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Home: Non-League Football Discussion: General Discussion:
Who owns/can own a club?

 



1973Swan
Youth Team Sub

Sep 11, 2019, 1:30 PM

Posts: 119
Location: Woking
Team(s): Walton & Hersham

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Who owns/can own a club? Can't Post or Reply Privately

Interested to leverage the combined knowledge of the minds on the forum for my own curiosity.

If I look at the club I follow they have no physical/tangible assets, yet they were sold for a sum of money (I've no idea how much) in the summer.

My thought is that the asset paid for can only be the club's position and right to play in the NLS. If this is correct then;

- What actually is that asset? Is it the membership of the FA, the county FA or the league? Presumably not the latter two as they can change and are predicated on having the first.

- Is this asset transferable (either for consideration or not)? It appears so, subject presumably to the consent of the FA.

- Who can own the asset? Can it be owned by an individual or group of individuals or only by a legally constituted body such as a company or trust?

- Is it possible to find out who owns the asset? Do any of the UK footballing bodies provide a publicly available list of such things? In many cases there is a company bearing a club's name but how do you know if they own the asset?

As I say there's no reason/motive behind this, just pure curiosity on my part.


(This post was edited by 1973Swan on Sep 11, 2019, 1:33 PM)


Tykeoldboy
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Sep 11, 2019, 1:40 PM

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Post #2 of 15 (2736 views)
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Re: [1973Swan] Who owns/can own a club? [In reply to] Can't Post or Reply Privately

If a club is owned by a company then that is probably a limited company so details of said company are freely available from Companies House.



The feeling of utter devastation when you pick up your mug and realise you already finished your tea.


007Dale
First Team Star

Sep 11, 2019, 2:09 PM

Posts: 1718
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Post #3 of 15 (2691 views)
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Re: [1973Swan] Who owns/can own a club? [In reply to] Can't Post or Reply Privately

Clubs will have a combination of Tangible and Intangible assets, although itís very likely that the Intangible assets wonít be valued or on the balance sheet.

So, some clubs will have a ground, either owned or the right to play at a ground though a lease.

They may or may not have a training ground owned or leased.

They have customers (eg fans) and a brand (name & badge, nickname etc).

Depending on the level, they may also have players under contract.

And, as you mention, they have there league status, FA membership, right to enter Fa competition (eg FA Cup)

If you believe there is a difference between purchase price and the physical assets, one assumes this is the value of the brand or expected future revenue.

Although I doubt anyone is buying a non-league club to make a profit, particularly if it doesnít have any tangible assets that can be sold for a profit (eg ground).


paulh66
Qatar World Cup bid member!


Sep 11, 2019, 2:20 PM

Posts: 19249
Location: Surrey
Team(s): Tranmere Rovers, South Liverpool (the South will rise again), Cammell Laird

Post #4 of 15 (2682 views)
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Re: [1973Swan] Who owns/can own a club? [In reply to] Can't Post or Reply Privately

Quick look at the accounts at Companies House shows £2k of assets and £1.4m of liabilities, mainly directors' and shareholders' loans. This was before the takeover so presumably some kind of agreement was reached to either write these loans off or possibly defer them.

Beyond that, I imagine the commercial logic behind the takeover was simply to run a club in the NLS and, as mentioned, the only real 'asset' of the club in that regard would be its membership of the NLS. This won't be in the accounts but it'll 'belong to' the limited company, in that the company is presumably the entity affiliated to the FA.

I don't know if the FA has a publicly available register of who's affiliated to it although it does have an online 'find a club' facility which might go some way to fulfilling that purpose. They will, however, have defined procedures for dealing with affiliation issues of the type you mention - I haven't checked but they may be in the FA Handbook that you can download online.

Afaik an affiliated club does not need to be a legally constituted entity (company, trust etc) since some clubs still operate as unincorporated committees. Also, the fact that clubs can change from one vehicle to the other suggests that membership of the FA is transferable in that sense. Otherwise, as is presumably the case with W&H, it'll be the limited company that has the affiliation, regardless of any changes in ownership of the company.

I say all that with one caveat. A few years ago Cammell Laird had an ownership issue which culminated in the club becoming known as Cammell Laird 1907. This turned out to be a separate entity and was treated, to all intents and purposes, as a new club (but retaining its place in the NLS). The whole thing was shrouded in mystery and, although I don't think there was anything particularly sinister behind it, I never did get to the bottom of it.


(This post was edited by paulh66 on Sep 11, 2019, 2:28 PM)


knmeynell
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Sep 11, 2019, 3:33 PM

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Post #5 of 15 (2567 views)
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Re: [1973Swan] Who owns/can own a club? [In reply to] Can't Post or Reply Privately


In Reply To
If I look at the club I follow they have no physical/tangible assets, yet they were sold for a sum of money (I've no idea how much) in the summer.


