Fan and community ownership of Scottish football clubs has gone under the spotlight in a new Scottish Government report led by Stirling Senior lecturer Stephen Morrow.
The Working Group for Supporter Involvement in Football Clubs was set up by the Scottish Government to identify, consider and recommend ways to increase and improve supporter involvement in Scottish football clubs.
Morrow, a Senior Lecturer in Sports Finance at Stirling, Scotland’s University for Sporting Excellence chaired the group which comprised representatives from the Scottish Football Association (Scottish FA), Scottish Professional Football League (SPFL), Supporters Direct Scotland and sportscotland.
“The opportunity to enhance supporter involvement in football clubs is important to many supporters who want greater accountability and an opportunity to play a more active role in supporting their clubs,” said Morrow, who has published extensively on the ownership and governance of football clubs.
“Enhanced supporter involvement has the potential to be beneficial for the clubs too, contributing to making them more financially sustainable and socially vibrant.”
Recommendations from the report include a call for all SPFL clubs to declare the identity of their beneficial owner and to explore the establishment of a Business, Community and Football Enterprise unit to provide legal and financial support to supporters and club owners.
It also recommends the Scottish FA consider supporter representation in its formal governance structures and the development of an annual Supporter Involvement Award for clubs. Other findings of the report request clubs to consider how best to involve supporters in their running and make key governance information available such as the names of all board members and their reason for their appointment.
Morrow added: “It is clear that Scottish football is in a period of transition and a number of clubs are embarking on different models of supporter ownership. It is important to stress that our group did not take the view that there was an ideal ownership model for Scottish football clubs.
“Our emphasis was on how best to encourage broader involvement of supporters, irrespective of the particular ownership structure adopted by a club and I am very grateful to the members of the Working Group for working so constructively to come up with proposals which have the potential to greatly enhance supporter involvement and supporter accountability in practice.”
Jamie Hepburn, Minister for Sport, Health Improvement and Mental Health, said: “Supporters should be at the heart of their football clubs, but too often they have felt marginalised and excluded. The group has come up with some interesting recommendations and it is now dependent on everyone involved, including the Scottish Government, to make these work. By working together to implement these recommendations I am confident both fans and clubs can bring about real improvements in how they engage and operate at all levels.”
The Working Group will now move onto the implementation stage to deliver and support their recommendations.
Morrow was also a member of the recent Working Group on Scottish Sport and published research exploring the implications of UEFA’s Financial Fair Play regulations for football club financial reporting and accountability.