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What do fans want?

The “Social and Community Value Report” published by Supporters Direct (SD) outlines some snippets of fans-feedback to dispel the myth – that it’s only results ‘on the field of play’ that matter. These included in response to the question: ”What do you think is the most valuable thing about your club?”

“The involvement the club has with the community”
“The opportunity to meet socially with friends to enjoy a beer and the game”
“It is a family club, approachable right up to director level”
“With us being a small club I like how close you can get with the players especially at away games… It makes you feel part of club and part of you feels you have helped them win”
“It represents the town and puts it on the map to an extent”
“My fellow supporters (who I know) are like a second family to me”
“You can identify easily with your local club because it becomes YOUR club. There is always a sense of passion and loyalty about everything the club does”
“Something for my son to follow, which helps him understand ups and downs of life, at a distance”
“It gives me a sense of belonging”
“It is easy to get to, and usually I don’t have to pre-book tickets: I can just turn up and watch a game if I feel like it”
“The fan base. Even when things not going well on the pitch, the fans still come, and stick together, to support the team”
“The fans and the community based projects”
“The belief that I, as an individual, am a real part of the club and that we, the club, are not reliant on a sugar-daddy to fund us”
“That their activities extend into the community beyond football”
“Supporters are allowed to take part in the running of the Club. We are able to communicate with anyone at any level and express an opinion. There is no ‘them and us’”.

I suppose some of the feedback is to be expected given SD’s reason for being.  So I need to look further into research methodology, questioning formats and samples.  Yet in this so-called ‘brand football’ many of the issues highlighted warrant attention in best practice, marketing strategy and relationship-building.  I’ve decided to go to SD’s “Fans’ Weekend” to learn more.

Football blog directory

Recently, discovered the Football Blog Directory.  It does exactly as it says on the tin. 

It has listed “S’PORT” (this blog) under the category of Stockport County – which of course, I support, but regular browsers will appreciate we are even more besides. For any passionate football people generally interested in the musings of other fans, mainly with allegiances from around the UK, though opinions related to football worldwide, in the words of good old Nike (not in favour with County at the moment) ‘just do it!’.

To pick on a few for no rationale reason, the following have caught my eye:
Rochdale fan’s blog “Girl on a Terrace” particularly liked the ‘my top ten worst football shirts’.  Was that Mexican goalkeeper sponsored by Johnstone’s Paints?

Fellow “County” supporter’s “Bin bag full of rubbish”.  Are you a football mongrel?

“The hand of blog” (connotation of Maradona in case you needed it pointing out?  Not to be confused with the ‘In bed with Maradona blog’). Interesting that Forest Green are likened to ‘Harry Houdini’.

and finally “Jumpers for goalposts” and “Two footed tackle” with its strapline “Going studs up into the world of football”.

Especially like the Football Blog Directory as it lists Stockport County as a League Two team when apparently not even the BSP has formally accepted us yet.

My poor Club

An open letter dated: Thursday 16 June 2011 from the Leader of the Labour Party at Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council.  Interesting read and some alarm bells ring once again.  Oh dear…………

“Dear Stockport County Supporters, 

I have for several days been receiving a steady flow of emails from irate County fans who accuse me personally, or the Labour Group on Stockport Council, of blocking a £40,000 shirt sponsorship deal. It might be helpful if I provide a few facts. 

On the 2nd June 2011, I attended a Group Leaders meeting. The Chief Executive, Mr Boylan, gave a brief report along the lines that Stockport County had asked us to assist them with some sort of sponsorship and that two sources of funding had been identified. Solutions SK, a Council-owned company, would contribute £20,000, and the Council would provide a further £20,000, left unspent when a scheme for helping deprived communities was scrapped. These are the two sources of the £40k everyone is now talking about.   

