Scottish National Football team

General view of Forthbank stadium, home of Stirling AlbionGeneral view of Forthbank stadium, home of Stirling Albion, which was saved from closure by fans. Photograph: Graham Stuart/PA Archive/Press Association Ima

Scottish football fans could soon win the legal right to buy their football clubs using powers traditionally given to crofters and island communities to mount buyouts of Highland estates.

The powers would give supporters’ groups the right to become the first and preferred bidders if the owner of their club decides to sell or the club is facing closure after a financial collapse.

MSPs at Holyrood supported amendments to a new community empowerment bill after fans found themselves forced to mount last ditch rescue bids to save an increasing number of ailing Scottish clubs – including Stirling Albion, Dunfermline and Hearts of Midlothian – from closure.

Never again would fans be left watching on the touchline as their club goes bust

Alison Johnstone

Alison Johnstone, the Scottish Green MSP who championed the new provisions to a bill designed to offer residents the right to buy neglected or community assets, said it was a landmark decision. The amendment will require Scottish ministers to consult on the shape of the new powers over the summer.

One possible, far-reaching option ministers could consider would be to give fans groups the legal right to put in a bid even if the club is not up for sale – a power already in force in Scotland for tenants of rural estates.

“The principle of a fans’ right to buy is overwhelmingly popular and parliament is doing the right thing by backing it, ” Johnstone said.

“Many Scottish clubs are well-run, but everyone can name others which have been forced into administration, or worse. With this right, never again would fans be left watching on the touchline as their club goes bust.

“This is a system that works well elsewhere, in places like Germany, Spain and Argentina, all countries which do rather better than Scotland at both a club and national level.”

Paul Goodwin, one of the most influential figures in the fans buy-out campaign, said the new measures would make a significant difference in the Scottish game. Many clubs were now financially very vulnerable but could suddenly change hands without notice, or find themselves unable to find new owners.


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