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Supporter engagement

Premier League and EFL clubs are mandated by their respective leagues to meet with fans twice per season, at a minimum, and no issue should be “off-the-table”. The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) guidelines are in place and the leagues have incorporated versions of these into their rulebooks – you can see those rules here.

What is supporter engagement and why do it?

Supporter engagement is a means of giving fans a sense of being closer to the club. A close association encourages and strengthens loyalty. It is a term that has come to encompass everything a club does to communicate with its supporters and everyone seems to have their own definition.

Much club-driven fan engagement has been aimed at more “consumer-focused” issues such as the matchday experience rather than issues of governance, strategic planning or ownership. However, it should be much more than consumer consultation. If the right individuals are involved, and a relationship built on trust created, it can be of assistance in the strategy and success of the club.

Supporter engagement: An overview

Supporter engagement has evolved naturally in recent years, often led by progressive supporter groups and/or clubs. As a result, although there are some common formats, elements of them can also differ significantly.

While a club might have its own bespoke approach, being open to external ideas is also part of the engagement process. Engagement can occur at a number of levels, with each level offering varying amounts of value to the club and community.

The Best Practice Pyramid (below) illustrates the various levels of involvement supporters can have within their respective clubs. In theory, the optimum solution for ensuring supporters have a direct input into their club’s governance is supporter ownership, where supporters have a minimum of 50+1% shareholding in the club.

The Best Practice Pyramid – All clubs should utilise the bottom three tiers, and work towards tier four: “FSA best practice”. Supporter Liaison Officers should work across all tiers.

Fans then have certain powers to elect representatives and hold them to account, as those representatives can be unseated from the Board or decision-making body. However, supporter ownership is not always possible, and where that is the case clubs and supporters should strive to achieve and participate in all other levels.

This not only creates a fan base who feel positive about their club, it also provides valuable supporter feedback for the business side of the club.

With supporter involvement evolving significantly over the past two decades, it is important to identify the different mechanisms of engagement and what is driving them: increasing numbers of supporter-owned clubs, fan representatives, the introduction of roles such as the Supporter Liaison Officer and structured dialogue.

Supporters have never had a better chance to raise their voice and ensure they are heard on critical issues related to the running and ownership of their clubs.

Resources:

Contact:

Ashley Brown – Head of Supporter Engagement and Governance: ashley.brown@thefsa.org.uk

Latest news: Supporter engagement

Chair of fan-led review meets FSA National Council

The chair of the Government’s fan-led review of football governance joined the FSA’s National Council for a video conference last night, explaining in further detail the evidence-gathering process which will take place in the coming months.

Spirit of Shankly head up new Liverpool Supporters Board

FSA affiliates Spirit of Shankly (SoS) will head up a new Supporters Board at Liverpool which the club says will “deliver meaningful fan representation at main board and executive levels”.

Spurs announce fan representation model – but serious questions remain

Tottenham Hotspur’s newly-announced plans for fan representation on the club’s board have been criticised by a leading fan group – with questions remaining about the new model.

Fan reps meet Premier League – Spring 2021

Supporter representatives from top-flight clubs recently met with Premier League executives to discuss a range of issues which impact match-going fans – including the European Super League and the return to grounds.

Funding partners

  • The Football Association
  • Premier Leage Fans Fund

Partners

  • Gamble Aware
  • Co-operatives UK
  • FSE
  • Kick It Out
  • Level Playing Field
  • Living Wage Foundation
  • SD Europe