The ownership model in football is changing. Supporters Direct, a national organisation dedicated to fan ownership has already worked with over 25 football clubs across Britain. The traditional set-up of clubs being owned by wealthy businessmen is gradually being phased out in favour of one where supporters play a more central role. Dunfermline Athletic supporters are just the latest to think that a sustainable, secure, long-term future is better in their own hands.
Gavin Masterton, the former treasurer and managing director of the Bank of Scotland, is the man in charge at East End Park. He has invested substantially in Dunfermline over the years but salaries have been paid late for four months in a row, the club has had difficulties meeting payments to creditors including Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs and Scottish Power, and the supporters have become concerned. In England, Portsmouth is emerging as such a fan-owned club after a well documented troubled past.
“We want to move from a model where wealthy men run football clubs and then either die, lose interest or lose their money, to a supporters-run model that is becoming increasingly common throughout Britain and on the Continent. That’s why we want to talk to Mr.Masterton as we want to work with him to take it from one stage to the other,” said Donald Adamson, a retired Chartered Accountant, and one of those promoting the idea under the title of The Pars Community. He added: “We have had great help from Supporters Direct, financed in Scotland by the Scottish Government, as well as a range of sympathetic Pars-minded professionals.”
Their vision is for a club 50% owned by the fans through the Pars Supporters Trust, and the remainder split up into chunks of no more than 10% to be held by “Pars Custodians” who invest directly. This means that the Trust will be by far the biggest share-holder, and they believe that this will bring long-term stability to the troubled club. They want a board of directors elected every three years, with two directors drawn from the Pars Supporters Trust and two directors drawn from the “Custodians”. The club would become a Community Interest Company (CIC), a new type of company which is a half way house between a charity and a normal joint stock company. This is designed to ensure that any surplus is retained within the CIC for the benefit of the football club. Stenhousemuir was the first Scottish club to move to this model in 2011.
They also hope to see the ground owned by a charity, such as already is the case at Broadwood Stadium, Cumbernauld, where Clyde play. Again this is designed to ensure that no one individual, but rather the local community, will benefit from what they perceive as an important asset for the people of West Fife, as it is developed to promote health, a wide range of leisure activities and of course football.
Donald Adamson points to the intense family loyalties which bind football supporters together. Many of those in the Pars Community are now the fourth generation of Dunfermline supporters, and treasure a host of family memories of cup runs, glorious victories and even one or two defeats. Their families have stood on the terraces for over a hundred years, and although we now live in the age of all-seated stadia, the passion is the same.
Adamson added: “It is about who we are. It is what defines us. When I think of my father and grandfather, I think of the Black and the White, the colours of this club. Quite simply, it is summed by a song by a passionate Dunfermline supporter, Yogi Hamilton, now an eminent professor in America, but originally from Dunfermline. It’s in the blood.”