Player registrations would generally not be included as tangible assets, but potentially have some re-sale value which might be factored into any purchase price.

Fixtures and fittings and even the remainder of a lease on property would also have some value if the club is bought as a going concern.


1973Swan
Youth Team Sub

Sep 11, 2019, 5:35 PM

Posts: 119
Location: Woking
Team(s): Walton & Hersham

Post #6 of 15 (2411 views)
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Re: [knmeynell] Who owns/can own a club? [In reply to] Can't Post or Reply Privately

Thanks all for the above.

I'm actually not that interested in W&H more the general concept. What is it that means a club can play, presumably the FA registration. How is that transferable, what sort of person/body can own it and is it possible to find out who owns it.

I get the bit about a limited company but if I search for, say, Arsenal, there are quite a few that appear to be related to the football club but which one would you have to buy to own the club and its FA affiliation? That might be relatively easy to work out for a club like Arsenal but what about a club at step 4,5 or 6?

I could incorporate a club called W&H 2020 Ltd but that wouldn't mean I own the club. Accounting information on Companies House is not sufficient to work it out either. Equally a club can be owned by a company whose name is not related to the club itself.

Just curious.


(This post was edited by 1973Swan on Sep 11, 2019, 5:36 PM)


paulh66
Qatar World Cup bid member!


Sep 11, 2019, 6:00 PM

Posts: 19249
Location: Surrey
Team(s): Tranmere Rovers, South Liverpool (the South will rise again), Cammell Laird

Post #7 of 15 (2373 views)
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Re: [1973Swan] Who owns/can own a club? [In reply to] Can't Post or Reply Privately

The FA Handbook lists all full and associate FA members and the entities behind them. Using your example, it shows that the entity operating as Arsenal in the EPL is "The Arsenal Football Club Public Limited Company", company number 109244. So, if you want to own Arsenal, you need to get control of that company; if Arsenal wanted to be a FA member via a different vehicle than that company, there'd presumably be a defined procedure to go through.

As I say, the Handbook might cover such a procedure, as well as the other affiliation procedures you're interested in. Here's the link: http://www.thefa.com/...-2019---revised.ashx


(This post was edited by paulh66 on Sep 11, 2019, 6:04 PM)


knmeynell
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Sep 11, 2019, 6:21 PM

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Post #8 of 15 (2361 views)
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Re: [1973Swan] Who owns/can own a club? [In reply to] Can't Post or Reply Privately


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I get the bit about a limited company but if I search for, say, Arsenal, there are quite a few that appear to be related to the football club but which one would you have to buy to own the club and its FA affiliation? That might be relatively easy to work out for a club like Arsenal but what about a club at step 4,5 or 6?

I could incorporate a club called W&H 2020 Ltd but that wouldn't mean I own the club. Accounting information on Companies House is not sufficient to work it out either. Equally a club can be owned by a company whose name is not related to the club itself.


You'd have to do due diligence as to what you were actually buying, and ideally make sure it was included in the buying agreement or contract.

You might simply agree a sale of the registration and assets of the club rather than the company that holds them (in fact it might conceivably be held by a sole proprietor or association rather than a company). Equally you might buy the company without some or all of the assets.

Probably different leagues have different rules about how club registrations and assets can be transferred between owners. Holding companies can and do change at every level, and it used to be reasonably commonplace for a bankrupt team to fold the holding company leaving creditors unpaid, form a new limited company and then transfer the assets over. But that gradually became to be seen as unfair competition with respect to teams that did live (slightly more) within their means, hence why there are sanctions against teams doing this now.

At the lowest levels I doubt many teams are actually incorporated - they'd probably be considered to be partnerships or more likely unincorporated associations whereby the 'principal officers' (e.g. manager and club secretary) are essentially trustees for any assets but are also liable for losses. Something that many of those involved don't appreciate.

Getting back to Companies House, only companies with turnover greater than a few million (can't remember the exact figure) have to publish detailed accounts. The rest can publish abbreviated accounts which don't really reveal much about their assets or ongoing viability. The bigger clubs may also have multiple companies to demarcate non-core parts of their business from the club itself, just in case some particular business venture goes belly up or even for tax reasons.

So I think the only answer is that you have to ask a lot of questions if you want to buy a club!


(This post was edited by knmeynell on Sep 11, 2019, 6:27 PM)


Tykeoldboy
Chelsea Transfer Target


Sep 11, 2019, 8:33 PM

Posts: 3267
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Post #9 of 15 (2208 views)
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Re: [knmeynell] Who owns/can own a club? [In reply to] Can't Post or Reply Privately

To make the matter more complicated,you could buy the club from company A, who also own the ground, which isn't included in the sale. The same could apply to the equipment, i.e. the kits, which could be owned by a third party. We now live in the era where companies own the players, which, in theory, could be leased to a club. Owners will pull every trick/loophole to limited their liabilities and minimise tax.

