independent

Friday 31 October 2014

Fans should own their clubs

Published 01/12/2011 | 14:44

TWO weeks ago and the odds on the Bundesliga title returning to Munich for the traditional parade down Ludwigs Strasse and down to the Marienplatz were looking pretty good, but now the most successful football team in post-war Germany find themselves trailing not just the reigning champions Borussia Dortmund, but also little Borussia Monchengladbach.

A disaster for Bayern – anytime the Saebener Strasse side are not on top of the table is a disaster – but a boon to the league in which they participate. It's geniunely competitive. As the Premier League in England and La Liga in Spain have become increasingly dominated by just a few clubs the Bundesliga's approach of fan owned clubs (there are exceptions, Leverkusen, who beat Chelsea last week, are owned by pharma giant Bayer and Wolfsburg are owned by Volkswagen) has maintained a truly competitve league.

A league where a huge club like Bayern can go to Mainz, midtable Mainz, and lose 3-2. Such results happen in all leagues, Barcelona did lose to a similarly ranked Getafe last weekend, but that result was seismic in a way that Bayern's defeat wasn't.

On the balance of probablilities you would have expected Bayern to win that game, but losing it wouldn't be considered the disaster that Barca's loss was. That defeat leaves Barca trailing Real Madrid by six points, not an insurmountable amount in most other leagues (including the Premier league), but in a league where you're expected to win practically every single game it is hugely significant. The league is Real's for the taking and it's not yet December.

That's not a healthy situation. Far better to have teams like Hannover come from nowhere to claim a spot in Europe like they did last year. Far better to have the top eight teams in the division divided by just nine points. The fan owned trust is the way to go for the ownership of football clubs. They provide stability and they don't allow for the financial doping that teams like Manchester City are presently engaging in. It won't make it a level playing field, some clubs will be more popular and have more money to spend (both Real and Barca are owned by the fans) than others, but it's a better solution to the current billionaire's toy model employed in England and elsewhere.

Even here in Ireland Cork City and Shamrock Rovers have shown the value of the model, both went bust, both are back in business thanks to a more sustainable model.

Clubs are important parts of their communities and should be owned in the community, not by foreign plutocrats.

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