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Are you one of those who reads newspapers from back to front? In Wales, rugby and football compete for the honour of being the main back-page story with cricket occasionally having a look-in.
On a typical day last week there was the past and future of John Toshack as Wales’ football manager. At the same time, there was Gavin Henson modelling the new Wales rugby kit. Here in the Llanelli Star we had a page celebrating Llanelli AFC’s encouraging victory over the New Saints, and the official opening of the new Gilbert Lloyd stand at Stebonheath Park. Gilbert died two years ago, but many supporters will remember his record number of Amateur Welsh Caps. I am proud to be representing the town that hosts not only the Scarlets but also Llanelli AFC.
Last week, in Westminster, I was one of many MPs who attended a debate on the role of supporters in the governance of professional football clubs. Supporters are absolutely vital to any football club, and deserve a much more meaningful role in decision making. Kicking off the debate was my Labour colleague Steve Rotheram – quite possibly something to do with the fact that he is MP for Liverpool Walton which is home to both Liverpool and Everton football clubs! Our purpose was to urge the coalition government to maintain the efforts of the last Labour government in backing and extending the role of supporters in the running of clubs. There is nothing new or particularly controversial about the ideal. There are already various mutual or cooperative models, and many successful examples of inclusive governance practice at the lower league and non-professional end of the game, but this need to be extended throughout the club hierarchy.
We are not suggesting that all fans take over every club but professional clubs must include supporters in decision-making. Supporters’ Trusts must be actively helped to achieve representation, control and even outright ownership. But these things will not just happen. That’s why we need Government action.
Football is not always just for the back page!