Football co-operatives

After our proposal last month in the Mutuals Manifesto for football fans to have a right to bid for ownership of their club, it is great to see the report in the Guardian that there is an open door to community ownership.

According to our own recent survey, conducted by YouGov after we launched the manifesto, 83 per cent of Manchester United fans and 72 per cent of Liverpool fans who expressed an opinion felt their club would be in better hands if it was owned co-operatively. Across the country 56% of fans, who gave an opinion, feel the same way.

According to the survey, Manchester United supporters would be willing to invest an average of just over £600 each, to buy their club. If all the club’s supporters in Great Britain did this they would be able to raise £2.34 billion – more than enough to buy the club.

Duncan Drasdo Chief Executive of the Manchester United Supporters Trust (MUST) told me that: “We know there’s a huge appetite out there to change the ownership at United – and this shows there’s the commitment and the will amongst supporters to play a significant role in any bid and new ownership structure. £600 as an average is a credible figure but obviously some will put in less and some will invest substantially more.”

And Dave Boyle, Chief Executive of Supporters Direct, the organisation that promotes the democratic ownership of football clubs and a federal member of Co-operatives UK, commented that: “fans are realising that the choice is a simple one – pay someone else’s debts off and at the end, those people own it, or buy it yourself. These clubs should never have been allowed to be bought on the back of leveraged debt, but if the game’s authorities won’t act in the defence of our clubs, fans will have to.”

For less than the price of a Premier League season ticket, fans could share in ownership of their clubs and ensure that they are run in the long-term interests of sport. They really could be their team’s twelfth man!

A co-operative budget

I was invited to deliver a co-operative budget this morning on Radio 4. The idea was to present a light-hearted alternative budget that focused on the things that money can’t buy – family, friendships, community.

Great fun to do, and to cheers and jeers in Parliament in the background, I announced:

  1. freezing homework duties for children
  2. raising personal leisure allowances for adults from four hours a day to five and a half, on an equal footing between women and men
  3. five new bank holidays, bringing bank bonuses to everyone
  4. a family friendly scrappage scheme, where children could exchange their parents’ blackberries for cinema tickets
  5. in the context of climate change, the promotion of public sharing rather than private shares
  6. a penny off business tax for all enterprises that pass ownership, over time, to their employees
  7. an increase in pollination rates, through the extension of the principles of NHS care to bees, with support for Britain’s 40,000+ amateur beekeepers.

You can catch it on iPlayer, 13.38mins in on Radio 4.

A more civil society

I was pleased to be on a panel to welcome the report of the Commmission on Civil Society, run by Carnegie Trust and chaired by Geoff Mulgan.

It is a visionary report. The Commission argues that the health of civil society should be measured by the extent to which it transforms the economy and brings new innovations to address issues like the future of local media, rather than how many volunteers are helping out in the hospice.

The report takes a wide definition of civil society, including all co-operative enterprises. Geoff has written a short summary of the report in the Financial Times – arguing that Britain ‘must attend to its mutual interest’.

Pub success

Brilliant news today that our campaign for an emergency service for failing pubs, to help them into community ownership, has succeeded. Three months ago, we launched a report and campaign on co-operative pubs, together with our federal member, the Plunkett Foundation.

Today, the Times reports that Government says that it will back a new programme, based on the work of Plunkett to save village shops, to give community pubs a chance. Wooppeee – and well done, the pioneers among our members who showed the way.

Looking back, Martin Meteyard has sent me more on the history of community and co-operative pubs. The Gothenburg pubs, such as Amadale and Dean Tavern, were an early alternative business model for pubs, some of which continue today. And in miners’ villages such as Rosewell, the Tavern was run by the local co-op from 1909. His note is here – The Goths_History Shelf.

Goths, co-ops, pubs and locals – a heady brew.

I or we

The words we use can reveal more than we intend.

Coming in to my new role at Coops UK, I was interested to have a look at how cooperative our leaders in society are and chose a simple and playful test. Do they talk in speeches about ‘I’ or ‘we’? Do they talk about ‘me’ or about ‘us’?

With the aid of downloading and wordcounts, it wasn’t hard to do. So what were the results?

In the run up to the general election all the political parties have been talking about how they are going to embrace co-operation.

Both David Cameron (2.8) and Gordon Brown (2.6) scored over 2.5 – with Cameron just ahead – while Nick Clegg was well behind with 1.85.

Our UK leaders were streets ahead of continental counterparts, such as Nicholas Sarkozy and Angela Merkel. Je, Je, Je… Ich, ich, ich.

But they were all way behind Churchill (we shall fight them on the beaches) on 6.5 and contemporary faith leaders, such as the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, on 5.8.

The results are admittedly more light-hearted than scientific, but while the political parties seem to make all the right noises at election time, when in power will they talk the talk, never mind walk the walk?!

An umbrella when the sun shines

“They give you an umbrella when the sun shines and take it away when it starts to rain.” This was what one woman in Wales said on banks and financial service companies in consumer research I was involved in a few years ago.

So after the storm, it is not surprising that the debate on the fundamentals of banking is in earnest. I particularly recommend the manifesto by the Financial Inclusion Centre, new out.

I have been talking this evening at the David Hume Institute in Edinburgh on the credit crunch and the role of financial co-operatives and mutuals.

Tar Sands – the co-operative movement on the move

The movie Dirty Oil is released today. It is a documentary, backed by the Co-operative Group and WWF. The film is part of a growing campaign to rein in the extraction of oil from tar sands – £250 billion poured in to an energy source that is the dirtiest and most carbon-intensive around.

As Anthony Samson charted in his 1976 book, The Seven Sisters, the big oil companies tend to do what they want. But there is one exception. When there is a coalition of civil society, ethical investors and companies, as with the Body Shop, the Ogoni peoples and Shell, the scales can be tipped towards accountability.

This is a campaign that is getting bigger all the time. Watch out – the co-operative movement is on the move.

Decisions, decisions

There’s a book for every occasion. So I liked seeing these two together, one called ‘Yes’, one called ‘The Power of No’ side by side in my local bookshop this morning.

High praise

I have been listening to Nobel Prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz and he is pro-cooperative.

He says “A lot of cooperatives in Europe are very successful as another model. One of the challenges is that as they get bigger, they often lose that initial spirit. But if you look at some of the most amazing examples of this in Bangladesh, for example, there are two agencies. BRAC and Grameen – you could call them co-operatives – have over five million members each and have managed to maintain that spirit, and an entrepreneurial spirit.”

The tortoises are coming

I have been talking at more events than I have had hot meals – four yesterday, including a public services event at the Office of Public Management alongside Patrick from the John Lewis Partnership.

My favourite quote was from earlier in the day: “the tortoises are coming through” Business Minister Ian Lucas told me yesterday, “while the hares have scattered well before the finishing line.”

And the tortoises? It is us… co-operative enterprises!

This photo by the way is from Angel Nicki, a young woman with ADHD, who blogs on life and the odd tortoise