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Sports Club Ownership


Mac the Knife

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As a matter of curiosity lately I've taken to visiting the web sites of sports leagues and teams based in the UK, Australia, and other countries and have noticed that, with relatively few exceptions, the teams don't mention themselves as having an "owner" as is the case with every American pro sports franchise. A boatload list a "Chairman," who I presume to be the club's owner, chief shareholder, managing general partner, etc., but I suspect that's not a uniform designation.

I also realize a number of UK-based soccer clubs are, literally, clubs, that have members and don't have owners in the proprietary sense (while others such as ManU, Birmingham City, etc. indeed are/were publicly traded PLC's), but I wonder just how prevalent that is in European soccer, Australian football, and other non-U.S. based sports.

Can someone give me just a general breakdown of how many of the hundreds of British/Scottish/Irish/etc. soccer clubs, and/or Aussie rules clubs, are actually clubs vs. entities with an actual owner?

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Hurm. Don't know.

I'd suspect that the term "Chairman" does have legal meaning in England. It's also complicated by the fact that even the case of singular ownership of the Glazers and Man U, the actual majority owner is an investment company (Red Football Ltd.) owned by the Glazers. And even then, I think there's still 20% of the club in the hands of others, they just bought up a majority stake.

Which professional clubs are actually "clubs" owned by members and not stockholders?

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I technically own part of the St Kilda Football Club.

In the AFL (real AFL), its the members who pay up who own the club. The member vote in a board and president to oversee the running of the club. If they are useless, another member will challenge the board (usually with the backing of others to be a part of the potential board).

In the NRL I believe they are more owned by companies, Melbourne, North Queensland and one other team I think are owned partly by News Ltd (News Corp). Mr Crowe owns (well half owns) Souths. In the NBL, they are owned by businesses and well, half of the NBL is falling apart anyway.

The AFL clubs put an emphasis on selling 'memberships' each year as opposed to what US teams emphasis in selling 'season tickets'.

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Yeah Mac, lots more clubs in Australia are membership based rather than privately held. Its just a traditional thing.

The franchises in the A-League (soccer) are privately owned, although some membership-based clubs are affiliated with them.

The NRL is a real confusing mix of private, membership-based, and combintion of the two (a private company, with stakes held by the original membership-based club and private backers).

AFL teams in 2008 are membership-based but it wasn't always that way. There was a brief fling with private ownership during the 80s boom (Sydney and Brisbane spring to mind), but that all ended by the mid-90s.

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See that's what I'm wondering, particularly with British soccer - how many of them are true 'clubs,' and how many (roughly) are entities with shareholders, owners, whatever, but which simply refer to themselves as 'clubs' much in the way our Major League Baseball teams do.

I'm not aware of any true "clubs" in English soccer, with the exception of Ebbsfleet United.

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I suppose they may or may not be "true clubs," but there are a number of clubs that are supporter owned, via a trust, such as FC United of Manchester or AFC Wimbledon.

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Unfortunately, that's neither the legal definition or the common connotation of the word in the United Kingdom, which is going to make your task harder.

In common parlance there (as here) the word "club" means "group of people gathered together for the purpose of sporting competition". It doesn't speak in any way to the organizational or ownership structure of that group.

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"group of people gathered together for the purpose of sporting competition". It doesn't speak in any way to the organizational or ownership structure of that group.

That's what I thought too.

I think what you are trying decipher between is a Club/Team privately held/owned vs. a Club/Team publicly traded.

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I think what you are trying decipher between is a Club/Team privately held/owned vs. a Club/Team publicly traded.

Well, not exactly. There are clubs that don't have owners per se but are communally held, much like certain CFL clubs, the NFL's Green Bay Packers, and a few others here in North America. That's essentially what I want to know - what percentage of teams does this group make up, versus how many teams are for the most part held as an asset by investors.

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Then I think Mock's given you the list.

No, I don't think you're getting it; I'm not talking about so-called 'community owned' franchises. I'm talking about franchises held by what would otherwise be non-profit entities. The best American equivalent I could think of would be if the Boy Scouts of America suddenly were awarded an NBA franchise - the organization would hold it in trust for its members, but the members themselves wouldn't have a direct ownership stake per se.

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So the Green Bay Packers wouldn't count. It's owned by a group of independent shareholders, not an independent group.

You're talking about teams owned by pre-existing groups who had another business before owning a sports club? Sorry if I'm being dense, but I don't see that anywhere in your original question.

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Not necessarily pre-existing per se, but you kinda get the idea. Ebbsfleet United, the Columbus Clippers and Memphis Redbirds are each kind-of close to what I'm referring to, but in each of these cases the franchise could technically be sold because it's a separate entity from that which owns it.

What I'm talking about is a franchise that's owned and operated exclusively by, or at least on behalf of, its own membership - to the extent that if they sell the franchise, the organization that governs it also ceases to exist. Basically a team without an owner or owners, but rather solely comprised of members who don't possess a direct ownership stake.

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