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Linnets seek fan power through MP candidate’s proposal

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James Wild is proposing to build a legacy of fan ownership for King’s Lynn Town FC and other non-league clubs who were forced to take Sports Survival Loans during the COVID-19 pandemic.The Conservative Party candidate for North West Norfolk is campaigning to allow clubs to convert part of those loans into equity and gift that to Supporters Trusts in perpetuity.This would ensure the majority of loans taken out are repaid, reduce the burden of repayment on non-league clubs, and create a legacy of fan involvement in clubs.

King’s Lynn Town owner Stephen Cleeve with James Wild, the Conservative Party candidate for North West Norfolk, at the Walks.

Mr Wild is seeking re-election at the general election on July 4, with the other candidates being Rob Colwell (Liberal Democrats), Tim Leaver (Labour Party), Phil Walton (Reform UK) and Michael de Whalley (Green Party).Mr Wild said: “Clubs like the Linnets are at the heart of local communities and this is a great opportunity to create a legacy of fan involvement.”By gifting shares to Supporters’ Trusts we can help the viability of clubs, and give fans greater involvement while ensuring the majority of loans are repaid to taxpayers. “It would mean they get a stake in the club at no cost. Clubs don’t exist without the fans, that’s the essence of the game.”Fans need to have a voice, they need to be involved in what’s happening. This is a way to do that and to help clubs to survive as well. “It’s difficult out there at the moment and we don’t see any clubs go out of business.“I worked very closely with King’s Lynn Town FC in those tough times to ensure their survival.”I am campaigning to be re-elected as the MP for North West Norfolk to press for such a change in the next Parliament to allow clubs that support greater fan ownership to act.” Figures from the Department of Culture, Media, and Sport confirm the Sports Survival Package distributed £13.3 million in the form of loans to 34 non-league football clubs, the average loan to non-league clubs was £382,352.During the pandemic, King’s Lynn Town FC and others were required to take out loans through Sport Survival Package Loans during the COVID-19 restrictions.This provided a financial lifeline at the time, however, repayment of the loans now threatens the viability of some clubs.King’s Lynn Town owner Stephen Cleeve has welcomed Mr Wild’s proposal. Mr Cleeve said: “James has been a stalwart MP, a local man and someone who has helped our football club over the years.”I fully support his concept of a debt-for-equity swap, it is a brilliant idea and one that can turn clubs that are insolvent on their balance sheets back into solvency again as well as give fans a greater say in their teams.”We need to have as much involvement with as many people as we can in the community, from supporters and businesses who want to back their local team.”I think this suggestion helps change the actual narrative. How it gets done with the share splits doesn’t matter it’s the principle we’re trying to get over the line. “The Government want more fan ownership and this allows that to happen. We will all benefit otherwise football clubs are going to be insolvent.”We had to borrow. It wasn’t our fault we couldn’t have fans in the ground, we were under Covid regulations. We suffered from it and at the time James very kindly donated some money towards the football club, which I haven’t made public before.”Mr Cleeve hopes that West Norfolk voters get fully behind Mr Wild in his quest to be re-elected as Conservative Party candidate for North West Norfolk.”It’s important to note that a lot of MPs are sometimes wrongly maligned in my opinion for not being part of their community and James and his wife Natalie have helped the club where they can,” he said. “You’ve only got to look at the other MPs, no one else has contacted me and they all say they are part of the community. Do they not think their football clubs are part of the local community?”I’ve always said it’s very important when you’re electing your MP that you look at the bigger picture sometimes and look at the guy that’s on the street and what he does for the community, that’s what is important.”Mr Wild previously proposed this policy during the Second Reading of the Football Governance Bill which did not proceed before Parliament was dissolved for the general election.”It’s an idea I want to champion and get taken on board by the Government, which is why I’m campaigning to be re-elected,” he said.”I will continue to back the club as I did through the difficult times of Covid and hopefully with much better times ahead. I’m optimistic about the new season and the election.”

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