Is Gordon Brown’s idea for fans to own 25% of their Clubs an electoral gimmick or a serious attempt at reforming English football? If implemented, will Roman be forced to give up 25% of his existing Chelsea stake? Questions, questions…..and here are some answers.
When Gordon Brown waved his most treasured possession – a few tattered shares in Raith Rovers – CFCnet thought, “here goes, another politician hopping aboard the football bandwagon.” We were tempted to shout “mind the gap” but where Brown’s concerned we’re more likely to hope he’ll fall down it.
In CFCnet’s eyes, politicians are all the same. They’ll do anything for your vote and, once in power, will do anything to wriggle out of the commitments they’ve made. If you don’t believe me, have a glance at the two eBooks below showing Brown and Cameron lying to their hearts’ content.
Conservatives, Labour….it’s interesting that whoever CFCnet votes for, the Government always seems to get in.
Labour’s plan goes something like this: when a Club is put up for sale, football fans will have first option to buy their clubs. In addition, existing owners will be forced to hand over a stake of up to 25% to supporters’ groups.
These proposals are meant to stop asset-strippers such as honorary Scouse legends George Gillett and Tom Hicks from buying clubs, overloading them with debt and, as in the case of Portsmouth, sinking them.
The proposals sound good on paper but when you get down to the small print the words ‘Swiss’, ‘cheese’ and ‘holes’ spring to mind. Firstly, lawyers have told CFCnet that many Premiership Club owners will take legal action over the dilution of their shares. If they win their legal case(s) then the proposals are dead in the water.
Secondly, the 25% shareholding amount will be set by an independent, external auditor. In Chelsea’s case this will mean fans having to find (at a guesstimate) £150 million if the Club is valued at £600 million. Given we’re one of the top 5 richest Clubs in Europe, that’s not a wild guess either.
Who has £150 million? Not the Matthew Harding Lower that’s for sure. Which leaves just two alternatives: either more rich fans will fork out a few million to rub shoulders with Roman and, after a brief stay aboard his yacht Pelorus, stay completely in his pocket OR it’s left to us fans to set up a Chelsea Trust and raise the small matter of £150 million.
The problem for CFCnet is that, in a similar but not identical sense, we’ve been down this road before. Chelsea Pitch Owners was set up for one reason only: to keep Chelsea at Stamford Bridge and for the fans to own the freehold to both the name Chelsea FC and the pitch. 14,000 shares were sold to fans for these reasons alone.
The result 17 years on? The Club is trying to wriggle out of both obligations and, indeed, has altered its website wording to completely omit reference to us fans owning the rights to the name Chelsea FC. As we speak, a team of elite lawyers is trawling over every word of the Chelsea Pitch Owners prospectus and legal obligations. For more background, click here.
Perhaps the worst aspect of the current CPO situation is that the existing Chairman, Richard King, has publicly sided with the Club by stating that CPO is ‘no longer valid’.
CPO is a perfect example of how an organisation set up with the very best intentions is subverted over time and taken over by the very forces it was meant to protect against. Will the same happen with the Government’s proposals for fans to own 25% of a Club’s shares? We’re not sure but the proposals demand far greater discussion, not least with fans groups themselves.
CFCnet’s take on the matter? When the Government interferes in football you have to be afraid. When Michel Platini comes out strongly in favour of such proposals then you need to be very afraid. Anyone who knows football will tell you that Platini’s only wish is to weaken English football, never to strengthen it.
Our guess is that the whole idea is an electoral gimmick. After all, Labour has had thirteen years to investigate the ownership of football clubs and during that time we’ve not heard a peep. The fact that these proposals have come out weeks before a general election is therefore suspicious in the extreme.