Supporting the Supporters

By | Sport
Photo © Colin McPherson/Corbis

As football and business become ever more intertwined, the schism between fan and footballer has increased, but there’s one organisation dedicated to protecting the sport’s most important asset: the supporters.

While the public is all too familiar with the work of the multi-million pound power brokers of the Premier League and the Professional Footballers Association, the Football Supporters’ Federation is something of an unsung hero.

The FSF strives to make football in England as enjoyable and accessible as possible. This noble mission statement presents numerous challenges, pitting the small organisation against the giants of the Premier League, Football League and the Football Association in its bid to find agreements on issues such as pricing, ownership and sustainable spending.

Representing the small man in football against billionaire club owners and global companies is a tough task. However, the FSF has enjoyed some high-profile successes, such as the rejection of the mooted 39th Premier League game, which would have been played abroad.

The Federation established nationwide regional meetings where fans of all clubs came together to sign petitions. Then, they lobbied MPs and garnered support from fans all over the globe to persuade the Premier League to drop the idea.

“Our campaign obviously managed to strike a chord with football lovers,” Steven Powell, Director of Policy for the FSF, tells The Positive.

“A fan from Buenos Aires, who had been to a few Premier League games when here on business, said he didn’t expect the League to come to him. Part of the reason he enjoyed watching the Premier League was the passion of the supporters.”

Most recently, the FSF worked with the Culture, Media and Sport Committee on their insightful report on the way football is governed in this country.

“When you see the report from the Commons Select Committee you can see the influence the FSF and the Supporters Direct has had in shaping the thinking of parliamentarians,” Powell says.

“It took a lot of hard work putting the evidence together. It takes a long time to produce results.”

In January, Manchester City returned 912 tickets for their away game against Arsenal after travelling fans complained about the £62 price, reigniting protests against fans being priced out of the game.

When the new Premier League TV deal comes into force next season, it is estimated that the increased revenue for clubs will mean they could reduce ticket prices by £32 and make the same profit.

The FSF would like to see England follow the example of Germany where fans have greater say over the direction of their clubs.

“Teams in Bundesliga and Bundesliga 2 have to be 51 percent owned by their supporters,” Powell explains. “Bayern Munich, one of the world’s biggest clubs, charge £30 for their biggest games. When you compare that to the situation here it is staggering.”

The FSF, which was founded in 2002, has around 200,000 members. There is more information on the organisation and the opportunity to become a member for free at the Football Supporters’ Federation website.

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