Jeremy Corbyn has pledged to shake up the way football is run, saying clubs are “too important to be left in the hands of bad owners”.
And the Labour leader named Newcastle United’s controversial owner, Mike Ashley, who has been criticised over his handling of the struggling Premier League side.
In a direct attack on the controversial Newcastle owner who founded Sports Direct founder, the Labour leader accused Mr Ashley of trying to “marginalise supporters”.
Mr Ashley’s time as Newcastle United owner has been controversial with some fans, who have chosen to boycott the club over what they see as high ticket prices and underinvestment in its stadium and squad.
Labour Party to ensure football fans have a say
Corbyn today revealed Labour policies aimed at boosting the representation of fans at decision-making level in clubs.
Under Labour’s plans, supporters’ trusts would be able to buy shares when clubs change hands and have the power to appoint, and fire, at least two members of a club’s board of directors.
It will make Premier League teams hand over 5% of their TV rights income to grassroots football, paying for better facilities and pitches and supporting the next generation of players and coaches.
Mr Corbyn also called on football clubs to pay the Living Wage to all staff, and praised fans’ initiatives that support food banks.
The Leader of the Opposition met members of the Ashley Out campaign after he spoke at a 2,000-strong rally in Newcastle’s City Hall on Saturday night.
The Labour Party is backing fans who are campaigning against Mr Ashley, the Sports Direct owner, with thousands staying away from St James’ Park in protest.
Reinvestment in grassroots football
Mr Corbyn said: “A football club is more than just a club, it is an institution at the heart of our communities.
“Clubs are part of the social fabric that binds us together.
“They are too important to be left in the hands of bad owners like Mike Ashley who put their business interests ahead of everything else, marginalise supporters and even put the financial security of clubs at risk.
“Sport must be run in the interests of those who participate in it, follow it and love it, not just for the privileged and wealthy few.
“We will ensure that supporters have a say over how their club is run and review how fans can have more of a say about how all of our sporting bodies are run.
“Under a Labour government, the Premier League riches will be used to invest in grassroots football for the good of all our communities, fans will be protected from rip-off online ticket touts, and staff who work at football clubs will get security and a living wage.”
During the meeting with fans, Mr Corbyn heard how the mood in the city is directly linked to how Newcastle United play.
Fans have been critical over losing much-loved manager Rafa Benitez over the summer and have become weary of repeated takeover sagas.
Benitez claimed Ashley’s ambitions for the club did not match his own before departing when his contract expired in June.