English football fans have a long history of protesting but has the tone changed?

In the past English football fans would protest against ticket price hikes or players they do not want at the club. However, recently, the tone has changed and football fans in England have been protesting against the way their clubs are being managed from the top down. These protests are now becoming common in English football. Why are fans protesting their club’s owners? Are these protesters achieving their goals? More importantly, what does this mean for English football?

Charlton fans have gained media attention by throwing beach balls and other objects on to the pitch and stopping play. Blackpool occupied the pitch at the final game of last season leading to arrests and court action. Fans at tens of other clubs have been voicing their concerns towards their owners with Dulwich Hamlet is the latest football club in the news after property developers evicted them from their home ground!

And now it has infected the Premier League. Arsenal and West Ham fans have been vocal in recent weeks taking protests towards their owners. Owners are ruining football clubs as well as their local communities.

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Fit And Proper Persons

Charlton’s owner Roland Duchatelet verbally abused protesters and their former CEO compared them to racists and hooligans. Karl Oyston, former owner of Blackpool, has been to court threatening to sue fans. Bad football owners are becoming as famous as great footballers.

What makes a fit and proper person? According to the Football Association and EFL you will not pass a fit and proper persons test if you are; prohibited by law, have power or significant influence/interest in another football league club, are filing for bankruptcy or have been a failing director at two or more clubs. These requirements are vague and they are easily avoided, it seems. Unfortunately the owner doesn’t have to care about the football club they own and this seems to be the biggest problem.

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The Germans

In Germany they have the “50+1” rule which means that club members must hold the majority of voting rights. Commercial entities are blocked from owning the majority of the club which allows members to have a say in how the club is run. Any fan can pay to become a member and this has discouraged individual, potential investors as they would have no controlling stake in that club and therefore no say where the profits end up.

In Germany football fans aren’t protesting their own owners precisely because of the “50+1” rule but there are protests. RB Leipzig, or to use their full name – Rasenballsport Leipzig, are the exception. RB Leipzig used to be known as SSV Markranstädt that was until they were purchased by Red Bull who promptly; renamed the club, redesigned their crest and gave them a large transfer kitty to sweeten the deal with fans.

A result of this have made RB Leipzig the most hated team in Germany, attracting protests and boycotts from football fans of most German clubs. They see RB Leipzig as damaging to their “50+1” rule, which technically they adhere to. RB Leipzig offer club membership but they ask for thousands of Euros for the privilege meaning that most members are employees of Red Bull. There are problems with the “50+1” rule but it’s a great place to start for English football.

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The Solution, Maybe

We should implement the “50+1” rule in England and I suspect the only thing holding back this rule is the massive amount of power that money currently holds in the English game. This bubble will burst and we should start preparing for it now. Will this have a detriment on the English game? Quite the contrary, look what it is doing for German football.

This will also allow communities to have an interest as well as some pride in supporting their local club again. Local supporters would have  a say on signings, affiliations, staff members and how the club integrates with its local community. In a time in this country where depression, anxiety and loneliness are affecting more people wouldn’t it be nice to see something growing in your community that every one was a part of and everyone could be proud of? It almost seems to good to be true – just like beating Brazil 7 – 1 in Rio in the World Cup.

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