Cooperatives & CommunitiesDevelopmentFinancialLegalMagazineNews

The power of co-operatives: Europe’s elite football clubs are owned by fans, Uganda has long way to go

KAMPALA – There is no doubt that many Ugandans love football and are keen fans of football clubs. As fans, they support local clubs like; SC Villa, Express FC, KCCA, Vipers and others. The Ugandan football fans have further extended they support to the foreign scene, supporting powerful football clubs like; Arsenal, Manchester United, Barcelona, Real Madrid, Liverpool, Bayern Munich AC Millan, Juventus, Chelsea and Manchester City, among others.

Unfortunately, majority of the fans in Uganda do not own any shares in the local football clubs that they support. Theirs is to buy tickets to watch the matches that their teams are involved in. Despite contributing to the clubs financially, fans do not participate in the management of the clubs, as that role is exclusive to club owners who don’t see the value of clubs being people-owned.

Ahmed Hussein, Spokesperson Federation of Uganda Football Association [FUFA] when asked if the county has any football clubs owned by fans, only referred to SC Villa, though he added that the club fans have issues with the board of trustees that do not want to relinquish power to the supporters.

Hussein said FUFA is encouraging owners to turn football clubs into community teams. “The beauty with community teams is that fans are involved in management and decision-making,” he said, adding that many clubs in Uganda are individually owned and that this is a big challenge when it comes to governance and finance issues.

Uganda football teams play in Uganda Premier League which is the apex, Big League and other football leagues and tournaments organised by FUFA.

In Europe and South America, for example, some of the most powerful football teams are owned by fans and any decisions taken, fans have an input. For instance, in Germany it is by law that fans own 51 percent of the shares in the clubs that they support. Yet in Spain Real Madrid is 100 percent owned by fans. The teams in Europe are more less cooperatives where fans are involved in decision-making.

TheCooperator brings you a few of the teams run as cooperatives:


As a cooperative sporting association, it has more than 175,000 members, all of whom have a voice in deciding the direction and future of the club. With annual revenue of more than 400 million euros, that’s over half a billion US dollars, Barcelona is one of the richest soccer clubs in the world.

The issue with Barcelona’s methods is anyone hoping to become president of the club must be able to find 10 percent of the club’s worth as some form of a deposit. Current president Joan Laporta needed £108m before he could take office. It means that while Barcelona’s ‘socios’ can vote on who controls the club, they only have a finite number of rich, elite candidates to choose between. With power handed to the bigwigs, Barcelona fans technically control their club, but they vote away their power whenever they bring in a new president.

Bayern Munich

Barcelona might have lost their way when it comes to fan ownership, but German giants Bayern Munich still know what they’re doing.

The Bundesliga’s famous 50+1 rule means that teams must remain majority-owned by fans (barring the odd exception), but instead of settling for 51 percent fan ownership, Bayern have been as high as 75 percent recently.

Fans focused on achieving results on the pitch, and Bayern have grown and grown into a self-sufficient, rich powerhouse of European football as a result. No glitz, no glamour, just trophies.

Sao Paulo

Since 1993, Brazilian law has allowed private ownership for their football teams, but a select few have rejected change and continue to fly the flag for their supporters.

The likes of Santos, Flamengo and Palmeiras are all part of that group, as are Brazil’s most successful club of all time, Sao Paulo. With six league titles and three tastes of Copa Libertadores glory, it is hard to say it has not worked out for them [fans].

Exeter City

Exeter’s relegation to the Conference in 2003 was too much for the Exeter City Supporters Trust to bear. They had watched their side be run into the ground by poor owners, and they decided to step in.
The Trust bought a majority share in the club and managed to keep them afloat through fundraising activities, until an FA Cup draw with Manchester United gave them the income they needed to finally put their feet up and relax. Now with an elite academy, Exeter have not made it any higher than League Two, but to fans, that’s irrelevant. Their club is alive and that is all that matters.

Real Madrid

Like Barcelona, Real Madrid is 100% owned by its fans. During the 1990s and 2000s, this gave the Spanish giants a financial edge over their rivals in England and Italy.

The fans hold a majority of their own voting rights.

Athletic Bilbao

One of just four sides in Spain’s top tier to still be owned by its members, Athletic Club have been doing things their own way for a long time now. Because there is no sugar daddy funding the club, Athletic have focused on developing talents from inside the Basque region and will only sign players with local roots, and while that sounds like a recipe for disaster, it has proven to be anything but. Athletic are genuine powerhouses in Spain and have never been relegated from the top flight. They’re playing by nobody’s rules but their own, and they are absolutely loving it.

FC United of Manchester

Things behind the scenes at Manchester United were not great at the turn of the century, and they only got worse when the infamous Glazer family bought the club in 2005. That was the final straw for some fans, many of whom broke away to form their own team, FC United of Manchester. Inserted into the tenth tier of English football, FC United made it as high as the sixth tier in 2015 and they have been kicking about in non-league ever since. What started off, as a bunch of tired fans who had grown frustrated with United has since become a genuine football team with a women’s setup as well. They might not be strutting about in the Premier League, but at least the owners are a popular bunch.

Additional reporting by agencies

Buy your copy of thecooperator magazine from one of our  country- wide vending points or an e-copy on


Related Articles

Back to top button