An ultimatum and directive have resulted from a perceived mis-use of social media by the then Chief Executive of Supporters’ Direct (SD). It is the overseeing organisation formed by the Government (with cross-party agreement) to provide support to ‘supporters’ trusts (fans) to secure a greater level of accountability and democracy within football clubs and more recently in other sports.
The alleged remarks, reported in The Guardian, made his position untenable and has resulted in his, only this week, using the hashtag on the same platform, Twitter, #gizzajob.
£1.2M funding has been pulled (SD’s enabling fund for the next three years). This decision courtesy of the Football Stadia Improvement Fund (FSIF), a grant-giving body the Premier League wholly finances. The FSIF board stated the withdrawal of funds was in response to insulting comments, including swearing, by the Chief Executive after AFC Wimbledon won promotion to the Football League. Naturally some of our clients are pro-greater supporters’ involvement as was much of our recent Turkish conference. I have only worked on projects in consultation with former SD employees Brian Lomax (earlier Managing Director) and Simon Binns who conducted themselves professionally (others less so) – and a former Director, Sean Hamil now at Birkbeck College, who was credible as a guest speaker at our aforementioned conference also.
Today, Terry Venables (ex-England Manager) suggests in a ‘red top daily’ newspaper, that the current system of protocol and penalty against teams that enter financial administration is in need of an overhaul. He goes on to stress that the only people that suffer are the fans. In my experiences the suffering of supporters would always be an objective to minimise. After all, it is not they who are usually to blame (unless perhaps they have been the owner running the club at that time).
However, a stringent and rigorous punishment needs to prevail. All too often I have witnessed mis-management by supporters that have been elevated to a Boardroom setting without having the skills or commercial acumen. It takes more than just keeping the faith to succeed, football is a business not just a game. The alternative misdemeanour, to poor supporters’ stewardship of these businesses, is that the wrong ‘white knight’ has been in place, whom should never have ridden over the hill nor even perhaps have got on the steed in the first place – or a similar ego driven appointment where an owner has passed his/her shelf-life and maybe lost interest – something that fans don’t often do. They say after religion that football is the next strongest ‘brand’ for loyalty.
Barry Hearn who runs Leyton Orient has indicated rather than a ten points deduction for clubs that go into administration that demotion by two leagues be more appropriate. Whilst, I don’t agree entirely, the sentiment I share is that ‘these clubs’ have failed and should face more severe sanctions than present. At least this may go someway to ensuring that more football clubs get their houses in order.
If only, the likes of Stockport County, Chester City, Oldham Athletic had had better leadership the financial woes may not have materialised. Maybe well run, fans-owned clubs will continue to be another way for the future aka FC United of Manchester, City Fans United (phoenix for Chester City) and AFC Wimbledon. Certainly, this is a philosophy that Supporters Direct subscribes to. Watch this space………..