Socialized Soccer: The Ill-Conceived Plan To Return English Football To The EnglishS

Sick of foreign businessmen and oil magnates buying up the Premiership's best, then driving them into the ground, the government has proposed some ways to put teams back in the hands of the fans. They're all unworkable.

The proposals were included in the Labour party's manifesto, which for those of us not versed in the UK's political lingo, means they're unenforceable, and likely nothing but a vote grab ahead of elections. But they do represent the rising tide of dissatisfaction with the way brand-name teams like Manchester United and Liverpool, as well as lowly Portsmouth, have been run.

The rich have gotten richer, all the while teams take on debt like sinking ships. It's clear something has to be done, but Labour's proposals are so radical, so illogical, that Adam Smith (himself probably a Hibernian fan) must be rolling in his grave.

There are two proposals, long on idealism and short on details.

The first would compel teams to put a quarter of their shares in the hands of a supporters group. I'm unsure exactly what this is supposed to achieve. That 25 percent isn't enough to initiate or block any moves (the Bundesliga requires 51 percent of shares be in the hands of supporters). It might make fans feel they have more of a say in club matters, but it wouldn't give them any real power.

The second proposal would be to allow fans to put together a proposal to take over a team if it declares bankruptcy or goes up for sale. That first instance has happened only once, and letting fans try to purchase a team has several obstacles. We are supposed to believe that thousands of fans with no business experience will have more financial sense than, in the case of the American owners, self-made billionaires? And how will fans raise the money? There are major issues with compelling teams to sell to a supporters trust for far less than other potential owners are offering.

By shooting down these half-formed ideas, we're not discouraging reform. Similar systems work in the German and Spanish leagues. But throwing things in just to see if they float, especially when it's done as a transparent campaigning tactic, is not a way to bring about meaningful change.

Government's plan to fix football: give clubs back to fans [Guardian]