The following comments are from a Newcastle United supporter and member of Socialist Alternative member
What would you think if your football team was subject to a takeover bid by a billionaire from a country with a distasteful history?
If that country was involved in:
The bombing and murder of civilians
It’s leaders were considered as war criminals but faced no charges
The exploitation of migrant workers
Had the worst workers’ rights in the region and paid starvation wages
Paid lip service to equality for women
Allowed mistreatment of LGBT+ people
Locked up journalists on trumped up charges and kept them in life threatening conditions
Well Britain would tick many of those boxes.
And Saudi Arabia would certainly do so as well and would be worse in some aspects than Britain.
One Premier League team is already owned by a Saudi billionaire. Others are owned by the obscenely wealthy of Russia and the USA. Targeted murders, illegal invasions and occupations are the trademark of these countries. Many expensive properties and businesses are owned by corrupt overseas owners. Britain has massive business ties with China, Israel etc.
So, what should socialists stand for?
We believe in fan ownership. Real ownership, not just a token person on the board. If the board was made up of elected fans, plus players and staff representatives, plus delegates from each relevant local authority then we could feel a real sense of the club belonging to the local community.
Barcelona has around 140,000 members. Newcastle United could attract 100,000.
But how do we achieve this? A profitable premier league club worth around £300 million in today’s capitalist market would need a £3,000 investment from each member. Not achievable.
The movements against Newcastle United and Sports Direct owner fat cat Mike Ashley over the years have been sizeable and show the potential for public involvement and action.
Anyone who takes the position of saying this takeover should not be allowed risks alienating themselves from workers across Tyneside. They would be open to accusations of hypocrisy and bias if they did not campaign against all distasteful business transactions. Whether exploitative tycoon football owners are ‘homegrown’ or from another country - the influence of profit and big business need to be kicked out of football.
As a part of the upcoming pandemic exit debate, the type of country we wish to live in will be robustly discussed. Workers’ rights at work and trade union control will come to the fore. The rise in confidence of workers that will come with winning the safety and wages arguments will impact all of society, and will include the role of the billionaires.
There is a whole world to win!