I recently saw a thread on a Birmingham City fans forum with a link to an article about a billionaire who wants to buy a Premier League club. The article said that Hasan Abdullah Ismaik already owns a stake in 1860 Munich but is frustrated by the rules governing football in Germany that limit his voting rights to 49%.
He’s got the money and he wants to have control so the obvious place to come is England. Money can buy a lot control here. However, as some owners have discovered, money can’t buy the approval of all a club’s fans. That’s because some of us feel that we have a share in the ownership of the club. The owners have the best seats and the boardroom but the fans own the history, traditions and passion. And football clubs need fans just as much as they need owners.
Many fans don’t understand the business of football and all the complexities involved in running a club. I also think that many owners don’t understand fans and why some of us feel we should have a say in the way our club is run. A poem* I read recently contained the phrase “naïve with power” to describe a ruler whose privileged position made it hard for him to understand the little people he ruled. It’s a phrase that could describe club owners. How can someone who has never had to queue for the loo really understand what going to a game is like for ordinary fans?
Some owners attempt to bridge the gap by talking and listening to their fans. At the other extreme are owners at war with their fans, such as the Oyston family at Blackpool FC. Birmingham City fans don’t want owners like that but have different opinions on what they do want in a new owner. For some, the money to invest in players is the most important. For me, it’s more important to have owners with a willingness to listen to ordinary fans. If next year brings us owners like that, I’ll be happy.
And today I’ll be happy if we can finish the year with a win against Sheffield Wednesday.
*The poem is ‘In the Days of Caesar’ by Waldo Williams, translated from the Welsh by Rowan Williams. I read it in a collection of poems with commentaries by Janet Morley: Haphazard by Starlight: A poem a day from Advent to Epiphany. It’s a beautiful, thought-provoking book and I would recommend it for anyone who loves poetry.