Liverpool’s owners, Fenway Sports Group, have more often than not gotten things right since taking over a club that was close to administration. They have invested in the club through building a new training facility, expanding Anfield, and bringing in a top manager and top players. FSG have not been infallible, however, and when they have gotten it wrong, they have gotten it wrong to astronomically proportions at times.
After last season’s rushed and poorly executed European Super League rollout, FSG and ownership groups of all clubs involved were rightly lambasted. Supporters, who have for so long been the life blood of these clubs, have been shunted to the side with ever increasing regularity as the business of sports has taken precedent, and the ESL caused the cauldron to boil over with frustration and resentment from life-long fans. With the swift and caustic backlash, the ESL proposal was quickly shuttered by all but a few clubs in dire financial straights, and supporter groups pushed club owners for a seat at the table.
It seems that one of the Liverpool supporter groups, the Spirit of Shankly (SoS), used the momentum, and are very close to reaching an agreement with FSG in a first of its kind deal to give supporters a voice in major decisions according to the Liverpool Echo. Leaders from the Spirit of Shankly have negotiated with Liverpool FC CEO Billy Hogan since May to come up with the framework of a plan. The motion to accept the plan has gone in front of the SoS members, with the in person vote occurring last week and online voting occurring this coming week. If the motion passes, as expected, SoS would be able to sign a legally binding agreement with FSG to create a supporters board with voting authority on major matters.
According to SoS Chairman Joe Blott, the board would have representation from many of the supporter groups, as well as other interested parties.
“Our proposals are that there would be 16 members of that board,” said Poltt. They would be democratically elected to that board. There would be 10 representatives from the Spirit of Shankly and also representatives from the Liverpool Disabled Supporters Association, from Kop Outs, from Spion Kop 1906, from the official Liverpool Supporters Committee, from the Liverpool Womens Supporters Committee and from faith and ethnic groups.”
While SoS is the largest supporter group, they are only one group, so it is nice to see a broader representation involved. Plott also mentioned that there will be a specific scope of the decisions that the board will be tasked with weighing in on, as well as the type of access the proposed supporters board would have.
“The main thing is that they will have specific terms of reference in terms of issues to take forward to the club, and that is where we will get our consent for things that will happen with the club, any existential issues that the club bring forward. That is where we get our mandate from, as part of a wider, broader fan base. We will have a monthly meeting with the local FSG board members, and we will have an annual meeting with the full FSG/LFC management board. We will have early access to accounts, strategic plan or anything that affects our football club or the L4 community.”
While most major clubs will never have true fan ownership, or even the 50+1 rule like in the Bundesliga, this is a positive step to ensure that the club supporters are involved when a major decision is being proposed. Unfortunately, it just took the major goof up that was the ESL to get to this point. Thankfully, FSG have been smart enough to know they needed to come to the table and listen.
“From the embers of the European Super League debacle we saw it as an opportunity for ground-breaking, fan-led engagement with football clubs,” said Blott.
“We think we have achieved that. You need somebody on the other side to want to do that, and to be fair the club have done that.”