As Labour proposes giving football fans seats on club boards, would this improve the sport?

Ed Balls and Paul Merrick in the moments before they came to blows (Source: Getty)

Robin Osterley is chief executive of Supporters Direct, says Yes.

Pretty much everyone working in the game likes to argue that football clubs are a special form of business that hold a very significant place in cultural and social terms – not just as actual sports businesses. Clubs are prepared to invest significantly in promoting themselves as community-focused, people-orientated, listening and engaging.

And yet we still have example after example of club’s kit colours being arbitrarily changed by a fleeting owner, names being changed on a whim, and clubs being moved to different towns because of poor financial decisions.

The effect of having fans on the board, taking part in key decisions, helping clubs to think clearly and effectively, is proven: it happens at Swansea City no less, but also at Cambridge United and others, like AFC Wimbledon and Portsmouth. It is our view that these aren’t just good examples, but the best examples, which all clubs should follow.

Len Shackleton is professor of economics at the University of Buckingham, says No.

Labour loves football – Ed Balls reminded us of this recently by giving an opposing player a bloody eye in the annual match between Labour and journalists. But I doubt these plans will achieve much.

It’s unlikely that supporters’ trusts will be able to raise the money to buy significant holdings in big clubs. Without this, it would just be token prawn sandwiches on match days.

There are some terrific fans involved in trusts. But they struggle to get those with the right skills to stay committed, and fans often have simplistic views of tactics, finance and employment law. The plans would be costly for supporters and clubs, and the taxpayer would likely have to shell out for monitoring and administration.

We’d inevitably have regulatory creep once the politicians get involved. Government is already stretched beyond its means and competence. There is no huge demand for regulating football, and no obvious market failure. Let’s kick this idea into row ZZ.

Related articles