Posts Tagged ‘Members Club’

Members Club (March 2009)

February 13, 2010 Leave a comment

Article for Shamrock Rovers match day programme (March 2009)

Different football clubs have different ownership structures.  Some clubs are very much shaped by their Chairman.  Chelsea have an oligarch, Shelbourne had an Ollie Byrne.  The fans of Shamrock Rovers Football Club took over the ownership of the club back in July 2005.  The club had gone into Examinership earlier that year.  At the end of that Examinership period, the Shamrock Rovers fans group, the 400 Club, were the last man standing and took control of the club.  We are now a members club which operates on a one member- one vote principal.  The members elect the board of directors who run the club.  Tomorrow will see the AGM of Shamrock Rovers Football Club taking place across the road from the Tallaght Stadium in the Maldron Hotel.

The Shamrock Rovers membership model has provided great stability for the Hoops in turbulent times for both the club and for League of Ireland football.  Rovers have prepared a budget in recent seasons and have stuck to it.  The wide number of members with diverse expertise and a huge amount of enthusiasm is a great resource to call upon for the club.  Supporter involvement in running clubs helps with ensuring good corporative governance as well as ensuring a certain level of democracy.

Many Irish football clubs have struggled to pay player wages and other bills in recent years.  Some clubs have gone full time and have struggled with the wage bill and reverted to part time status or have let players go.  Clubs like Sligo Rovers, Galway United and St. Patrick’s Athletic have all found themselves having to cut their cloth.  While Kilkenny City has folded, Cobh Ramblers have dropped to the A Championship with Cork City and Drogheda United entering, and successfully exiting, Examinership.

The membership model is different from the shareholding model that was in vogue in the 1980’s.  Clubs like Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United floated on the stock exchange making their owners very rich.  While fans could buy shares, their shareholding was dwarfed by a small number of shareholders, including some financial institutions, who held most of the shares.  Rather than reinvest all of the profits from the club on the pitch or in stadium development, shareholding dividends were issued to the members.  At Manchester United in 2005, Shareholders United had over 35,000 members who were United shareholders but they could not prevent the Glazer family taking over the club.  Fans at English clubs have changed unwanted owners like Martin Edwards or Ken Bates for another set in Glazer or Gillette and Hicks.  While some “foreign” owners like Randy Lerner at Aston Villa and Roman Abromavich at Chelsea have seen their clubs be more successful on the field, the sense of detachment from the fans to the clubs owners and players continues.

Yet the membership model is a tried and trusted model for many clubs.  The two biggest names in Spanish football are members clubs in Real Madrid and Barcelona who have in excess of 150,000 members.  Members elect the club president who in the past as part of their election campaign stated if elected they will bring a certain star player to the club.  Maybe we will see one of the Directors seeking re-election at the Rovers AGM tomorrow promising to bring a star Tallaght player such as Robbie Keane or Richard Dunne to the club if elected!

In Germany, Bundesliga clubs are members clubs with the Clubs administrators elected by the membership.  At least 51% of the ownership of any Bundesliga club must be held by the football club members.  While in Britain recently there has been a plethora of non-British club owners, the membership model is being promoted by the organisation Supporters Direct.  Their aim is to promote supporters involvement at the highest level in the running of football clubs through football trusts.  Such football trusts now own or control a number of clubs in British football including English club Stockport in League 1 and three clubs in League 2 (Brentford, Exeter & Notts County).  In Scotland, fans were successful in taking over Clydebank and Gretna.  The new Gretna club emerged following Gretna’s liquation after the death of owner Brooks Mileson who had been involved in discussion with taking over Shamrock Rovers during the Examinership period.

Some clubs have maybe taken the membership element too far.  Ebbsfleet United, managed by former Irish international Liam Daish, play in the Blue Square Premier Division.  In 2008, they were taken over by an amalgamation of online football fans through  Their membership set the weekly playing budget and vote on all transfer dealings.  Last month, their membership voted to give free admission to their game attracting an 18 year high crowd to the game which was broadcast live online to their membership.  Their membership numbers have dropped in recent months but it is a membership experiment that many are watching with interest.

In America, Seattle was invited to take up a place in the top division of Major League Soccer for the 2009 season.  Seattle comedian Drew Carey was instrumental in setting up their members club with the Seattle FC Alliance voting on the General Manager.   A vote was also held to choose the team name with nearly 50 % of the 15,000 members voting for the name Seattle Sounders.

At Shamrock Rovers, our membership structure provides vitally important financial support as well as providing democratic structures for the club.  If you are interested in taking ownership of part of this great Irish sporting institution, membership details are available on the web ( and new members are always welcome.  The greater the size of our membership, the stronger a club we can become.