Who own Manchester United? It is suppose to be the Glazer family but they have fingers in so many pies it is difficult to know which of their businesses own what and how much they actually own of each business.



The feeling of utter devastation when you pick up your mug and realise you already finished your tea.


1973Swan
Youth Team Sub

Sep 12, 2019, 8:10 AM

Posts: 119
Location: Woking
Team(s): Walton & Hersham

Post #10 of 15 (1918 views)
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Re: [Tykeoldboy] Who owns/can own a club? [In reply to] Can't Post or Reply Privately

Again, thanks to everyone. The depth of knowledge or the knowing where to find things always amazes me.

The FA handbook answered most of my questions I think.

The "asset" that intrigued me is membership (full or associate) of the FA or the membership of an affiliated FA Association and it is transferable, subject to meeting certain conditions.

It appears, although it's not explicit, that membership can only be "owned" through a constituted body (incorporated or unincorporated) not a natural person(s).

The FA handbook lists club owners but only those that have direct membership of the FA. Presumably the affiliated Associations maintain records of their members. Anyone know if those are available anywhere?

Also does anyone know why a club would apply for Full or Associate membership of the FA rather than stick with an affiliated Association? I can understand why the 92 (or 91) would do so and maybe the Conference but below that?


(This post was edited by 1973Swan on Sep 12, 2019, 8:14 AM)


paulh66
Qatar World Cup bid member!


Sep 12, 2019, 10:05 AM

Posts: 19249
Location: Surrey
Team(s): Tranmere Rovers, South Liverpool (the South will rise again), Cammell Laird

Post #11 of 15 (1827 views)
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Re: [1973Swan] Who owns/can own a club? [In reply to] Can't Post or Reply Privately

I was looking at one of the county FA sites yesterday and they go through the whole process of forming a new club. From all that, I'd deduce that:

1) Details of clubs affiliated to county FA's would be on the FA's Whole Game System, but you'd have to be registered on that to get to the specific information you're interested in (though I don't see why the county FA wouldn't provide that information about any given club upon request); and
2) As all new clubs now would affiliate with the county FA, and reinforcing a vague recollection I'd already had, I think the notion of clubs being affiliated directly with the FA is a legacy of a historical situation.

Others on here will be able to put me right!


knmeynell
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Sep 12, 2019, 10:54 AM

Posts: 342
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Post #12 of 15 (1787 views)
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Re: [paulh66] Who owns/can own a club? [In reply to] Can't Post or Reply Privately


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2) As all new clubs now would affiliate with the county FA, and reinforcing a vague recollection I'd already had, I think the notion of clubs being affiliated directly with the FA is a legacy of a historical situation.


Full member clubs are shareholders of the FA, along with the County FAs and some other stakeholders. I think only clubs that have played at Step 2 or above can become Full Members.

Not sure of the history, but I'd guess it was clubs that formed the FA in the first place, plus it was considered important for senior clubs to continue to be directly represented rather than via their county associations or leagues.


(This post was edited by knmeynell on Sep 12, 2019, 10:57 AM)


knmeynell
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Sep 12, 2019, 11:05 AM

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Post #13 of 15 (1780 views)
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Re: [1973Swan] Who owns/can own a club? [In reply to] Can't Post or Reply Privately


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Also does anyone know why a club would apply for Full or Associate membership of the FA rather than stick with an affiliated Association? I can understand why the 92 (or 91) would do so and maybe the Conference but below that?


I could be wrong, but I have a recollection that membership was somehow linked to FA Cup and/or FA Trophy participation at one point.

But would guess the advantage is that being a member gives you more direct representation of your interests at the FA.


genesimmons
Youth Team Star

Sep 22, 2019, 11:22 AM

Posts: 331
Location: Chesterfield
Team(s): Gateshead

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Re: [knmeynell] Who owns/can own a club? [In reply to] Can't Post or Reply Privately

I've often wondered myself who owns a clubs football share ,(place in league) and is responsible for liabilities when a club has no backer, is not a limited company and is simply ran by a committee, would it be club secretary?



You wanted the best, you got the best

(This post was edited by genesimmons on Sep 22, 2019, 11:23 AM)


leohoenig
Administrator

Sep 22, 2019, 3:43 PM

Posts: 13539
Location: Outer Cheltenhamshire
Team(s): Cheltenham Town

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Re: [genesimmons] Who owns/can own a club? [In reply to] Can't Post or Reply Privately

If it is a members club, then all members are jointly liable.



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