Portsmouth. Darlington. Any club ever taken over by Peter Ridsdale.
The above are just three of numerous examples of how poor management at the highest level, and investors looking to make cash, have ruined clubs across English football.
To prevent cases like that of Portsmouth or Darlington happening, to ensure football clubs are not simply a means for making money, and a failure to do so means flirting with extinction, English football would do well to look at the German 50+1 model.
The 50+1 rule in German football means that at least 51% of a club must be owned by its supporters. This ensures investors looking to earn quick money without any concern for the consequences cannot gain overall control of the club, but money can still be pumped in if necessary.
Gerry Wittmann, of Bundesliga Fanatic, said: “Bayern Munich are of course the dominant team, but probably the 50+1 rule affects the parity in the league, as no one individual can ‘buy’ a championship per se with an influx of big spending”
The shareholders, who are supporters of the club, choose who they want on the board. This means fans have a high level of involvement in the club they support. Each club also have a ‘Fans Projekt’, which is explained by Andy Hudson, of the website Gannin’ Away…
“German clubs each have a ‘Fans Projekt’, or similar equivalents, who are employed partly by the club and partly by the local government. They regularly meet with the club and work on behalf of the fans. This combined with the 50 + 1 ruling in Germany means that fans are considered a lot more than in England.
“Those employed with the Fans Projekt are trained social workers, and football fans are treat as part of society and not just as a customer, which is how we’ve become in England. While there are initiatives in England that are similar to certain aspects of Germany, we have a long way to go before we get anywhere near standards in Germany.”
There are exceptions to the 50+1 rule, for example Bayer Leverkusen and Wolfsburg – but only when a company has been investing in a club for more than 20 years, proving it is committed to helping the club, rather than themselves, can they acquire the majority.
Martin Kind, president of Hannover 96, wished to change the rule, believing it prevented the development of German football, in particular German football clubs in the bottom half of the league. Of the 36 clubs in Germany’s top two divisions, only his voted in favour of such a move.
The 50+1 rule is far from perfect – German clubs can get in debt, they can overspend on wages and so on – but, as far as English football is concerned, it could do a lot worse. Especially if it means never again seeing repeats of what has happened at Portsmouth, Darlington et al.
You can follow Gerry on Twitter: @bundesliga4u, and Andy: @HuddoHudson.
For more on Fans Projekts, read our interview with Augsburg fans projekt here.