September 19, 2020

Motherwell fans have a sunnier disposition thanks to Caribbean investment

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14420690By James Morgan From Evening Times

White knights are back in vogue all of a sudden.

Finding wealthy individuals willing to pour money into Scottish football had tended to be a difficult enough challenge over the last few years, without then expecting those fortunate enough to have a few quid spare to expect nothing back for their investment. As Rangers fans have repeatedly discovered to their cost over the past few years, anyone putting money into a football club of late tends to then take it back with a few extra zeroes added on to the end of their cheque.

The antidote to clubs being run into the ground by individuals or companies motivated solely by commercial gain has been to deliver them into the hands of their fans, the sole group whose intentions are almost always entirely honourable.

Making that transition, however, can be an expensive business, with supporters rarely able to make the sort of up-front payment needed to assume majority ownership. Some kind of hybrid scheme, where wealthy individuals provide the initial capital before eventually handing over the running of the club when their money is returned without profit, is the ideal solution, although finding those with both the means and the motivation to get involved is, unsurprisingly, a nigh impossible task.

Hearts, though, have struck it lucky and now it seems Motherwell are on the brink of following suit by unearthing their own kind-hearted sponsor. Going into administration offered the Tynecastle club the chance of a fresh start and thanks to the benevolence of , the multi-millionaire IT businesswoman and Hearts supporter, it has become a reality, with the club set to be owned and run by its fans via the Foundation of Hearts in the not-too-distant future.

Now Motherwell stand on the brink of something similar. Offered the opportunity to assume the 70% shareholding of former chairman should they provide certain financial guarantees, the Well Society, a community group, have been trying for the last few years to raise the necessary sums.

Just when it looked as if they would fall short of their target – thus allowing another alternative bid for the club by an Argentinian consortium to take precedent – the fans’ offer is now set to go through thanks to the intervention of one expat.

Lanarkshire-born but now a Barbados resident, was made aware of the Well Society’s plight and will now – similar to what Budge did with Hearts – effectively bankroll the purchase of Boyle’s shares before eventually transferring ownership to the supporters once his investment has been repaid. In the interim, Hutchison will take control, although he not expected to be as hands-on as Budge is at Hearts given he will continue to be based in the Caribbean. The takeover is expected to be formally announced in the coming days, alongside the unveiling of the club’s new manager.

The wish now is that more clubs will find a way to follow Hearts and Motherwell into fan ownership. A committee of altruistic and wealthy businesspeople who look fondly on ailing football clubs could hold their meetings in a telephone box but Andrew Jenkin of Supporters Direct hopes the adoption of what is known as the German model – where supporters retain a minimum of 50%+1 share of the club, and other individuals or businesses subsidise the rest – could become an established practice in , too.

“I think what Hearts have done and Motherwell look set to emulate will become increasingly popular,” Jenkin said. “The problem any fans group faces when they want to take ownership of their club is access to funds. Those groups, though, are now becoming quite business-minded in that they can attract funding from private investors, and then use those funds to realise their ambitions.

“We would always want 100% ownership by a fans group in an ideal world, but the reality is that it’s very hard for any supporters to generate by themselves the levels of money needed. What we’re coming across more is the German model that sees supporters combining with businesses, but with supporters retaining overall control. There’s no one model that fits all, and every club has its own set of unique circumstances, but a mixed funding set-up that utilises both business and supporter revenues would seem the best way forward.”

Jenkin is heartened that, despite having an alternative offer to consider, Motherwell chose to move forward with the bid from the fans. “That is good to see,” he added. “You are always assured that supporters have the best interest of the club at heart. You are guaranteed a safe pair of hands taking the club forward and that was maybe something that came into Motherwell’s thinking.”

The only problem is finding more individuals with the same sense of community spirit as Budge and Hutchison. “It’s good that these people are wanting to be involved with the fans groups, rather than just purchasing the clubs for themselves or for any personal interests. They want to help supporters and by extension the local community. If they’re not looking for anything other than to help out before eventually passing the club on, then that’s great to see.

“We’re still in the early stages with the Foundation of Hearts but it’s certainly encouraging. There’s certainly no reason why schemes like this shouldn’t work.

“Unfortunately the reality of Scottish football means there aren’t too many people lining up to buy our clubs, or those who can put their hands in their pockets and not ask for much back. But hopefully what is happening at Hearts and Motherwell will encourage more to do the same.”

For more on this story go to: http://www.eveningtimes.co.uk/sport/other-football/motherwell-fans-have-a-sunnier-disposition-thanks-to-caribbean-191656n.114418063

 

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