Supporters Direct recently had a large portion of their funding cut after being turned down by the Football Stadia Improvement Fund for grants which they were relying upon. The removal of funding was reportedly a response to tweets deemed to be offensive made by SD’s chief executive Dave Boyle following the playoff win of AFC Wimbledon, who Boyle had been heavily involved with for some years. After being unsatisfied by SD’s response to their misgivings over this, the Premier League’s FSIF then decided to rescind funding in the form of grants applied for and not already received.
The FSIF is funded by the Premier League and the various boards which decide on its funding issues contain Premier League executives in key positions. Supporters Direct, an organisation founded to promote the ideal of democracy in football, including fan ownership of clubs via the model of supporter’s trusts, might be said to be in direct opposition to the ideals of the Premier League, seemingly the pursuit of the enrichment of those currently in charge of Premier League clubs whether to the detriment or not of all others.
It’s been pointed out in the last few days that the funding agreement was nothing but a fig leaf for a rapacious commercial organisation wishing to improve its public image at the cost of a tiny fraction of its income anyway. It’s hardly a surprise that they should seek to stifle the vulnerable pressure group just as its aims begin to gain widespread publicity, and approach acceptance in the minds of more than just a few committed activists. However, there’s been outrage from supporter’s groups and a collective circling of the wagons to such an extent that it appears that funding may be reinstated after all.
The scandal though, isn’t that funding was cut but that such an important group’s finances are subject to the whim of the organisation which is the embodiment of all they find abhorrent. By all means have the Premier League pay for Supporters Direct as a display of penance for what it continues to do to football, but don’t let it rescind that funding when the actions of SD become too much of an irritant. The funding, originally agreed during discussions with Labour’s Sports Minister of the time but never formally given a status beyond the voluntary, should be guaranteed on pain of incurring the displeasure of the current incumbent of that post and the government which in common with its predecessor allows rogue owners everywhere to do their worst.