Yesterday supporters from fan groups in the FSA’s Premier League network gave evidence to the government’s fan-led review. The chair, Tracey Crouch MP, and the rest of the panel heard from a number of supporters trusts and fan groups about the big issues in the top flight.
Supporter groups spoke at length to the panel and we caught up with a few of the groups to hear about the issues they highlighted which had taken place at their clubs.
“The Everton Fans Forum gave an overview of the activities carried out to capture the global Evertonian sentiment for this fan-led review.
“We highlighted examples of positive fan engagement from Everton, including the consultation process ahead of our move from Goodison Park.
“We added that the feedback we’ve received from Evertonians is that a ‘Supporter Director’ will ensure that strategic and operational decisions take necessary note of supporter views and interests; for example avoiding technical partners who may use overseas sweat shops or commercial sponsors who are betting companies.
“We stressed that this is a once in a lifetime opportunity to future-proof supporter involvement at the heart of our club and called on the Committee to ensure it becomes a reality.”
- Jazz Bal, chair, Everton Fans Forum
“The Leeds United Supporters’ Trust were delighted to be invited to present at the Premier League Network Fan Led Review session. In our presentation, we chose to highlight the need for a structured approach to fan engagement.
“It was a pleasure to be able to deliver a passionate testimony to Tracey Crouch MP and the review panel, and also to listen to the testimonies of other fan groups – many of which shared the same concerns and frustrations as ourselves.
“As fans of a club that has had multiple owners over the last 20 years who have chosen not to properly engage with Leeds United fans, we understand better than most the issues caused by a fractured relationship between club and supporters.
“Even at a time where Leeds United fans’ relationship with our club’s owners is as strong as it has been in recent memory, we still believe that supporter engagement needs to be written into football’s rule books to prevent the upset and disillusionment we have seen as a group of fans over the last 20 years”.
- Adam Willerton, secretary, Leeds United Supporters’ Trust
“Cultural Heritage is an important aspect of the life for football fans as we pride ourselves on our club’s history and identity. Supporters are the key stakeholders and emotional owners of clubs.
“At Wolves, we are pleased with our owners, and have seen nothing but success on the field in their five years at the helm. At Molineux, we have maintained a ‘traditional’ football stadium and are extremely proud of it. Various away fans from Premier League clubs’ comment on our atmosphere and say how there is very little like it in the Premier League.
“Our Southbank behind the goal was the first full stand in the UK to be fitted with ‘seats-incorporated barriers’ meaning that fans could continue their ‘old school’ support in a safer way. This is something we are desperate to protect.
“Fosun outlined their proposals to re-develop Molineux in 2018, but these plans were soon put on hold. Prior to this they considered building an out-of-town purpose-built stadium to replace Molineux. This would have been disastrous for the club and the city.
“While Fosun insist they have moved away from these plans, the threat is still there without regulation to prevent it, and we should look to protect ourselves and other clubs from losing their much-cherished homes. Our clubs should be viewed as community assets, meaning owners should not be able to make material change to certain aspects of the club without consultation, something the golden share would enable.
“Every football club from the top right to the bottom of English football, must protect our history, memories, heritage and identities. We don’t expect to be able to sack the manager and we don’t want to lead our clubs transfer strategy. What we really want from the golden share is protection, and a voice over what we want to protect.”
- Ciaran Barker, Wolves 1877 Trust
“It is very encouraging to know the amount of sessions the Fan Led Review Panel are carrying out with groups of fans across the Leagues, some individual Trusts, as well as a very detailed session with the Football Supporters Association, the review is certainly living up to its name.
“The evidence we gave to the panel compared the access to information and how often our views were sought from the 3 different ownership structures of our club we have experienced in nearly 20 years of our existence.
“Being very well informed and frequently consulted as a shareholder and attending board meetings while being part of the Lineker Consortium, followed by the total contrast of very limited access during the Milan Mandaric era to our current owners, who as one of the Fan-Led review panel commented are recognised as one of the best currently, where consultation is very good, but built around positive individual relationships.
“This clearly emphasises the need to mandate that regardless of owner or change in personnel that consultation and access to key elements of information is achieved alongside heritage aspects protected by a Golden Share which were outlined by other fan groups presenting”
- Ian Bason, chair, Foxes Trust (Leicester City)
“WHUISA were delighted to be able to take part in the presentation to Tracey Crouch and to hear from other Premier League clubs on the issues affecting the game.
“Our Chair, Sue Watson, spoke about the history of a football club and how the cultural heritage develops from that, leading into the impact of this on supporters of all generations. She described how a culture grows out of the shared stories, the memories, the rituals, songs, and the home stadium itself. However, she emphasized that the most important aspect of the cultural heritage are the supporters – while owners and shareholders come and go, supporter loyalty remains consistent.
“We argued for the introduction of a golden share as it would ensure that the best aspects of a well-run business become part of how the Club relates to its supporters. Decisions arising from business plans, whether stadium moves, training facilities and badges, would be made with those who are the most emotionally invested in their clubs.
“Finally, Sue gave a passionate and emotive description of the impact on her that followed the move from the Boleyn Ground to the London Stadium. From a deeply personal perspective, she described how moving to the new ground has decimated the culture of West Ham fans who must pick up the pieces and attempt to fit new memories into that heritage.”
- Kevin Hind, West Ham United Independent Supporters Association
“While football attention might be firmly on the Euros, the Premier League network’s opportunity to give evidence to Tracey Crouch and her panel was at least as noteworthy as Patrik Schick’s halfway line goal. With much of the focus of public attention being on the extent to which clubs who thought the future was in closed shop ‘super’ league a few weeks ago managed to so badly misread their supporters and the varied belated attempts to get that right, for some of those amongst the other 14 Premier League clubs engagement looks, at first glance, much healthier.
“Even where Trusts and key personnel at clubs have built good working relationships, there remain concerns that is often because of key individuals who will, inevitably at some stage, move on, or that the understanding could be undermined if there was a significant disagreement with those running the club or, and this is an increasing risk, owners who have a wide range of sporting and other interests of which a football club is just one and are geographically distant can quickly become out of touch.
“The successes – and there are some – rest on hard work, patience, understanding and often goodwill. But this is far too important to be left to chance – ensuring that the best practice can be set as a baseline across clubs of different sizes, with varied ownership structures needs to be underpinned.
“Currently, a change of ownership, or Chief Executive, or head of communications could precipitate a fundamental change of approach seemingly on a whim.
“Supporters are there for the good times and the bad, and meaningful engagement and involvement will be about the tough choices as well as the comfortable decisions – ensuring there is a framework for owners to appreciate their role as custodians of community assets, with duties and responsibilities overseen through independent regulation and the meaningful involvement of supporters through their Trusts is at the heart of what the fan led review should address.
“As important as the technical detail undoubtedly is – we should not forget the why as well. The emotional, devotional bond between fans and club, communities and grounds, heritage and identity need to be protected, enhanced and sustained – and Premier League Trusts know that as well as anybody”
- Tom Greatrex, Fulham Supporters’ Trust
‘We were appreciative of the opportunity to give individual evidence directly to the panel and then to participate in what was a fascinating, insightful and intelligent Premier League Network discussion later that afternoon.
‘The passion, knowledge, capability, ideas and experience of dedicated fans groups throughout the top flight is quite remarkable.
‘It was a privilege to hear heartfelt contributions from Fulham, Leeds, Wolves, Everton, Leicester and West Ham United fan reps, amongst others.
“We hope our collective words resonated with the Panel.”
- Tottenham Hotspur Supporters’ Trust