Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 31 August 2014

MPs to debate football governance

MPs will today discuss whether football fans should be given more of a say in how their clubs are run.

The 30-minute debate on football governance will see Labour MP for Mitcham and Morden Siobhain McDonagh use her own club, fan-owned AFC Wimbledon, as an example of one way forward for the game.

She will urge MPs to back proposals put forward by a campaign group, Supporters Direct, for fans to be given formal representation in their clubs' governance as part of licensing conditions.

Fans' fears that many clubs outside the Premier League face extinction have been fuelled recently after Championship side Portsmouth FC were this week hit by a winding-up petition.

Only a last-gasp move by fans helped temporarily avoid the liquidation of 128-year-old Blue Square Premier club Darlington FC last week.

Ms McDonagh said: "I want ministers to remember the case of Wimbledon when they look at how football should be governed.

"It shouldn't be possible for clubs to just up sticks and leave the communities they are supported by.

"Proper, grown-up relationships between communities and their clubs are the way forward for all clubs, and I back Supporters Direct's calls for action."

AFC Wimbledon was founded by fans of the former Wimbledon FC after the club from south west London was relocated to Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire, and rebranded as MK Dons in 2004.

Since being set up, the fan-owned club has won six promotions in nine years and reached the Football League.

Ian Lucas, Labour MP for Wrexham, will also take part in the debate to refer to Wrexham AFC fans' struggle to take over their club last year.

"I will be raising Wrexham as I saw at first hand how the Supporters' Trust faced hurdles in their bid to take over the club," Mr Lucas said.

"I met the Supporters' Trust throughout the takeover and saw just how labyrinthine the process was they faced.

"While Wrexham's story is more positive these days, the sad truth is that the way football regulations are structured means other clubs face similar struggles.

"There is a strong case for reform."

The debate on "Government policy on football governance and the case of AFC Wimbledon" will take place at 6pm.

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