It is important to note that there was no provision made for this sponsorship in the Budget passed by the Council in March. I had not previously been involved in any discussions or consulted in any way about this issue, and speaking on behalf of my Group I said that much as I regretted the plight that County finds itself in, I could not agree to spend this money when the Council has to slash budgets on services that have a direct impact on the young, the old and the vulnerable in Stockport.  By way of an example, the Council has already been forced make massive cuts such as those below, resulting in around 280 job losses, and there will be many more painful cuts to local services over the next two years: £3 million cut from Children’s Services, reductions in Luncheon Clubs that provide meals for the old, the frail and the lonely, £1 million cut from Libraries and Leisure Centres, cuts to the Debt Advice Service, reductions to the Home Help Service. 

Some of you will agree with our stance and others will disagree, but these were my reasons. Cllr Anthony O’Neill, the Conservative Deputy Group Leader made similar comments at the meeting, as did the Independent Group Leader, Cllr Peter Burns. Cllr Dave Goddard, Leader of the Council, of the largest Party on it, and Chair of the Executive, said nothing; not a single word. The meeting then moved on to discuss other issues.

Fast forward to Sunday 12th June, when I received, at home, a rather hectoring phone call from Lord Peter Snape, who told me that because of my personal stance Stockport County would be unable to pay the wages bill for June (no mention of sponsorship) and went on to say that if I did not agree to alter my view, he would bring 400 County fans to confront me at Council. I told Lord Snape that I don’t like to be bullied, and put the phone down on him. Following that telephone call, misleading statements were posted on the internet, and we began to receive emails from County fans.  Last year, we supported the £80,000 sponsorship. The Labour Group is the only one in Stockport that has sponsored a match, and we have long standing season ticket holders and supporters as members of our Group. The idea that I and my colleagues do not, and have not, supported County over many years is simply untrue. Many of us choose to spend our own money supporting the Club, but when we are dealing with public money, other considerations must be taken into account. Not long ago, all the Group Leaders agreed that the Council should look urgently at land sales or deals that could be put together to try and provide some capital for the Club. The Labour Group believes that the only way forward for County is to own its own ground, and that the Council must help with this if it can. What we cannot do is hand over cash on demand, when there is no plan for a sustainable future in sight.

I can however tell County fans that neither I, nor other Labour councillors, are in any way blocking the payment of £40k and I’ll tell you why. The Council Solicitor has confirmed to me that: “For the amount involved it can be an individual Executive Member or the full Executive. Strictly speaking it can be argued that it is an Executive function rather than a Council function”.  Under the Council’s own rules, the Council’s full Executive (all ten of them are still Lib Dems) or an individual member of it should authorise this spending, as happened on 20 July last year, when Cllr Dave Goddard himself signed off the decision to sponsor County. In any case, the £20,000 from Solutions SK doesn’t even need Council approval, as for these purposes it is a separate company. Making all this dependent on a vote at the Council Meeting next week is nothing more than a political stunt.  Councillor Dave Goddard is playing a murky game, but typically for him, he is keeping quiet and letting others do the talking. Even without the support of Opposition councillors, the money could have been paid over weeks ago, and could be paid now if the Lib Dems wanted to – it is not us misleading County fans.   

With regards and best wishes, 

Councillor Andy Verdeille”.

Healthy FC

Today launched the start of a ‘healthy eating campaign’ in Tameside using the football clubs of FC United of Manchester (FCUM) and Stalybridge Celtic FC.

I was able to secure the funding towards this initiative from The Community Club Development Fund.  This is a partnership between the Football Conference, the Premier League and the Professional Footballers’ Association.  Both the Premier League and the PFA have committed to contribute £400,000 each to the Fund in this its first year. The Scheme is designed to encourage member clubs develop their work in their local communities. 

It was a real joy to witness, Robin Pye – Community and Education Manager and  Karl Marginson – First Team Manager (note the First Team Manager!) educating the Year 4 pupils with such enthusiasm and skill.  As was the purpose, the children learned valuable lessons on healthy eating (it was notable early on  just how well they could recite the Domino’s menu on mentioning the pizza food type!). 

Anyone interested to know more can see: but from my perspective it was pleasing to see something I got funded being delivered and witness FCUM doing it well as they so often do.