General Election Special: Labour Party Manifesto 2015
In the true spirit of the season, the Football Faculty will be offering its own take on election season with week by week analysis of the respective parties policies on the national game. First up are Ed Miliband’s Labour Party and their designs for the future. Here are the highlights from their recently published pre-election manifesto:
“Football clubs are an important part of many people’s identity and sense of belonging. They are more than just businesses. But despite their importance in the lives of their members and supporters, too often there are no effective means for fans to have a say in how their clubs are run,” said the party’s manifesto.
“Labour will provide the means for supporters to be a genuine part of their clubs. We will introduce legislation to enable accredited supporters trusts to appoint and remove at least two of the directors of a football club and to purchase shares when the club changes hands. We will also review the role of fan participation in other sports,” it added.
“We will ensure the Premier League delivers on its promise to invest 5% of its domestic and international television rights income into funding the grassroots.”
The desire to ensure at least 5% of the TV rights money goes into grassroots projects is far from a new Labour priority, but they have stepped up their efforts to ensure that this figure is representative of the global rather than solely the domestic figure. The change would mean as much as £400m going into grassroots projects direct from the Premier League rather than the £168m that is currently shared with the community. Andy Burnham, currently the shadow Health Secretary and ardent Evertonian, has long since championed such an idea and is likely to be a prominent supporter of the concept should he be part of a Labour government in May.
Labour’s ambition to ensure supporter trust representation on club boards was another policy outlined previously, this time by the shadow sports minister Clive Efford in November of last year. Although the manifesto offering is far from a concrete proposal, it does suggest a Labour government would support a greater degree of accountability in the club game. The offer of shares to supporters when clubs change hands moves us gradually towards the German model of fan ownership under the 50% plus one rule. Although not universally employed, this rule enables fans and voting members to have a majority stake in the running of their respective clubs. Labour’s pledge is still some way short of the German equivalent, but it does suggest greater fan involvement and ownership is something that Miliband’s party would likely support going forward. Rather than being something clubs should be doing, actual ownership ensure fans concerns are actually heard. The current system advocates clubs acting in the fans interests because it is socially acceptable, an ownership structure would make it a desirable thing for clubs to do.
As we will see in the coming weeks most parties are closely aligned in terms of offering fans a greater say and stake in their clubs. This is no doubt because such pledges are incredibly populist and reasonably cost effective when it comes to creating legislature for them.
With football becoming increasingly politicised it is understandable that parties are ever more keen to expand their policy into the realms of sport and most notably football. Whether Labour will swing voters based on their plans for football is questionable, but notions of fan empowerment and equitability in the game are hardly likely to lose the party votes either.