Would the 50+1 rule work in the A-League?

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The very foundations of sport are built on the fans passion and their commitments to the teams they love – virtually, there is no sport without fans.

The Australian football landscape is complex, with ownership of clubs extending to Australia, China, and the United Arab Emirates.

However, in recent years we have seen how fragile those ownership groups can be in their ability to run and fund a stable organisation.

For the game to grow in Australia, fan group ownership is the way of the future. The A-League should adopt the 50 plus one rule the German Bundesliga adopts.

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The 50+1 rule means the members and fans have majority ownership and voting rights. In turn, enabling fans to have a more significant say in their club’s running.

When you look at clubs like the Newcastle Jets and Central Coast Mariners, they have not got an abundance of money. However, what they do have is a loyal and dedicated fan base.

Whereas Melbourne City has lots of financial backing, but can not build a solid community foundation, leading to relocating to another side of Melbourne to get fans.

A fan-based ownership is easy to imagine but the biggest stumbling block is the fanbase sizes for each club.

Even for a club like Melbourne Victory, it would be a struggle to have the fans maintain a 51 per cent financial share immediately.

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It could work if the ownership groups gave a portion of the ownership up over a five to ten year roadmap, depending on each club’s value.

For instance, Victory is valued at about $40 million. If the club offered up 2.04 million worth of shares to fan-groups every year over ten years, they could buy back the majority ownership.

For clubs like the Mariner and the Jets, their share could also be offered to the local councils as well. Allowing those clubs to be truly part of their local communities.

In order for fans to maintain their 51 per cent, the fan groups would need to raise a portion of the yearly running costs to ensure all parties are represented fairly financially.

By opening it up to fan groups as opposed to the number of members per club, it allows for a steadier transition and easier accumulation of shares.

This strategy would allow owners to slowly release the financial burdens concerning maintaining a football club. This model also allows investment for the remaining 49 per cent in those ownership groups. 

The main point of this model is to build a better community and club relationship. Think about it if clubs have more significant roots in their communities, we establish better fan culture and more children wanting to play the beautiful games.

It’s no guarantee that this will work, but the current A-League model is not a slam dunk.

The league is constantly fluctuating with attendance and viewership, but with this model, more fans will want to see how their money is being spent.

Feature Image Credit: Ngau Kai Yan

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Pokuah Frimpong
Pokuah Frimpong
Obsessed football fan, current journalism student.

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