Over the last ten years, British football has been transformed. Up until the early 1980s it was
largely a loss-making social institution with clubs privately owned by local benefactors. As we approach
the millenium it is increasingly being incorporated into the commercial leisure sector. (Football clubs
are listed on the Stock Exchange under Leisure, Entertainment & Hotels.) Ownership by institutional and
multinational investors is becoming the norm as private owners sell out. The large clubs have been
transformed into highly profitable purveyors of the full gamut of leisure-related product lines.
Critical to this transformation, televised football has become the key weapon in the battle for viewers
by satellite, cable, digital and Pay-per-View TV.
Amidst all this change the role of football as a social and cultural institution in Britain, and
indeed the world, has remained largely intact. But tensions between the new commercialism and football's
social purpose have become intense. The institutions of corporate governance which served football
adequately when it was a loss-making passion catering to 'fans' whose core interest in the team was in
its expression as a vehicle for social solidarity are no longer adequate to effectively manage the
extraordinary commercial pressures unleashed in the industry.
Birkbeck College's Department of Management has established a research programme on how regulation of
the football and broadcasting industries might best be reformed to meet these new challenges.
A successful conference in February 1999 brought together leading academics, policy makers and
analysts to discuss future possibilities for the governance of professional football. A book from that
conference will be published by Mainstream press in September 1999. Pre-publication copies will be
provided to all participants at the July 8th conference, aimed at policy makers and all those with an
interest in the future direction of football.