SFA and SPFL “astonished” as parliament committee supports fans right to buy their clubs


Fans representatives welcome the move as an ‘opportunity for greater influence’

THE Scottish Football Association (SFA) and Scottish Professional Football League (SPFL) have hit out at plans to give football fans greater powers to bid for ownership of football clubs.

An amendment to the Community Empowerment Bill giving fans the right to be the first bidder for their clubs was passed by the local government and community committee, after a campaign by Green MSP Alison Johnstone.

However, football authorities in Scotland condemned the move as “impractical and unworkable”.

In a joint statement released by the SFA and SPFL, the bodies stated: “We are astonished by the impractical and unworkable amendments put forward by the Scottish Green Party.”

The officials claim that the actions of MSPs “effectively disregard almost a year of constructive partnership by all organisations represented on the working group”.

Speaking to CommonSpace, Michael Wood of Supporters Direct Scotland (SDS) welcomed the plans.

“I read the SFA/SPFL joint statement that mentioned us because we were involved in the joint party working group.

“We appreciate their concerns. There is an understanding that many clubs are privately owned. What interests us is the case for giving supporters greater empowerment. While not all football clubs will be in the situation that will allow for [fan buyouts], at SDS we want clubs to be sustainable on a long term basis.

“Anything that allows supporters greater opportunity to increase their influence in how clubs are run can only be a good thing.”

Following work by SDS, four Scottish clubs – Stirling Albion, East Stirlingshire, Dunfermline Athletic and Clyde – are owned by their fans. (Click here to read more).

Hearts of Midlothian was taken over by Ann Budge in 2014, who is leading a five-year plan to transfer ownership to fans group Foundation of Hearts.

Fans groups at Hibernian FC and Rangers are also seeking to increase stakes in club ownership.

Johnstone praised the passing of the amendment as a step towards giving fans groups equality with other community buyout proposals.

“This is an extraordinary day for the future of Scottish football. We know how badly the game has been struggling, from Gretna to Hearts and Rangers, and we know fan ownership works,” Johnstone said.

“It’s great that parliament has today united around the principle of responsible fans’ right to buy their clubs.”

Scotland’s football authorities have faced criticism for a failure to promote and adapt the management of the sport. Sports promoter Barry Hearn described Scottish football officials as “lazy, full of self-pity and defeatist”. (Click here to read more).

The Community Empowerment Bill will face further debates in the Scottish Parliament in future months before the amendment does or does not become law.

Picture courtesy of Tom Brogan