Super League plan shows why Cork City and Cobh Ramblers' fan model matters

Clubs must exist as part of the community, at every level of the game
Super League plan shows why Cork City and Cobh Ramblers' fan model matters

The 'Shed End' fans out in force when Cork City Foras Co-op hosted Waterford United in 2010. Picture: Larry Cummins

ON Sunday evening, the world of football was turned upside down by the announcement of a Super League competition, a breakaway football tournament featuring the best teams from England, Italy, and Spain.

The plans provoked an angry reaction with high-profile stars such as Gary Neville and Jamie Carragher publicly airing their disgust on prime time television.

Even politicians, like UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and French President Emmanuel Macron, have criticised the breakaway league.

The idea of a Super League has pitted supporters against club owners and sparked a debate across world football as to who a club belongs to, the boardroom or the terraces?

This dispute is not a recent issue, but an accumulation of years of tension between the two groups.

At the heart of this has been the commodification of the game which has priced out thousands of fans for the sake of additional revenue for clubs.

A high-profile example of this was in 2016 when 10,000 Liverpool fans walked out of Anfield to protest ticket prices.

CRISIS

The growing crisis in football has also highlighted the importance of supporters having an active say in the running their club.

In Germany, clubs such as Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund rejected the Super League plans.

A major reason for this is that the majority of German clubs, including Bayern and Dortmund, are governed by the 50+1 rule, which essentially enshrines majority fan ownership. This prevents private investors taking outright control of a club and going against the wishes of the fans.

Many have pointed to Germany’s structures the future of football governance.

The UK Labour Party are leading the calls, by saying the time has come for legislation to ensure supporter control over clubs. In this ongoing conversation, it is good to know that Irish clubs have led the way.

Cork City and Cobh Ramblers are both supporter-owned. The two clubs are run by their communities, meaning the direction both teams choose to take is dictated by their supporters.

It also means that the two clubs have a distinct sense of identity, forged on the terraces instead of a boardroom.

This also means that clubs exist as community institutions, as opposed to a vehicle for profit. There are no shareholders who expect a dividend to be paid out. The people making the decisions, just want to have a football club.

Fan ownership also allows a near-constant community outreach by the clubs.

In 2019 Cork City made headlines for fundraising for various LGBTQ* charities on Cork Pride weekend. Last February, Cobh hosted a series of events to promote shared values of equality, diversity and inclusion last spring.

There are a number of debates raging in world football at the minute. A recurring theme is a need for greater supporter engagement.

It is good to know that Irish clubs, especially Cork City and Cobh Ramblers, have led the way with this.

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