Football Management

Commentary on the management of over 160 English football clubs by Dr John Beech, winner of the FSF Writer of the Year Award 2009/10 Twitter: @JohnBeech Curator of! Football Finance

A ‘win-win’ at Livi? Well, perhaps

Posted by John Beech on September 11, 2009

As my e-forays North of the border are rare, I hadn’t expected to be blogging on Livingston for the second time in three days.  But a development between the club and the Supporters Trust warrants comment.

Livingston are facing an uphill battle (1), and one in which they are currently fighting from a position of weakness, so it is good to see that not only have they manged to acquire a new sponsor (2), but they have announced a new deal between club and Supporters Trust (3) which Chief Executive (of the club) Ged Nixon describes as ‘Win-Win’ for club and Trust.

In a nutshell, the Trust will fund the purchase of merchandising for sale to fans in return for shares, while the club will have the opportunity to turn a profit on the retail sale to supporters.  Hence ‘win -win’ – the Trust gains a larger shareholding, and the club doesn’t have to find the capital to buy new stock for the club shop, but can turn a profit on its sale to fans.

So, is this a model which should be adopted by other Supporters Trusts?  In many cases, yes, but the real answer to the question is ‘it all depends’.

What is being confused here, and in this posting so far I am guilty of increasing that confusion, is ‘club’ – the nebulous sociocultural construct – and ‘company which owns the club’ (see my earlier posting Subbing the company or the owner?).

An arrangement such as this one at Livingston is only ‘win-win’ for a Trust if they are happy to see the current board of the ‘club’ reinforced in their ownership (and there is no implication with respect to Livingston carried in that sentence).

But if the Trust wants to see the present board of the company out, as is the case at Halesowen Town or was recently the case at Merthyr Tydfil, it is definitely not a ‘win-win’ scenario.

In short, Trusts need to look at the broader strategic issues before rushing into what, at first glance, seems a ‘no brainer’.  A few months ago at Livingston itself, with company still being run by the previous owners under Angelo Massone, rushing into such an agreement would have been more a case of ‘no brains’ rather than ‘no brainer’.


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