Cork City FC & Fan Owned Clubs, The Future of Soccer?

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When Cork City fans took control of their club in 2010 they were following a well worn path that has see soccer clubs that failed under the ownership of businessmen being taken over by fans in the last number of years. They joined Irish clubs Sligo Rovers, Bohemians and Shamrock Rovers as fan owned. The phenomena has also seen fans desert big corporate clubs to start their own as with United FC in Manchester a response to the Glazier takeover of Manchester United.

The loyal fan base of Cork city created an trust called Friends of the Rebel Army Society Co-op who’s purpose was to take over the club and run it in the interests of the fans and not as a solely profit making business. The structure of the co-op is remarkably democratic. “Cork City FC is owned by its supporters through a supporters' trust - the Friends of the Rebel Army Society. This trust elects a Board of Management to run the football club, but the major decisions must be made at Annual General Meetings or Extraordinary General Meetings. The Board of Management appointed two club administrators.”

What is exciting and impressive about the fan owned clubs is that their whole reason for existence is to promote the club and it’s success purely for love of the sport. Overwhelmingly the fan base is working class and the success of these clubs demonstrate clearly the capabilities of our class free of the constraints of the profit motive.

The move towards fan owned clubs reflects a growing resentment by genuine football fans of the way in which their clubs have been come the playthings of the rich or worse just another piece of business. The rapidly rising prices of tickets for games have effectively excluded the majority of traditional working class supporters and led to a deadening atmosphere in many English football grounds. Fans have begun voting with their feet and deserting the old clubs and forming new ones under their own control or taking advantage of financial crises to buy the clubs. They have thus far been relatively successful at combing the professionalism of the game insuring players are paid and the idea of fan control of the club. There is a huge fan base for soccer in Ireland and Britain, and by engaging people as participants rather than just consumers these clubs have a resilience that is hard to match.

Whist the vast amounts of money still to be made in soccer means that we are unlikely to see a corporate retreat, the example being set by the fan owned clubs is a sign of the future trend of society, where workers innate democratic instincts are asserted about something they feel a great and passionate attachment to.

WORDS: James McBarron

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