Football and four billion fatal flaws

06 September 2016

Football and four billion fatal flaws

Elite English football clubs might be worth £4 billion in capital, but their social value is eroding, according to new research presented at the International Social Innovation Research Conference (ISIRC) in Glasgow this week.

The Yunus Centre for Social Business and Health at Glasgow Caledonian University is hosting the three-day ISIRC conference, bringing together 236 delegates from more than 33 countries.

Researchers at GCU and Manchester Metropolitan University applied a value creation business model to English Premier League and Championship clubs.

They scoured club and supporter websites, official reports and media coverage of the 44 clubs between 2013-2015 to determine the strategic, economic, cultural and social capital of each club.

It found that the vast majority of owners were motivated by financial and political gain, sacrificing cultural and social capital – namely club heritage and supporters. It showed just 30 percent of clubs by the end of the 2015 season were locally owned, compared with 54 percent in the Championship, whilst there are no fully supporter-owned clubs in either league.

The report cites the highly contentious Manchester United takeover, which spurred some supporters to start their own club in protest, to Birmingham City who entered into receivership whilst under the majority ownership of convicted money launderer Carson Yeung. It also details Swansea City, whose supporters own a collective stake in the club yet are being sidelined by USA-based investors.

Geoff Whittam, GCU Reader in Entrepreneurship, said: “The English Premier League markets itself as ‘the best in the world’ which in financial terms may be true, but in social value would see relegation as a certainty.

“Football clubs are arguably one of the greatest social innovations around, formed by local communities and creating civic pride, but football has embraced an immoral code, with a rise in charlatan entrepreneurs stripping away community value in favour of money-making.

“There needs to be a seismic shift towards social ownership, returning football clubs to their roots. Then and only then will football clubs really be a business of value.”

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