aerial photography of a football stadium filled with people
Photo by Alex Motoc on Unsplash

Over recent weeks, the beautiful game has once again demonstrated its remarkable ability to bring people joy even in the most trying of circumstances.

Whether it’s in the euphoria of success, the heartbreak of what might have been, or experiencing those special moments as they are written into the folklore of our national teams – football and the emotions it brings truly belongs to every one of us.

It’s something to be cherished, valued, and fought for. Something we share with family, friends and complete strangers.

And that means we can’t take our eyes off the ball when threats to our game emerge, like the proposals for a European Super League we saw recently, at the hands of greedy owners and weak oversight.

It was something I experienced first-hand with my beloved Hearts FC in Edinburgh, who around a decade ago were threatened with extinction as a result of neglectful owners, without a care for the community and thousands of supporters it had served for generations.

From 2013, I became chairman of the Foundation of Hearts supporters’ co-operative, and brought fans together as we fought for the future of our club.

We took on huge challenges, but we rescued our club from the precipice and we ensured that the historic moment of Hearts becoming a majority fan-owned club became a reality.

I’ve written in full about this journey recently in my award-winning book This is Our Story, and I’m so proud of what we achieved as a community. We did it by putting co-operative principles into action, ensuring that fans and supporters now have a genuine say in our club and that stake is safeguarded for generations to come. From Motherwell to Morton, we’ve become a part of a fan ownership renaissance in Scottish Football.

But whilst our experience is a success story, the difficulties we faced should be a warning shot for the rest of the football pyramid – on both sides of the English-Scottish border. Not every team has been so lucky.

The Government in Westminster has an opportunity with their fan-led review to hardwire fan ownership in the English football pyramid – so now is the time to speak out.

Too many communities like mine have faced the devastation of losing their local club. We need to act now, before the next crisis hits, to ensure that clubs aren’t just loved by their fans, but owned by them too. What better way to recognise our loyalty and secure the beautiful game for future generations to enjoy.