When it comes to sport I would never proclaim to be an avid follower of single team or individual professional, however there's something very exciting happening in football that could see the power of clubs placed back into the community they serve. The community ownership of football clubs is gaining momentum and has the possibility to empower local fans like never before, away from the hands of the few and into the hands of many.
During my time as a student I was fortunate to have one such club on my doorstep; I spent many a cold and dreich Saturday afternoon in the stands watching Stirling Albion battle it out in the pantheon of Scottish football, the Third Division. Although the games were often a frustrating affair, that any fan of lower league football has endured, there was something very different about the team in comparison to our competitors. Through community ownership there was a feeling that each and every fan, regardless if they cheered in the crowd once a season or every weekend, had a real stake in the club.
As members of the University of Stirling student radio station, Air3 Radio we were able to forge links with the club that gave us opportunities to try our hand at sports journalism from a league team. Efforts to have links with the Stirling community were often hard to forge, however the Albion club could see the benefit of engaging with the large student body that remains over 10,000 strong.
In Scotland there are currently four clubs that have community ownership status, unfortunately with this more or less coming as a result of deep financial problems with the previous owners. However financial turmoil should not be viewed as the prerequisite for a community takeover, it should be considered as a possible antidote to prevent clubs from getting into crippling debts in the first place. There is more focus on financial transparency and allows fans to come up with real innovative ways to fundraise through working as part of the local community.
The relationship between clubs and the community there are in has become disjointed and at times fractured, with the only engagement coming in the form of a tokenistic yearly open day or a photo in the local newspaper with school pupils kicking a ball on the grounds. This isn't what sport should be about; people make sport and that's why the boardrooms at our clubs shouldn't be off limits to the people who care most about their teams. If people feel they are empowered, they are far more likely to take an interest and become involved in the development of any organisation.
Community empowerment at clubs is now starting to grab the interests of politicians, with the Scottish Green Party in particular voicing support for a breakaway from private ownership, to be replaced with devolution at a grass roots level. They argue that through the proposed Community Empowerment Bill in Scotland could be the vehicle to allow fans to buy a club, regardless if it faces financial difficulties or not.
The very notion of allowing fans into the boardroom could send shockwaves across the sporting business but it could also open up the opportunity to rid clubs of excessive spending and shoddy commercial decisions. We know it works because across the world some of the most successful teams are in the hands of fans. Clubs such as Real Madrid, Barcelona, the Green Bay Packers, but to name a few; these teams have managed some of the greatest triumphs in sport and fans have been at the heart of it all.
It's time for communities to reclaim their local clubs and to not only safeguard their future but to embark in a new era for football that sees fans have a real say and become empowered. Fan ownership is no silver bullet to the problems facing football, but it offers the potential a whole new generation in the beautiful game, surely that's worth taking a shot at?
Supporters Direct Scotland are an umbrella organisation that support fan groups in ownership campaigns. They are currently running Supporter Ownership Week (11th - 18th April). You can find out more about them and Supporter Ownership Week at: or follow them on Twitter @ScottishFans