football opinion

Opinion: The USSF Should Be Run By Fans

11:07 PMAleks Vee

by Aleks V @aleksvee

While the NASL and USSF put up their dukes in court and more potential candidates line up for the latter's presidential race, I can't help wondering there's a simpler solution to the age-old problems faced by U.S. soccer. Poorly run leagues. The absence of promotion and relegation. Corruption. Remove the soccer element, and you get a typical government.

Although incumbent USSF president Sunil Gulati may run for reelection, there's a chance the federation may opt for a new face next year. He may even be an “outsider”, and have fewer ties to the elite. But as with politics, no matter who wins, little will change. Even your average Joe, when given access to money and power, will eagerly trade in his name for profit.

The principles of fair competition, however, should not depend on the selfish motives of the few.

Luckily, an alternate model of running things is already in place at the club level.

I'm talking about clubs such as FC Barcelona and Real Madrid. Over 100,000 fans own and operate Barca, with around 91,000 at Real.

Real's fans elect the club president. Yes, Florentino PĂ©rez is a wealthy businessman, but his power is checked by the club's Member Assembly, which can discipline him. He is also barred from investing his own money into the club.

In Germany, supporters own around 82% of Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund's stock. Another storied club, Argentina's Boca Juniors, is 100% fan owned.

Fan ownership gives a voice to those who truly care about the game. It's like having the customers run the business. Which makes sense, as they're always right.

Then there's the money aspect. A study among eight supporter community owned clubs in the U.K. showed they have “an added onus to be financially responsible and live within their means." Such clubs can also “raise finance in more innovative ways.” There's greater transparency with those finances, as well, which is always a good thing.

Even the issue of low attendances, especially in U.S. soccer's lower tier leagues, can be solved with fan ownership – in the aforementioned study, “most clubs felt that their attendances were sustained even when performances were poor.”

Having fans, rather than a single, wealthy figure run a club is not a novel concept in Europe's biggest leagues, with roots in the early 20th century. Of course, those leagues also boast a storied soccer past.

By contrast, U.S. soccer has been characterized by a lack of intermittent movement. In film, that's the stop and start motion that advances each frame. The key word is "advance." Stay too long on one frame, and your audience sees right through the illusion.

Under the current structure, soccer leagues and clubs in the U.S. will continue to come and go.

Democratizing the USSF by having fans run it may be the key to creating a lasting foundation for the sport in America.

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  1. When you consider the lack of cohesion off the pitch between people is fan ownership wise in the usa? will one set of fans or all sets of fans have their say?


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