Football clubs must increase fan involvement

As a lifelong fan of Scottish football I have witnessed first-hand the game’s many ups and downs.

It’s not so long ago that a place at the World Cup finals was almost taken for granted, and our clubs have often done well on the European stage.

Recently we have had some disappointments, including, of course, our unsuccessful Euro 2016 qualifying campaign.

There have been off-field problems in recent years as well, with financial difficulties hitting several clubs, some of whom have had to fold, all issues which will be familiar to regular readers of this paper.

Despite all this, football continues to play a pivotal role in Scottish life, and the lifeblood of the game are our football clubs and the people who support them.

These clubs play a crucial role in communities, often through largely unsung charitable and community work.

Many have been around for well over 100 years, and it’s absolutely vital that they continue to flourish, and that fans play their part in that success.

That is why the Scottish Government is currently consulting on options for how to increase football supporter involvement in their clubs.

The consultation closes on 15 January, and I want as many fans as possible to make their views heard.

We believe there is a powerful case for increasing supporter involvement in football clubs.

This is demonstrated by powerful examples from the German Bundesliga, and closer to home at clubs like Motherwell, Hearts and Dunfermline, who are all pursuing fan-ownership models.

We are asking people for views on different ways to increase fan involvement, which could be included in future legislation.

These include a right to influence the way the club is run, to govern the club or to bid for ownership when it comes up for sale.

The final option is to introduce a right for fans to buy their football club.

Getting this right requires allowing all voices to be heard and that’s why we are consulting.

We will look at all the responses, and work with the football authorities, clubs and – of course – supporters and supporter groups to consider the best way forward.

By working together, and all pulling in the same direction, we can help to safeguard the future of our football clubs for generations to come.