Fans want to take over as Premier League club owners – reveals new survey

As the debate around football club ownership intensifies, new research conducted by Co-operatives UK has today revealed that fans want to take control at both Manchester United and Liverpool – and could afford to do so.

83 per cent of Manchester United fans and 72 per cent of Liverpool fans who expressed an opinion felt their club would be in better hands if it was owned co-operatively. Across the country 56% of fans, who gave an opinion, feel the same way according to the survey* conducted by YouGov on behalf of Co-operatives UK.

The survey confirms for the first time that they would be willing to put their money where their mouth is and invest in the club to take it into co-operative ownership.

Ed Mayo, Secretary General of Co-operatives UK, said: “Too many clubs are not managing their business successfully off the pitch and it is time to let the fans have a real say in the running of their clubs.

“The English game has borrowed many tactics from foreign teams in the past so it is only logical that they follow the example of one of the most successful foreign teams – FC Barcelona – and use the co-operative idea of the fans owning the team.”

Ed continued: “For less than the price of a Premier League season ticket, fans could share in ownership of their clubs and ensure that they are run in the long-term interests of sport. They really could be their team’s twelfth man!”

According to the survey, Manchester United supporters would be willing to invest an average of just over £600 each, to buy their club. If all the club’s supporters in Great Britain did this they would be able to raise £2.34 billion – more than enough to buy the club.

Duncan Drasdo Chief Executive of the Manchester United Supporters Trust (MUST) said: “We know there’s a huge appetite out there to change the ownership at United – and this shows there’s the commitment and the will amongst supporters to play a significant role in any bid and new ownership structure. £600 as an average is a credible figure but obviously some will put in less and some will invest substantially more.”

Dave Boyle, Chief Executive of Supporters Direct, the organisation that promotes the democratic ownership of football clubs, said: “Fans are realising that the choice is a simple one – pay someone else’s debts off and at the end, those people own it, or buy it yourself. These clubs should never have been allowed to be bought on the back of leveraged debt, but if the game’s authorities won’t act in the defence of our clubs, fans will have to.

“The only thing stopping these great clubs being owned by fans is the belief that these clubs are just too big to turn into British Barcelonas. But the bigger the club, the bigger the fan base and this survey shows if fans can be united, they can make this happen.”

Ed Mayo added: “What fans are saying to us challenges the assumption that the only way to get rid of one billionaire is to find another. The ideal of co-operative ownership seems to unite the fierce rivals of Manchester United and Liverpool. I look forward to hearing the chants ‘You are ours and you know you are’”.

* All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 2132 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 12 – 15 March 2010. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).

Club British Fan Base Potential Capital
Manchester United 3.8 million £2.34 billion
Liverpool 2.99 million £875 million
Arsenal 1.89 million £818 million

 Figures in the table above were calculated using ONS population figures for Adults in Great Britain and the percent fan base obtained in this YouGov survey

 Co-operatives UK is the national member-owned and led organisation that promotes the interests of co-operatives, works to increase awareness and understanding of co-operative values and principles, and supports the development and growth of new and existing co-operatives. It is a focal point for the sector, a forum for innovation and best practice, and a strategic voice for the co-operative movement.

Co-operatives UK represents co-operative enterprise throughout the United Kingdom of Great Britain, Northern Ireland, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man.

In 2008, there were over 4,820 co-operative businesses in the UK, owned by 11.3 million people (one in five of the population) and sustaining more than 200,000 jobs. The sector had a combined turnover of £28.9 billion.


About Supporters Direct:
  • Supporters Direct promotes the democratic ownership of football clubs, and campaigns for transparency and better governance in football
  • We have assisted in setting up over 150 supporters’ trusts in England and Scotland with a combined membership of nearly 200,000
  • Supporters’ trusts have now put over £25 million into football, have 15 clubs in ownership or control and with nearly 60 with directors on the boards of clubs
  • Over 110 Supporters’ Trusts have shares in their clubs

SD is a mutual, owned by its members, and funded in England by the Football Stadia Improvement Fund – the partner organisation of the Football Foundation, in Scotland by the Scottish Government, and in Rugby League by the RFL and the Co-operative Group, and in Europe by UEFA.

 For further information about Supporters Direct, please contact: Kevin Rye, Communications, Supporters Direct: 020 7273 1595/07852 998542 or email:


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Alex Bird is an experienced co-operative searcher and activist. Follow him @coopalex3
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