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One in every three club owners wants to leave football

This is a story from the FSF archive – the FSF and Supporters Direct merged to become the FSA in 2019 – so this page may contain hyperlinks that do not work and/or have missing files. Our archived pages are not maintained and will not be updated.

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New research shows a growing reliance on benefactors to plug funding gaps at their clubs, according to a report by accountancy firm BDO LLP. It also claims one in every three club owners plan to walk away from football.

A New Dawn for Fair Play? shows that 65% of clubs acknowledged a dependence on principal shareholders to finance operating losses compared with 58% last year; for the Championship the figure is 94% and for League One it is 64%.

Faced with the challenge of plugging that gap and keeping their club competitive on the pitch, 28% of Championship club owners and 36% of League One club owners are considering a full or partial exit from football in the next 12 to 18 months.

Into the red

BDO partner Trevor Birch said: “Intense competition for a limited number of promotion places has pushed the majority of Championship and League One clubs into the red and created a dependency on principal shareholders bankrolling trading shortfalls.

“In this context, we now see around a third of existing owners seeking a full or partial exit. While a similar proportion of clubs are being approached by new external investors, in reality there is a dwindling number of genuine potential owners outside the Premier League.

“Our recent experiences at Portsmouth, Dunfermline and Hearts demonstrate that football clubs continue to attract huge interest and publicity but, when it comes to the crunch, only a limited number of potential investors have the resources and the appetite to bankroll the cost of their club’s ambitions.

“Buyers are increasingly likely to be supporters, who recognise the important role that clubs play in their local communities and seem to be willing to go back to basics, with overly ambitious promises of silverware traded for closer ties and greater financial stability – a backlash, perhaps, against the profligacy of previous regimes.”

Supporter ownership the “obvious answer”

Supporters Direct argued that the pool of investors in football is drying up and supporter ownership was the “obvious answer”. SD said their research showed this brought “more responsibility in the community, in the boardroom and on the balance sheet.”

SD Chief Executive David Lampitt said: “If we are to learn anything from the on-going debacle at Coventry City, it is that a game that prioritises the private interests of speculative investors over the interests of supporters and local communities is not only financially broken but is also broken in terms of its model of governance.” 

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