One Nil to the Supporters

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The campaign to save York City Football Club is a good example of fans resisting the trend whereby people who own professional football make a financial killing with no regard to fans or players' livelihoods.

Owner Douglas Craig's contempt for the supporters and his refusal to sign up to the Kick Racism Out of Football campaign had combined to make him deeply unpopular with York City supporters. In December Craig announced his intention to sell the club or close it. Days later he revealed that he would sell Bootham Crescent, the club's ground, to house builders for £4.5 million, evict the club and resign from the football league.

Two years previously Craig had transferred ownership of the stadium from the football club to a new holding company. This move sidestepped Football Association (FA) rules meant to protect clubs from asset strippers. FA officials remained scandalously silent, sending a security guard to receive a 6,000-signature petition.

As well as organising two large demonstrations and huge public meetings, supporters moved quickly to set up a supporters' trust. Aided by Supporters Direct, fans launched this mutual society with the aim of buying the club. In the short term the trust decided to back John Batchelor's bid for the club in return for 25.1 percent of the equity, two seats for elected supporters on the board, and a promise that in the long term he will turn the club over to the trust.

Professional football 'clubs' are in fact companies owned by wealthy businessmen. However, the fight waged by fans of York and other clubs may have begun to redress the balance.

Frank Ormston
York