible tax / regulatory breaks to help this happen.

A scheme like this would help Man U fans outbid Malcolm Glazier. In fact, helping Manchester United fans to be even happier than they are with themselves is the only downside I can think of...

Comments please?

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