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Fan engagement: survey shows still room for improvement

This is a story from the Supporters Direct archive – the FSF and Supporters Direct merged to become the FSA in 2019 – so this page may contain hyperlinks that do not work and/or have missing files. Our archived pages are not maintained and will not be updated.

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Supporter groups across the country say that clubs are meeting their obligations around fan engagement but there remains a handful of clubs where significant improvement is needed – according to the results of a national survey.

Last year the Football Supporters’ Federation and Supporters Direct (SD) surveyed affiliated fan groups to find out how Premier League and EFL clubs were implementing their “structured dialogue” commitments.

Since 2016, clubs have been required to meet with their supporters to discuss club matters under Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) guidelines. This “structured dialogue” is now in the English Football League (EFL) and Premier League rule books.

Research carried out by the Football Supporters’ Federation and Supporters Direct shows that most clubs are engaging with their supporters and fielding appropriate club officials (such as owners, directors or senior executives) – but there is room for improvement.

The FSF and SD both surveyed specific contacts and affiliated supporter groups and/or trusts with 73 out of 92 clubs covered within the results.

Here’s what supporter groups told us:

  • 84% of clubs are meeting with supporters at least twice per season, which is in line with government guidelines. This matches our previous survey’s results, which reported 85%.
  • 94% of clubs are fielding appropriate people – either owners, directors and/or senior executives. This is up 8% from the previous year’s survey result (86%).
  • 39% of respondents said their club either misunderstands or doesn’t act upon structured dialogue, although this is an improvement as almost half (48%) of fan representatives said the same last year.
  • Both the Premier League and EFL have work to do when it comes to building trust among fan groups as 86% didn’t believe, or were unsure, that clubs would be sanctioned by a league for not conforming to regulations.

Deborah Dilworth from Supporters’ Direct said: “Our survey shows dialogue between supporters and their clubs is in a healthy state, but unfortunately there remains a handful of clubs where this isn’t the case.

“There’s definitely room for improvement and we’ll continue to support fans at clubs where the government’s guidelines aren’t being met.”

The survey also revealed supporters wanted a standardised minimum level of information to be shared ahead of meetings and for a clear distinction between promotional or social fans forum-style events and structured dialogue meetings – where 52% of fans wanted to hear from CEO’s on more difficult topics such as ownership and financial data.

The FSF and SD will continue to raise cases where structured dialogue guidelines aren’t being adhered to with DCMS, the EFL and Premier League.

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