Many football fans are aware of the high level of fan involvement in German football and the much vaunted ‘50+1’ rule that is in place ensuring that clubs are majority owned by their members, with a handful of exceptions. Such an approach to club governance is also in place further north in Europe, in Sweden.
In Swedish football, club ownership follows a similar ‘50+1’ rule to that of the German Bundesliga. As is the case with Germany, this approach to governance is entrenched in history and tradition and is not without its opponents. Originally multi-sports organisations, in the mid-90s Swedish clubs were given the right to separate their football sections in limited companies. During this process however, Sweden’s Sports Confederation, – Riksidrottsforbündet, or RF – also inserted a ‘50+1’ rule in order to ensure that the football clubs remained majority owned by their members.
Unlike in Germany, where 14 of the 20 Bundesliga clubs this season are structured as limited companies in some form, the take-up has been less enthusiastic in Sweden. Partly because there’s less capital available (smaller country), partly because the members wouldn’t have it, partly because the cases where clubs have set up limited companies (Hammarby, AIK, Djurgarden) have not exactly benefited from doing so.
This model of ownership and approach to football club governance has come under threat in recent years however. The Swedish FA themselves backed a proposal to remove the ‘50+1’ rule and allow clubs to engage in other forms of club ownership; fortunately, the Svenska Footballssupporterunionen (SFSU), the umbrella organisation for democratic, not for profit supporters’ groups in Sweden organised a campaign to counter such a proposal and were successful in ensuring that ‘50+1’ survived in Swedish football.
From football’s perspective, the campaign’s key moment was when groups from eight major clubs coordinated the passing of motions at their club AGM’s, which stated unequivocally that 50+1 should be retained; and that moves at national level to remove the rule should not be supported by those running the clubs on the members’ behalf. This in turn led to the SvFF (Football Association) altering its position, and set in motion the chain of events that has led to the preservation of member ownership in Sweden.
Such a successful campaign is a prime example of the influence and power that supporters can hold at their respective clubs and the part they can play in deciding how football is governed in their country. For more information on the campaign in Swedish detailed above, please follow the links below.