How Do Fan-Owned Football Clubs Work?

There are different models of fan ownership in football. Germany employs the 50+1 rule, which prevents private individuals or companies from holding a majority shareholding in a football club. There are minority fan owned models in which Supporters Trust’s work alongside private investors whilst maintaining any influence over the direction and the running at the club and there are entirely supporter owned clubs which often operate as IPS organizations run by a trust and maintained by a Democratic membership. England’s fan-owned clubs are are also often categorized by their specific circumstances. For example, Wycombe Wanderers are categorized as a supporter buyout. This is because supporters bought the existing club rather than forming a new club or reforming a liquidated club. Scarborough Athletic FC are known as a phoenix club, this is because the club was reformed following Scarborough FC’s liquidation. Amongst others there are also protest clubs. FC United of Manchester are an example of this; a new club formed by a group of individuals at odds with the Glazer takeover and the general running of Manchester United. Many of these models operate on a one-member one vote basis and use trusts of nominated and elected members to run the club day-to-day. Most fan-owned clubs also have manifestos dedicated to sustainable operations and community support. FC United of Manchester, as an example, are an industry and providence society or an IPS. In short this is an organization that runs either as a cooperative or for the benefit of the community and in FC United’s case, uses its profits not only for reinvesting in the club but for investing in the community. In an IPS, profits are never withdrawn by shareholders. In summary to be regarded as a fan-owned club, a club must have at least fifty percent plus one of its shares owned by the supporters who pay affordable fees to be members of the Supporters Trust. The trustees are elected by the members to represent the members. Financial sustainability is key and community support is vital.

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