Is the time now right for a major English club to transform itself into the FC Barcelona Mutual Ownership model?

Birkbeck Sport Business Centre

Birkbeck Business Week Event: Getting More Businesslike about the Management and Business of Sport

Wednesday 30 June, 6.15pm
Main Building, Birkbeck College, University of London, Torrington Square, Basement Lecture Theatre B35

For directions please see the pdf map.

Registration required: Please email if you wish to attend or contact Sean Hamil at for further details.

Followed by drinks reception.

Roundtable Panel

With Portsmouth FC becoming the first Premier League to enter financial adminstration since the League’s foundation in 1992, and both Manchester United and Liverpool both the subject of recent media speculation regarding the medium term sustainability of their financial business models, in this roundtable discussion the question is posed:

  • Is the time now right for a major English club to transform itself into the FC Barcelona Mutual Ownership model?

The three roundtable panellists are:

  • Brian Burgess, Director, Brentford FC (Lionel Road) Ltd.
  • David Coulter, Deputy Chief Executive, Co-operatives UK
  • Sean Hamil, Co-Director, Birkbeck Sport Business Centre.

The event will begin with a short presentation by Birkbeck’s Sean Hamil, drawing on material from  “Who Owns Football? The Governance and Management of the Club Game Worldwide” a special issue of the journal Soccer and Society Sean has co-edited, outlining the current challenging financial conditions in English professional football in which virtually all clubs are loss-making (drawing on an article in the journal co-authored with Birkbeck colleague Dr Geoff Walters). Sean will then briefly summarise the recent hugely successful sporting and business history of the co-operatively-owned FC Barcelona (drawing on an article in the journal co-authored with Dr Geoff Walters and with Dr Lee Watson, a fluent Catalan speaker, and alumni of  Birkbeck’s Department of Iberian and Latin American Studies). FC Barcelona has just elected a new President, Sandro Rosell, in an election in which 57,088 FC Barcelona members voted. Sean will then pose the question: could a major English football club convert to the mutually-owned structure that appears to have served FC Barcelona so well?

Brian Burgess, a Director of supporter trust (co-operative) controlled Brentford FC’s stadium development company, will then give a brief outline of the experience of Brentford since it was saved by a buyout by supporter co-operative Bees Utd.

Then David Coulter, Deputy Chief Executive of Co-operatives UK (the representative body for UK co-ops), will briefly explain why Co-operatives UK is supporting the work of Supporters Direct, the representative body of UK supporters trusts (co-operatives) in its campaign to encourage fans’ co-operatives to take mutually owned stakes in their football clubs.

The debate will then be thrown open to the floor.

Those interested in attending the event might be interested to know that Birkbeck’s association with the debate around the merits of the FC Barcelona mutual ownershop model goes back a long way. Outgoing club President Joan Laporta spoke at conferences at Birkbeck in 1999  and 2000 where he defended the mutual ownership model over the then threat of stock market flotation. At the time Joan Laporta was a leader of the L’Elefant Blau rebel fans’ group, an organisation not dissimilar in its campaigning approach to the Manchester United Supporters Trust currently leading the Gold & Green campaign to mount a takeover of Manchester United incorporating a fans-co-perative shareholding. Joan Laporta was elected President of FC Barcelona in 2003. In February 2006 FC Barcelona Finance Director Ferran Soriano gave a presentation on the progress of the club’s financial progress as part of its transformation since the 2003 Presidential election.

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