The VSC meet with Clive Efford MP – Shadow Minister of Sport


The VSC meet with Clive Efford MP – Shadow Minister of Sport
Location – Shadow Cabinet board room, Palace of Westminster 2/7/2014

The VSC was invited to a meeting with Clive Efford MP who is the current Shadow Minister for Sport.  Clive himself is a Millwall supporter and takes very seriously the position of supporter’s trusts and the part they play in their local community and football club.

The main topics for discussion fell in to two main areas, governance of football clubs and the role of supporter’s trusts and fan engagement.  The governance issue was wide ranging but covered in some detail issues surrounding the current ownership of football clubs, fans involvement of that, share ownership, supporters sitting on the board of their local club, and quite importantly how that structure can change. The German model of football club ownership has long been held up as the model we should aspire to and again this was discussed in some detail. It’s obvious, even to the casual observer, that an adoption of the German model would at a stroke remove some of the most contentious issues surrounding clubs and the supporter’s role in that.

Clubs wouldn’t change hands the way they do, nor would supporter issues be overlooked with regard to pricing, club identity, and in more general terms the clubs heritage. Supporters would have a say in how their clubs run, they wouldn’t be ostracised, their views would be heard on a more consistent basis and the club would be seen, quite rightly, as a community club, one that was owned by the supporters, both spiritually and physically.

The English model of club ownership has, superficially, many positive aspects. But the current way that club ownership, and the transfer of that ownership, can be seen as very damaging if the important community issues are ignored by what is seen when ownership becomes one of benevolent dictatorship. There are several examples of this type of behaviour currently. This is a situation where an owner considers himself to be the provider of football glory but at a cost of doing things his way. It’s my way or the highway as a general rule for these owners.  Supporters are not considered, their view isn’t important, but their money invariably is! Cardiff and Hull City are two examples that sit at the top of this very pyramid. It’s how the game resolves those difficulties that intrigued Clive and his team.

We discussed at length fan engagement issues, and the VSCs experience with IRWT makes our opinion increasingly valuable when discussing how this should happen and the relative strengths that supporter groups can bring to their clubs. Of course the implementation of such a programme, especially when carried out in partnership between that supporter group and the club, can bring immense benefits to the supporters, the club, and the general community. Furthermore we could cite many examples where other clubs had copied large parts of what we had done at DRFC and had seen the progress that this could achieve for themselves. SLOs have been a disappointment throughout the PL and FL to a large extent, however those clubs that had followed the DRFC example and appointed supporters into that role had made considerable progress. The VSCs contribution at DRFC, plus how it had helped guide other trusts to do the same at Barnsley, Scunthorpe, Crewe and others was acknowledged.

Further discussions centred on the protection of football stadiums. The Labour party have a policy to follow through on the promises they have made and some alterations to the current localism bill would be seen as a good start. Presumption under planning for use to remain as stadiums would be paramount, as would supporter groups registering as a consultee on any changes of use. Development would be very strictly controlled and only permitted when stringent conditions were met, both for the club and the local community. Clive and his team were keen to understand more about what the VSCs thoughts were and valued our contribution. It would be increasingly important how those actions had recently played their part in the changes at the Keepmoat.

The VSC would like to thank Clive for his invitation, his team for helping with the arrangements, and we look forward to the next meeting where we can help develop some of these ideas and create the right conditions for this to flourish.

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