The Scottish Government supports fans having a greater role in decision-making and running of football clubs and the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act 2015 contained a commitment to consult on a range of options to enhance this.
In 2014 the Scottish Government established a short-term Working Group for Supporter Involvement in Football Clubs (the Working Group), chaired by Stephen Morrow, Senior Lecturer in Sport Finance at the University of Stirling, and with representatives from the Scottish Football Association (Scotish FA), Scottish Professional Football lLeague ( SPFL), Supporters Direct Scotland ( SDS), sportscotland and the Scottish Government. The Working Group was tasked with identifying, considering and providing recommendations on potential ways to increase and improve supporter involvement in the governance, financing and operation of professional football clubs in Scotland in order to ensure fans can be actively involved in decision-making and supporting the long-term sustainability of the club. The group published its findings in January 2015  .
On 26 September 2015 the Scottish Government published a consultation paper, "Supporter Involvement in Scottish Football Clubs"  which presented recommendations from the Working Group on improving supporter involvement and, strengthening the relationship between clubs and the communities they represent.
The Working Group operated on a working assumption that a mixed ownership model is likely to be most appropriate for Scottish football with broader involvement in football clubs to be encouraged, irrespective of the particular ownership structure adopted. In its consultation paper the Scottish Government sought views on four broad options for developing legislation (through regulation): a right for supporters to influence their football club; a right for supporters to govern their football club; a right for supporters to bid for their club in the event of a sale; and the right of supporters to buy their football club.
The consultation was publicised by the Scottish Government, other organisations including SDS and the Scottish Football Supporters' Association ( SFSA) and local and national media. The Society of Local Authority Chief Executives ( SOLACE) cascaded the information to all Scottish local authorities. Alternative formats or translations of the consultation document were available on request.
Responses to the consultation were invited by 15 January 2016, with any further responses received until late January also included.
The Scottish Government received 982 written responses to the consultation, 957 from individuals and 25 from organisations. The Green Party prompted responses via its Fans First campaign in support of legislating for supporters' right to buy their football clubs. This appears to have boosted the response level to that specific question compared to other options, although identification of these responses was not possible in a robust way.
The organisations who responded included football clubs and their representative bodies; schools; supporter groups; local government; and others, seeTable 2.1. A full list of responding organisations is in the Annex. The respondent category applied to each response was agreed with the Scottish Government policy team.
Table 2.1: Distribution of responses by category of respondent
|Category||No. of respondents||% of all respondents|
|Football Clubs and Representative Bodies||7|
|Grand total of individuals and organisations||982||100|
The vast majority of responses were submitted via the online system, Citizen Space, established for consultation responses. Where responses were submitted in by email or hard copy, Scottish Government officials entered them manually onto the Citizen Space system to create one complete database of responses and to aid comparison of views and analysis.
Analysis of responses
The analysis of responses is presented in the following nine chapters which follow the order of the topics raised in the consultation paper. The analysis is based on the views of only those who responded to the consultation. It is important to note, therefore, that these cannot be taken to be necessarily representative of the wider population.
The consultation contained nine questions, all allowing an open response format. No closed (Yes/No) questions were posed.
Table 2.2 provides an indication of the response level for each question. The question attracting most responses was, "What are your views on making a law to give supporters the right to buy their club?" Overall, 86% of respondents provided a view on this question, with many of them responding on this topic and no other. A substantial volume of these responses come from the prompting of by the Green Party via the Fans First campaign.
Table 2.2: Level of response per question topic
|Question topic||No. of respondents||% of all respondents|
|Supporters' rights to influence club||600||61|
|Supporters' rights to govern club||554||56|
|Supporters' rights to bid for club||571||58|
|Supporters' rights to buy club||848||86|
|Raising funds to buy club||520||53|
|Defining assets in the context of decision-making or ownership of club||466||47|
|Defining football supporter and supporter groups in the context of decision-making or ownership of club||530||54|
|Rights of appeal in the context of decision-making or ownership of club||394||40|
|Any other comments||366||37|
Throughout the report, quotes taken directly from individiual and organisation responses have been used to illustrate specific points. These were selected on the basis that they enhance the analysis by emphasising specific points succinctly. Quotes from a range of sectors were chosen where the respondents have given permission for their respective response to be made public. Where respondents have requested confidentiality, the content of their response has been examined and taken into account in the findings, but is not reported explicitly in the text of the report so as to keepp the identity of the respondent confidential.