This blog first appeared on Supporters Direct's website. SD promote the value of supporter engagement and help supporter groups become a constructive voice in how their club is run. More than 30 clubs are now owned by their fans.
If you follow a football or rugby club, then you’ll know just how important to your identity the ground or stadium you play at is. We’ve all been arguing for many years just how important a stadium is in its local community; "the club’s the hub" rings true in many localities, towns and regions of the country.
Thanks to the Government’s Localism Act 2011 people living in England can request that a stadium, pub or other community amenity, even if privately owned, can be listed as an Asset of Community Value (ACV). This will mean that if it ever comes up for sale, communities will be able to gain extra time to bid for the ground or asset.
On the 13th May, the Oxford United Supporters Trust, OxVox announced the first successful application for an ACV had been made, when it was revealed that the Kassam Stadium had been successfully listed.
Mark Sennett, Chair of OxVox, said about the announcement: “This is a significant moment for the supporters of Oxford United, and we’re delighted with the Council’s decision. This means United supporters will now never wake up one morning to read in the paper that the Stadium has been sold, with no recourse.
“The stadium is of huge local importance to the people of Oxfordshire, and the club’s role is a source of huge community benefit and pride. Because of this listing, supporters and the Oxfordshire community will be able to play more of a role in its destiny.
“Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) Eric Pickles himself has said about ACVs: 'Football stadiums are not only the heart and soul of every team, they are rooted in and loved by the neighbourhoods that surround them.'
“Thanks to the new rights we’ve created, today football fans are exercising their community right to keep the beautiful game at their team’s spiritual home by protecting their stadium’s future.
“These rights are being used to back many more community ventures from local sports clubs, pubs, village shops and even a pier.”
The criteria for being listed includes cultural, recreational and sporting interests, so stadia and other sports facilities are certainly eligible.
Since then, Nuneaton Town Supporters' Cooperative have successfully made an application during a time where there is quite a degree of uncertainty about the future ownership of the stadium due to insolvency on the part of the owner’s other business interests.
The Manchester United Supporters' Trust and Liverpool’s Spirit of Shankly have publicly submitted applications, and there are a number of other applications either submitted or about to be being prepared by supporters’ trusts.
Here’s what the Minister in charge of the policy, Don Foster, said following the announcement by OxVox: “For too long communities have been shut out, forced to watch from the sidelines as treasured local assets, vital to peoples daily lives, have been shut-down and sold on.
“Thanks to our new rights communities can now decide what’s important to them and ‘stop the clock’ on sales so they have the time to get together a bid and ensure that the local assets that they care about get the best chance to live on.
“It’s good to see Oxford’s fans united in exercising their right to protect their stadium – I encourage supporters' groups across the country to get on board and do the same.”
We have produced a step by step guide (which the DCLG have themselves recommended) on how to request the designation of a sports stadia as an Asset of Community Value. The guide is not just for our member supporters’ trusts but for any community group that recognises the community value of a sports facility and feels it requires a level of protection.
After all Lowry’s painting of a football stadium currently has more protection than a real stadium, and now we can begin to address that. We’ve also created the Our Home Pinboard on Pinterest as a visual representation of the places that are so much more than just a place to watch a game.
So, if you want to request a listing, have a read of our research on the subject, and get in touch by calling 0207 2731592 or emailing Tom Hall.
The FSF blog is the space to challenge perceived wisdom, entertain readers and inform our members. The views expressed on this blog are those of the author – they don't necessarily represent FSF policy and (pay attention journalists) shouldn’t be attributed to the FSF. Have your say below and play nice…