Localise West Midland’s latest report: Own Goal: the Globalisation of Football Finance, has officially been launched to the press today!

Since the founding of the first official football club in 1857, professional football has grown into a national obsession; teams are regarded as social and cultural institutions by their supporters, embodying a locality’s passion and identity. Today, the English Premier League is one of the world’s wealthiest and most successful sports leagues, as lucrative broadcast and sponsorship deals have permitted exponential growth of its top clubs over the past 17 years.

However, as the viability of these vast finances begins to crumble, ‘the people’s game’ is becoming exposed as an unsustainable, global industry. Larger teams are becoming disconnected from their localities as fans are alienated by burgeoning debt and foreign ownership, whilst smaller teams are becoming unable to compete, forced to plunge into debt in order to retain a viable squad and support base.

The recent rise of the Manchester United Supporters’ Trust and the massive financial implosion of Portsmouth have now placed these issues firmly under the media spotlight, with the UEFA proposing new regulations to be phased in over the next few years to curb economically irresponsible spending by clubs.

Part of a series looking at lessons from localisation for the West Midlands economy, the paper examines the impacts of globalised finance upon British football and discusses the benefits of returning to a more traditional, supporter-led model of ownership in the region. Findings indicate that by returning control to supporters, significant impacts can be made upon increasing competitiveness, redefining local identity and facilitating sustainable wealth distribution.

By relocalising financial structures and partnering with local institutions and organisations the game can retain and enhance its ‘glocal’ appeal, channelling international funding into supporting locally viable and stable clubs that remain grounded in the passion of the sport. There are lessons from this for the wider West Midlands economy where local ownership with global links can be a winning combination.

Listen to LWM’s Anna Watson on BBC Coventry and Warwickshire tomorrow at drive time discussing the findings of the report in relation to Coventry FC.

The report will shorty be available at the Localise West Midlands website.

Anna Watson