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Burnham calls for Supporter-Ownership and a rejection of global brands in football

September 15, 2008

ANDY Burnham MP, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport and former Supporters Direct (SD) Chair, this week made his most critical speech yet about the direction football is headed in a month where the Manchester City takeover dominated the headlines, and Arsenal Manager Arsene Wenger condemned Premier League football for its over-reliance on billionaires.

In his speech at the Co-operative Party Annual Conference in London on Thursday of this week, said he was “not flinching” from his view that supporter ownership is the ideal model for football clubs, most true to their character as sporting homes of belonging, rather than “global brands” to be bought for profit.

The speech – a wide-ranging critique of the direction of football consistent with his views for many years, and not simply a knee-jerk reaction to recent events – is an important signal of the support for a more responsible and better regulated game as ex press ed by FA Chairman Lord Triesman, and which SD itself has espoused since its launch in 2000.

Supporters Direct responded to the speech, saying, “Like a great many football fans, Andy Burnham is concerned about the direction football is headed in. We support his call for a debate about the direction football is headed – lead by the Football Association, and the views of supporters are absolutely central to it. We also welcome his reiteration of the view that supporter ownership is a viable, valid – and we’d say necessary – step to reconnecting clubs, their fans and their communities.”

And a welcome intervention by The FA, with the game’s governing body saying, “Lord Triesman met with Andy Burnham this week to discuss some of the biggest issues facing the game, and will meet him again soon to move these discussions forward. These issues include fit-and-proper ownership of clubs and the development of home-grown talent.

“Like the Culture Secretary, he firmly believes that clubs must preserve their links with their communities, and shares concerns if clubs are being bought for their short-term investment value rather than their long-term success. These issues, and the need to reconsider football’s regulatory framework in this area, are very high on the Chairman’s list of priorities.”

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