As the debate around football club ownership intensifies, new research conducted by Co-operatives UK has revealed that fans want to take control at both Manchester United and Liverpool - and could afford to do so.
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 conducted by YouGov on behalf of Co-operatives UK.
The survey confirms for the first time that they would be willing to put their money where their mouth is and invest in the club to take it into co-operative ownership.
Ed Mayo, Secretary General of Co-operatives UK, said: 'Too many clubs are not managing their business successfully off the pitch and it is time to let the fans have a real say in the running of their clubs.
'The English game has borrowed many tactics from foreign teams in the past so it is only logical that they follow the example of one of the most successful foreign teams - FC Barcelona - and use the co-operative idea of the fans owning the team.'
Ed continued: '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!'
According to the survey, Manchester United supporters would be willing to invest an average of just over 600 pounds 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 pounds - more than enough to buy the club.
Duncan Drasdo Chief Executive of the Manchester United Supporters Trust (MUST) said: '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 pounds as an average is a credible figure but obviously some will put in less and some will invest substantially more.'
Dave Boyle, Chief Executive of Supporters Direct, the organisation that promotes the democratic ownership of football clubs, said: '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.
'The only thing stopping these great clubs being owned by fans is the belief that these clubs are just too big to turn into British Barcelonas. But the bigger the club, the bigger the fan base and this survey shows if fans can be united, they can make this happen.'
Ed Mayo added: 'What fans are saying to us challenges the assumption that the only way to get rid of one billionaire is to find another. The ideal of co-operative ownership seems to unite the fierce rivals of Manchester United and Liverpool. I look forward to hearing the chants 'You are ours and you know you are''.