The Sunday News
Lewis Maunze, Sunday News Correspondent
The reviews from my previous article on football club ownership models seemed to give the impression that only company owned football clubs are successful and not community owned teams.
This article is somewhat a follow-up piece meant to glean on and investigate successful fan run sports clubs. Nonetheless, looking at Zimbabwe I am still unmoved as evidence clearly still supports the motion that company owned football teams’ success curve is on the rise at the moment. This does not mean that supporter owned teams do not and cannot flourish!
A simple definition of community or supporter owned teams is that they are predominantly non-profit-institutions controlled by their supporters. This type of entity is common world over and amongst different sporting disciplines. Some of the popular examples are in America’s National Football League being the Green Bay Packers, Wisconsin Timber Rattlers and the Rochester Redwings and Syracuse SkyChiefs. And in terms of football some of the most popular examples are Real Madrid CF and FC Barcelona. Real Madrid CF is run by a group of supporters or members called the socios represented by a Club President. Socios which a Spanish word which can be translated to mean member, associate, partner, fellow or cahoot. As socios, fans pay annual membership in exchange for benefits such as the right to vote on issues like the accessibility to tickets. Similarly FC Barcelona is spearheaded by registered socios who also form an assembly of delegates as the highest governing body of the club. Some of their extravagant business in the transfer market and shrewd business acumen does not appear characteristic of a community run club, but believe it or not they are a community run club like our very own Highlanders FC and Dynamos FC. And in my research I found out how they are able to operate smoothly and so close to company or wealthy investor owned football teams. These are some of the gems local and regional fan owned teams can replicate.
Structure is the most integral aspect. This involves a meticulous, functional and systematic organogram. All our local outfits have some sort of structure but must have members that are driven by the same vision for the club; which is a peremptory trait. The members must not be stooges, pawns or place holders but be democratically and meritocratically elected by members. They must uphold values like transparency, accountability and equity. These values must be breathed into life in the clubs founding documents and constitution.
Over and above when the group of individuals representing the club are fans at heart they are more likely to make decisions which are future orientated and have the community at heart. Unlike an investor driven institution that will spend a lot of money, insist on instant results at the expense of longevity.
Another open secret and strength that community owned sports institutes have is numbers. After being submerged in debt Highlanders Football Club were great ambassadors of this principle when they roped in their fans locally, regionally and in the diaspora to assist alleviate their debt woes. Surely, such big clubs should not have gotten to doldrums in the first place but it shows that fans in numbers led by a like-minded leadership can assist. This is a simple concept that teams like FC Barcelona and all teams in the Argentine football league (which by the way are all amazingly fan owned) have been using for decades. Bearing in mind this dire Covid-19 time this crowdfunding can be used to assist with player wages and allowances. And in such a set up sporting clubs can get more involved in philanthropic and corperate social responsibility. I always wondered how Barcelona was able to pay UNICEF to have their name on their kits and the simple answer is being a well-run supporter backed entity.