I think that the Blues Trust #BCFCACV Twitter campaign is a good idea but I’m too old for Twitter. Everything I want to say about football grounds as assets of community value requires more than 140 characters to say it.
First, a little background for those who are not sure what it’s all about. The mechanism for registering assets of community value was introduced in the Localism Act 2011. The plain English guide1 to this act states:
“The Localism Act requires local authorities to maintain a list of assets of community value which have been nominated by the local community. When listed assets come up for sale or change of ownership, the Act then gives community groups the time to develop a bid and raise the money to bid to buy the asset when it comes on the open market. This will help local communities keep much-loved sites in public use and part of local life.”
So it’s not just about football grounds; local communities can use the powers conferred by the act to keep open libraries, swimming pools, village shops, or pubs.
OxVox, the Oxford United Supporters Trust, was the first supporters group to get their club’s stadium listed as an asset of community value (ACV) and Supporters Direct have produced a guide2 to help other supporters’ groups get their clubs’ stadia listed too. The guide explains that a building or land is an ACV if its main use is to “further the social wellbeing or social interests of the local community” but allows local authorities latitude in interpreting the meaning of social wellbeing.
Tweets supporting the #BCFCACV campaign have mentioned many ancillary uses of St Andrews for charity events and meetings. And there are probably more that could be added; for example, I haven’t seen mention of Connect Church3, which meets at St Andrew’s on Sundays.
However, it’s the primary use of St Andrews that provides its main value to the community. Football clubs are more than just businesses; they are also social institutions wreathed in tradition. Football is not an entertainment product that people should watch passively; it is more entertaining when the crowd gets involved, cheering, booing or making up silly songs. Games also provide an opportunity for people of different ages and different beliefs to connect with each other. Parents connect with their children as they explain the game and pass on the stories. Season ticket holders make friends with those who sit near them. Strangers chat to each other. In a city that has such a diverse population as Birmingham, surely anything that helps to knit together people of different beliefs and backgrounds is furthering the social wellbeing of the community.