What does the future hold for fan ownership and Supporters Trusts in Football?

How has this happened? What does this mean? Can we carry on? These are just some of the questions from fans of over 30 football clubs in the UK that have seen their clubs’ enter administration.

Thankfully however, several club’s Supporters Trusts have been on hand to ensure fans do not live out their worst possible nightmares, with Portsmouth Football Club overcoming the dreaded drop to administration almost 10 years ago through the backing of the Pompey Supporters Trust.

Former Disney chief executive Michael Eisner’s bid of £5.67m to buy 100% of the club and the promise of £10m worth of equity was enough for the American to save the south-coast club.

Since 2000, 180 supporters’ trusts have been created in the UK, with more than 400,000 individual members. More than 100 of the trusts have a shareholding in their clubs.

Pompey meanwhile, have risen from the lower ends of League Two football, to fight promotion in League One, suggesting the need for fan-ownership is only necessary for teams with a lower expectation as financial backing has proven in recent years.

Although in some cases, clubs have managed to break the trend of requiring that financial support from prosperous businessmen, with AFC Wimbledon proving that you can compete with the likes of Portsmouth through the backing of Supporters Trusts alone.

“Committed to strengthening the voice of supporters and strengthening the links between the club and the community of Wimbledon and the surrounding areas” are the values the Dons Trust believe in and have clearly been successful in recent years.

A third successive season in England’s third division and an FA Cup fifth round run to boot (the furthest in the club’s history), signifies the need for that additional funding is maybe made all too big of a deal within the modern-day in football.

The Dons have been relatively competitive in both the third and fourth tier since their creation and along with the close relationship of those in the hierarchy and fans who spend their hard-earned money to make it to Kingsmeadow on a Saturday afternoon, proving that the future of fan ownership is both needed and sustainable to become a successful football club.

In spite of this, the world’s oldest Football League club Notts County, have recently announced that they are in danger of achieving administration following Chairman Alan Hardy’s decision to put the club up for sale last month.

The Magpies have also been struggling on the pitch, currently sitting 24th in the League Two table and this latest announcement has only strengthened the point that fan ownership is still a necessity within football in the current era although it may not always pan out the way fans and owners think.

So does fan ownership have a role to play in the running of a successful football club?

Many would argue that it does as not only does it bring the relationship of the club and the fans closer together, but it also stops supporters from asking the questions they really don’t want to be asking themselves.

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