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john davies
notes from a small vicar
from a parish
in Liverpool, UK

    Tuesday, May 17, 2005
    We're fans, trust us
     
    United fans reckon that the takeover of their club heralds "the end of the game as we know it," but that's not true at all. Clubs at all levels have always been at the mercy of the men (usually men) who put their money in, take their money out, motivated by financial self-interest, ego and often also a love of the game or the team. The game will go on whatever happens to United's fortunes.

    Nevertheless, a government minister told Will Hutton at the weekend, 'I don't much like [this takeover]. Football clubs have a special relationship with fans and with communities; they are part of the structure that makes us what we are. They shouldn't be bought and sold like commodities.'

    And he is right. If this is what's beneath United fans' emotional outbursts then it's quite fascinating, because despite their protests to the contrary, their club has long embraced capital and global branding and they are far from being 'local'. Nevertheless a special, and defining, relationship does exist.

    But the United fans' grief over this capitalist transaction seems hollow. They've revelled in the success money brought to the club, but they might have done a lot more to protect it. Hutton:

    'If Shareholders United, and indeed the former United board, had been serious about wanting to sustain United's independence then it should have marshalled a 25.1 per cent blocking minority long ago; the Irish 28.7 per cent stake and Glazer holding another 28.1 per cent was writing on the wall. That nobody attempted a pre-emptive defence speaks volumes about seriousness of intent. United fans talk loud but did too little - they deserve Mr Glazer.'

    If it's really true that football clubs have a special relationship with fans and with communities then the fans and communities can grasp the power they hold and make their clubs' futures their own. Some in Britain have - smaller league but good models; most in Europe do as a matter of course - the classic case being Barcelona. Me, I think I shall respond to this tiny moment in history by enquiring about membership of the nascent Everton Supporters Trust.