Monday, 20 October 2008 18:06

Supp Direct praise WST

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The following article appeared in the September edition of the Supporters Direct Magazine.

It was written by Chief Executive Dave Boyle and refers to the WST offer of cash for shares made in March this year. 



There are some big decisions to be made by fans inside andoutside the trust movement after a short summer break. I hope by the time you read this, your season is still alive andyou are still living the carefree flights of fancy that the startof the football season should instil in any fan (which rulesout about half the Premiership and Luton Town).  


The latest transfer deadline activities showed that at thevery top, fans have a very clear choice to make.It’s a weird time when the strike force propelling Spurs tothe dizzy heights of 11th being sold for over £50m is notthe main story.


That accolade went to the almost surrealevents at the City of Manchester Stadium.  The previous Messiah, Thaksin Shinawatra, had left hiswallet at home (we’ve all been there) and before you could say ‘fit and proper person test,’ a deal has been done with a well-connected member of the ruling familyof Abu Dhabi.


 There has been no lip-service to stewardship, of the fans being the moral owners of the club. They’ve not even bothered having a photo holding a club scarf aloft; it’sclear our most sacred traditions of English football are at risk.  In one sense, it’s hard to get too concerned; the golden age when people ‘selflessly’ gave their all for their local clubs has been overplayed.


Clubs (over here anyway) have always been trophy assets, bought by those whose wealth reflected the economics of the time. Yesterday’s local mill-owners are just being replaced by the oil-wealth of the gulf and Russia and debt-finance of the USA.  But to say that a group of local people who cared little for fans have been replaced by a group of non-local people who share their lack of concern is to miss the real trend.  Previously, the owners were the captains of the good ship football club. They wore the nice uniforms and had the best food, but there was no question that they were on the same boat as the supporters in steerage (along with the players in those days, too). Now, the captains don’t seem to need the passengers, nor the crew; these are private yachts.


 Owners who make it clear that its all about them are doing us all the same favour, and forcing people to choose. What do you want from your football? Football needs its stories: The rivalries, the players, the histories. If the back story is that our billionaire is richer than yours, then really, do you care?   


Are bragging rights in the UAE Council of State, as the absolute monarchs of Dubai share a joke at the expense of their Abu Dhabi cousins that interesting? After all, if you want to watch the ego-tripping super rich, society has already invented horseracing and formula one for your delectation.  


Closer to home, we have to choose what we want too.The trust movement is about a set of principles unlikely to be shared by City’s new owners. Abu Dhabi works on the ancient one man, one vote system, with the man in question being the Sheikh, with the only vote; It’s fair to say the prospects for supporter democracy at City look even less healthy than the chances that the club’s transfer policy will work to help Fabio Capello.   But do we share the principles ourselves? And what do we do when a trust acts contrary to them? There have been several instances recently where trusts have been faced with real choices about what to do. Wrexham’s owners pleaded with the Trust to hand over £300,000 to help the club.  


Considering they were facing relegation out of the Football League, it was a brave – and correct – decision to not consider it until the owners allowed the trust to buy shares at the same rate those owners could.  


It has been a long-standing principle of our movement that money is a pathway to power, buying shares and buying influence. We have never been oppositional for the sake of it, but neither have we avoided strong words when a tired regime stands in the way of progress.    Many club boards have been attracted to the idea of getting lots of money from their trusts but much, much less enamoured with the idea of sharing power. But what do we do when a Trust gives in and hand it over, of which there have been more examples of than can be put down to circumstances?  


It can be very difficult when all at the club are blaming the trust’s so-called intransigence for the dire fortunes on the pitch, and sadly fellow fans can be loudest and most aggressive voices. It takes guts to dig in and hold firm to our principles.But as Wrexham showed, it can be done.SD and the wider movement would want to offer all the help we could at such trying times, but what if, in the final analysis, the trust just handed the cash over?  


What if people didn’t want to rock the boat lest they upset the board? What if they don’t want to be involved at the boardroom, thinking it’s not for the likes of fans likethem? All of these have been said to us recently to explain courses of action some trusts have taken.  They beg certain questions.


 Do you share our values? Are you really a Trust? What do we – SD and the movement –do when we think the answer to those is no? And how can we help trusts who answer yes better stand up for our values?  


Those are questions for you to answer, because you are the supporters trust movement.


They’ll be asked and discussed at the Conference in October, which you can read about inside. See you there.


  Dave BoyleChief Executive  The magazine ,and previous issues can be seen at the following web address.