David Riley says fan ownership is the way forward for Scottish Football

St Mirren’s newest board member has given his take on the future of Scottish football and the challenges faced by fan ownership.

In an interview with the Clyde Outside he professed his love for the club and stressed the importance of securing the club’s finances for future generations.

“I think fan ownership is the way to go forward and I think there is desire to go towards fan ownership.

“Yes, you don’t have the massive injection of funds that you would with a millionaire backer but honestly, I think in Scotland the chances of getting somebody to come in are extremely limited.

“If you take the example of Sunderland down south, when the owner Ellis decided he had had enough and he wanted to pull his money out he stopped backing the club, the manager at the time was left with a very difficult job, so that’s the kind of thing that fan ownership can avoid.”

Hedge fund manager Ellis Short has been accused of ‘reckless extravagance’ in his ownership of Sunderland, with the club changing managers 9 times in 10 years while they were in the English Premiership, racking up around 150 million pounds of debt, of which £70 million he personally holds.

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The team has been in free-fall after their decade-long membership of the Premier league, currently sitting third in the First division, the third tear of English football.

“Fan ownership just gives you a level of security and consistency and makes sure we’re not at the mercy of one person, who might decide they’re going to go buy a multi-million-pound yacht and say they’re fed up with their football club, decide to sell it, take the money out or stop backing them.

“It’s about putting the club in the hands of the people who love it rather than going to a single owner or consortium, that might not have the best interest of the club at heart.”

St Mirren Stadium

St Mirren FC at Paisley’s stadium in 2017.

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David joined the board in December 2018 after being elected by The St Mirren Independent Supporters Association (SMISA) to represent the group as they progress in their bid to buy out the club.

Speaking about the often-fickle nature of football fans, David said: “One of the hardest parts of my responsibility is listening to the fans and obviously taking that to the club’s board and the SMISA’s as well.

“No one wants to do anything that will harm the club, but you want to make sure fans voices are heard.

“A lot of the stuff you’ll hear comes straight after a match, there’s always a couple of guys who start conversations like he’s had his time, we had that with Alan Stubbs and prior to that Jack Ross and Alex Rae as well.

“When you talk to them a couple of days later, they’re looking forward to the next match, so it dies down.

“It tends to be a knee jerk reaction, everyone on the board is fans too, we just maybe look at it from a different angle.

“We have to ourselves think of it in a less knee jerk way and maybe with different concerns than the fans.”

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SMISA, together with property developer Gordon Scott, bought the club from a Stewart-Gilmour-led consortium in 2016, in a deal worth about £1 million, the deal is due to be completed in 2026 when the group will buy Gordon’s shares and assume control.

Members pay a monthly fee of between £12 – £25, currently there are around 1,260 subscribers, down from 1,300 in 2016.

Excitement and nerves are high around the buddies, as they move into uncharted territory with many fan groups around the country watching closely, as interest rises to bring more clubs under fan ownership.

About Jordan Shepherd

Honest uncompromising journalism has always been at the heart of Jordans’ writing from his early work with the Press and Journal to enrolment on the HND Journalism and his further writing for the Daily Record. He was inspired to follow a career in journalism by investigative journalism and the effect it had on the wider world. Post education he hopes to follow a career in investigative journalism with the eventual goal to one day take over the editorship of the Morning Star.

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