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The Business of Sport – Niall Couper – Niall Couper, CEO at Fair Game UK

Niall Couper is the Chief Executive Officer of Fair Game, a fast-growing collaboration of professional football clubs campaigning to improve football governance.

With the support of more than forty world-renowned academics and a growing band of politicians, Fair Game, an ISC Season-Ticket holder, is committed to providing realistic and sustainable solutions to the challenges facing football.

Having recently signed an alliance with the Union of European Football clubs, Fair Game’s influence in football globally is growing and Niall Couper, a key player in the re-birth of AFC Wimbledon, is the man leading the charge, on behalf of clubs facing the same kind of difficulties encountered by the former FA Cup winners.

 

Niall Couper on the Fair Game model: “I think our model could really benefit a whole load of the leagues in Europe, which is why we have joined forces with the Union of European Clubs, because there are clubs, around the continent, that are increasingly thinking, there is a better way of how football can run. If you really want to see a strong, long-lasting football club, that is embedded in the community, then you need to look at how the game is structured. We have got some really good conversations going on in Belgium, Denmark and Latvia and it is really interesting to look at some different ideas on the way football operates. It needs to be that brave interactive view and we are beginning to get some nice interaction with overseas leagues and we will see where that takes us.”

 

Niall Couper on smaller clubs spreading the word to bigger clubs: ” When clubs get into the Premier League, the clubs that are more embedded with their foundation, like Brentford and Luton, are generally more open to conversations, because you have some clubs where the Foundation is a very different and separate entity that sits in a different building, doing different things and aren’t really seen as part of the club. But you will have other ones where they sit in the same offices, they sit next to each other and they talk all the time. So, you will have clubs that are friendlier to Fair Game than others. For example, we are opposed to “parachute payments” and believe they should be phased out, allowing some of the wealth to go further down the football pyramid. So some Chief Financial Officers at football clubs, might not see the benefit of Fair Game.”

 

Niall Couper on leading campaigns: “For me, it really is about a desire for change, a desire to want to see a fairer future and to have that vision. And then, I think the key for me, is to find and bring together people who are like-minded. You have to realise very early on that it is an impossible task for one person. Every pub and cafe has football fans who are frustrated and it’s about getting those people who have the right skills and bringing them together and saying, together, we really can change football.

 

At AFC Wimbledon, when we first started, we needed an accountant and we found one in the fan-base. We needed a football manager, a coach a turnstile operator and so you reach out and you find those people and you bring them in and make them feel part of that story. So for Fair Game, it’s about who are those people who have that passionate belief, who believe they can make a change and believe there is a different future and give them the opportunity to really use their skill set and develop it.

 

We are growing massively at the moment in terms of our volunteer portfolio and that for us is really important, because we really want as many people as possible who can give some hours per week. That can make a difference, because any hour they give, is an hour we didn’t have previously.”