Corbyn calls for football reforms to empower fans

Jeremy Corbyn is calling for a review of football governance, vowing that a Labour government would empower fans and give communities a greater say in how their clubs are run.

On Saturday, the Labour leader met with Newcastle United supporters campaigning against their club’s billionaire owner Mike Ashley. Nine separate supporters’ groups have called on fans to boycott Newcastle games in protest of Ashley, who is the founder and CEO of Sports Direct.

Speaking after the meeting, Corbyn said: “A football club is more than just a club; it is an institution at the heart of our communities. Clubs are part of the social fabric that binds us together.

“They are too important to be left in the hands of bad owners like Mike Ashley who put their business interests ahead of everything else, marginalise supporters and even put the financial security of clubs at risk.”

Under Labour’s scheme, football supporters’ trusts would be allowed to purchase shares when clubs change owners and have the power to appoint or fire at least two members of a club’s board of directors.

Labour has also committed to evaluating fan participation in sports governance at all levels of the game and has pledged that 5% of new Premier League TV rights deals would be funnelled into revitalising grassroots football.

The Labour leader has urged football clubs to ban zero-hour contracts and pay their staff a real living wage. In 2017, Corbyn criticised Newcastle’s owner Mike Ashley during PMQs for breaking a promise to end zero-hours contracts at Sports Direct. Labour’s community organising unit is working alongside boycotting Newcastle supporters.

Commenting on Labour’s plans, Corbyn said: “Sport must be run in the interests of those who participate in it, follow it and love it, not just for the privileged and wealthy few. We will ensure that supporters have a say over how their club is run and review how fans can have more of a say about how all of our sporting bodies are run.

“Under a Labour government the Premier League riches will be used to invest in grassroots football for the good of all our communities, fans will be protected from rip-off online ticket touts and staff who work at football clubs will get security and a living wage.”

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