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Chelsea sale should see supporters given a stake in their club

Roman Abramovich’s enforced exit brings a unique opportunity to embed supporters at the heart of one of our most successful clubs. Tim Payton (Arsenal Supporters’ Trust) calls for the Government to do just that at Chelsea…

In the coming weeks the Government, thanks to the terms of its sanctioning licence, will approve the sale of Chelsea to new owners – and they should use this opportunity to put fans back in the driving seat of the club they love.

It would be a huge step forward and reflective of the position they have taken since the European Super League debacle.

As Nadine Dorries, secretary of state for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), rightly said this week: “Football clubs are cultural assets and the bedrock of our communities. We’re committed to protecting them”.

There is no better way to protect a club’s future than giving supporters a stake in their club’s ownership structure. The direct involvement of fans in the governance of a club ensures a custodianship approach and is a powerful check and balance on how our clubs are run.

There is of course an important debate taking place about who owns football clubs and the extent to which a ‘fit and proper’ test should be applied to them. The reality is that football clubs are far too important to be owned by any one person or entity, be it a nation state, oligarch or profit-seeking investor.

There is widespread support for this proposal across the football community. In a fan survey undertaken by DCMS as part of its review into football governance 87% called for fans to have the right to buy shares and own some equity in their club.

The entire football world will be watching how the Government proceeds with the sale of Chelsea.

It can send an important statement of intent to fans of every club, and how it will proceed with implementing the fan-led review of football governance, by demonstrating that football really is the people’s game.

Tim Payton is a Board member of the Arsenal Supporters Trust (AST)

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