When not being a brilliant expert in Portuguese football, Ben Shave works as a development officer at Supporters Direct, whose goal, in their words, “is to promote sustainable spectator sports clubs based on supporters’ involvement & community ownership.” It was in that capacity that Shave wrote an op-ed in today’s Guardian on a recent parliamentary committee meeting and group of fan workshops on supporters-owned clubs.
The highlight: Shave’s criticism of Football League chairman Greg Clarke’s remarks that supporters-owned clubs are at risk of losing money:
As long as English football governance lacks a comprehensive whole-game regulatory approach aimed at securing both the sustainable development of the game and its clubs, and supporter community engagement in the running of clubs, the unlevel playing field that puts sustainably run clubs at a disadvantage will endure. The current system incentivises irresponsible spending, encourages the acquisition of eye-watering debt, and allows “chasing the dream” to masquerade as a business plan. Clubs like Exeter, whose supporters’ trust has over 4000 members, are not relegated because they run out of money: the unlevel playing field is to blame.
This is why these Supporters Direct initiatives are so important, because, united by a common agenda, these groups can have a strong voice in pushing for a financial model that respects grassroots football as a kind of community trust, rather than as a business.
As I’ve exhaustively written on this blog before, in a league that levies heavy financial punishment on clubs that fail to compete (relegation), whilst showering money on clubs that do manage to succeed (relegation), promoting a model which allows wealthy investors to spend in excess of club turnover on player transfers in the hope of overnight success and increased revenues promotes player wage inflation. It is, in economic terms a vicious cycle, a “race to the bottom.” It has left countless clubs facing administration at best, economic ruin at worst.
The current set-up cries out for better, centralized relegation to preserve English football’s rich heritage, and to promote small, local clubs as community-owned assets, rather than vanity-projects for irresponsible investors. Only a united Supporters group can push for these changes.
You can visit Supporters Direct for more information here.