MSPs Back Fans' Right-To-Buy Plan

A Holyrood committee has backed proposals to give football fans the right to buy their clubs.

Green MSP Alison Johnstone's amendments to the Community Empowerment Bill were unanimously supported by the Local Government Committee.

The Bill sets out plans to expand community right-to-buy to public sector land and buildings, and will now be extended to include clubs' membership shares.

Ms Johnstone's proposals mean that fans' trusts will have first right of refusal if their club is being sold or has gone into administration, and the right to make a bid at any time if they have clear backing from supporters.

She said agreeing to the changes would turn the legislation into a landmark Bill.

"Football has been dragged from the back pages of Scotland's newspapers to the front by a series of catastrophic failures, from small clubs like Gretna to clubs at the very top like Hearts and Rangers,'' she said.

"The current model of ownership has failed, and we know from Scotland and elsewhere that fan ownership works.

"Fans are obviously going to be the people with the long-term interests of their clubs closest to their hearts.''

She added: "There are many well-run Scottish clubs in private hands, but those owners come and go and when they go, we want to see fans have the first right of refusal.

"Where there's a committed and well-organised group of fans with strong support on the terraces for a takeover, we want them to have the power to do so.''

Local Government Minister Marco Biagi said the Scottish Government wants to give fans the right to buy their clubs using regulations which would be put in place after the Bill is passed.

"Affirmative procedure for the development of the details, with the aim put in the Bill, would allow consultation with the wider football community, it would allow consultation, as appropriate, with the Parliament, and it would ensure that we don't just endorse the principle but we ensure that any legislation we introduce we get right,'' he said.

But Ms Johnstone said her plans had the backing of fans' groups, and her amendments were supported by the committee.

The proposals will become law if the Bill is passed by the Parliament at its final stage later this year.

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