As a Fulham supporter, I’m unlikely to be troubled by the faint prospect of Craven Cottage ever becoming the home of a European Super League team.

Football fans among you may have noticed, last month, the (very) short-lived formation of what could be described as the beautiful game as imagined by Hollywood: the world’s wealthiest and most glamorous teams playing each other in perpetuity without fear of relegation, for the gratification of their gigantic global following. And, projected, gigantic revenues.

In short, about as far from the Whites hanging on against Burnley in a sub-zero six-pointer in January as it’s possible to imagine.

The concept lasted about 48 hours - undone, if you believe what you read, by an almighty media-fuelled fans’ revolt – leading to shamefaced apologies from the clubs concerned.

Now that pubs are gradually opening again, I’ve had the idea of a series of posts aimed at making sense of the kind of conversation that enlivens any given visit to the pub - and I thought that football would make an ideal subject to kick off with.

Drawn to the debate

Doubtless, it’s been the talk of the slowly reopening taverns, but it’s the debate which has risen in the aftermath of the Super League project I’m drawn to. Is there scope for community or shared ownership of these mighty brands?

Interestingly, no German clubs were in the Super League starting line-up. It’s been suggested that this is because of their governance structure - by law, they have to include fans in the ownership model. They have a stake and a say.

This talk of club governance led to me putting my ‘pensions’ thinking cap on. I know there are some examples of fan representation but few, that I know of, with the heft to shape a club’s future. What if club ownership were reconfigured on the pension trustee model?

The pensions perspective

Some Trustees are appointed by the members to oversee trust-based pension schemes as a voice on their behalf in dealing with the employer who part-funds them; they often run the rule over the schemes’ management and performance, too. Broadly, they are seen as a force for good, for plurality, and represent a shared concern.

Although trustees have no direct say in the day-to-day running of the business itself, they are encouraged to work with the employer to holistic ends: co-operating in such a way that the business can continue to thrive. Profits can be generated and benefits secured.

It may be simplistic, but trustees arguably wield a real say in a company’s well-being because they have a concrete interest in its continuing prosperity.

And if the pension obligation means anything, it’s that they cannot be ignored or over-ruled on matters relevant to its funding and future.

In short, to exert an influence on the organisation on behalf of their members.

Trusteeship and governance like that in pensions could well be a model which gives fans an element of control over an institution they cherish and, in return, one which affords them a seat not in the dug-out but – maybe - in the boardroom?

Food for thought? Whose round is it?

Posted by Steve Butler

Topics: Pension Governance, dc pension schemes, trust-based

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