Got to learn to change our way
If we want to live and breathe another day
But what it is they just can’t believe
We’re comin’ in out of the dark
We’re gonna reach high for the stars
We’re gonna take back what is ours
It’s unsurprising to see owners of most NFL side are not too dissimilar to our own beloved custodians – entrepreneurs with a taste for the green rather than the silver of on-field success.
In fact look at any sport away from American Football, and a study of owners of any sporting side remains similar. For someone to get themselves in the upper echelons of power in any sporting team, or indeed have that many noughts in the bank account or sway with their bank manager, the single-minded allure of money is essential. There are after all very few hard-nosed, ruthless, multi-millionaire business veterans who enjoy losing money and get their kicks away from the boardroom and on the results of their sides. And, other than the very few sugar daddies with a love for the team in question, or billionaire with little concern with immediate profit margins, very few sporting institutes can lay claim to being owned by those with the team as their main priority.
Which makes examples such as the highly successful Green Bay Packers in the NFL a beacon of hope for anyone who does not enjoy watching suits fill their wallets at the expense of those who fill the stadiums. Despite the plethora of ‘small town teams’ lured to bigger cities by the dollar sign, and a population just touching over 100,000, the Packers have managed to remain in Green Bay and remain competitive on the pitch – they are the most successful team in terms of Championships – not through a local businessman made good, or a consortium expecting their investments to be returned with kind. A publicly owned, non-profit organisation, owned by 112,000-plus stockholders, each of whom receives no dividend on their investment.
No multi-million dollar corporation or owner. And, in a league in which the top salary for 2008 topped out at over £300,000 a week, is a staggering achievement. And proof that fan ownership rather than clinging to faint and naïve hope of someone from Kuwait, Dubai or further afield riding through the Paisley Gates as the answer to all our problems can provide a real answer.
The successful model of Barcelona has been lauded whenever fan ownership has been brought up, and, like the Packers in the NFL, fans elect a board of directors to represent them. At present what accountability do we have with anyone at the club?
When Joan Laporta’s leadership of Barcelona was called into question, an attempted vote of no confidence did not receive the required 66% to see a forced resignation. But, the fact that the end of Laporta’s reign was a serious possibility with pressure from the fans, shows just how the scene in Catalonia is a stark contrast to the ‘like it or lump it’ nature of privately owned English football.
Can then a club owned by fans work in English football, or are we clinging to some Utopian dream that would not work in the cut-throat higher reaches of English football? If Sheik Mohammed Maktoum and the Dubai International Capital group baulked at the baffling price put on Liverpool, how could fans produce the capital?
Of course, that’s for people far more qualified than myself to answer in any kind of detail. But after a few months – in fact, years – of the notion of fan ownership of LFC looking dead in the water, there has been some hope that seems to have been lost in Rafa’s sacking, the World Cup and the new manager saga.
Spirit of Shankly have announced plans to work with the Credit Union to allow fans to save £500 to purchase a share in the club. The biggest obstacle towards fan ownership – in fact, the reason it was so quickly dismissed as a pie in the sky idea – was the £5,000 Rogan Taylor and ShareLiverpool wanted. £500 that can be built up would certainly be affordable. The fact this news published on the SOS site and numerous other sources has been the big issue to LFC fans proves than those initial doubts still linger, sadly it seems the fanfare surrounding SL needing £5,000 a head is still associated with fan ownership. ShareLiverpool and SOS are still in negotiations, but the £500 figure needs to remain if this is to have any chance of success.
However, unless we want to continue the circle of a honeymoon period followed by the realisation that there is only a shot term plan for profit by any future owners of the club, fan ownership could be the only way to ensure that the club has suitable custodians – ourselves.
Some Fan Ownership articles: