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Posts tagged ‘supporters direct’

Co-op Times

Sitting here reflecting on the 3-4 defeat at home to Darlington, with our lowest attendance – means more time to ponder.  My own take on life at E.P is that the 2015 ‘consortium’ has acted somewhat like a ‘life support machine’ but the Club remains in intensive care.  I cannot do much or maybe anything, but having just been elected to a Director at Stockport County Supporters’ Co-operative there might be a role to play.

“Stockport County Supporters Co-operative is part of a wider movement of organisations established by supporters of football clubs now stretching not just across England, or the UK, but also across Europe.”

The Board is considering the adoption of new Society Rules drawn up by Supporters Direct to strengthen its position as a Community Benefit Society. Tomorrow night is the 2011 Annual General Meeting at The Railway Club in Edgeley.  An opportunity to listen to fans, report on progress and ensure a coherent Plan A and Plan B.

Restored faith

I attended the ‘Supporters Direct Fans Weekend’ today, in Chester.  A great venue, The Queen’s Hotel (opposite the train station), for anyone planning a short break.  I have to say the whole experience restored my faith that most people there were representatives and delegates for the right reasons.

Chester was a favoured location, being home to the phoenix club post the League Club’s demise.  Since, being reconfigured, some three leagues below it now boasts average crowd attendances of over 2,500.  The last Football League gate was circa 1,000.  So better governance, more community focus, despite lower league football has brought supporters back.

After recent activities, the Chair of SD said her colleagues had wondered if the Conference would indeed go ahead.  There was a rallying call somewhat akin to a communist ‘together comrades we can achieve’ speech from former days and a presentation of unity amongst fans of different clubs.  The Guardian’s journalist Louise Taylor took a verbal kicking for her editorial, in her absence.

The recently resigned Dave Boyle’s name got a rapturous applause. Notable milestones announced included: 170 supporters’ trusts formed, the active engagement of more than 270,000 fans and 26 trusts having achieved majority equity stakes in the clubs in which they are involved.  Trusts are now established under the auspices of SD in ten European Countries. Short-term funding shortfalls for the likes of this event had been plugged by the Co-op Group.  The preamble concluded with the message, naturally, “that the supporters’ trusts movement is alive and kicking”.

New directive paper 3 was formally launched “Financing Supporter Community Ownership” – with the caveat ‘Achieving club ownership always requires supporters’ trusts to be able to finance that ownership’.  Topics covered in this publication are: community share schemes, fighting funds/transferable shares/loan notes/bonds, share issues in Ltd.co, minority shareholdings, fan share schemes, community interest companies and fundraising.  How I would like to have written that last chapter to extend the possibilities based on my experiences in sports. A novel idea of ‘supporters’ class of shares’ was aired.  This could have a role in any critical vote to veto such as a ground sale to property speculator.  Nice to have in place with uncertainty at E.P?

Paper 4 followed: “Business Advantage of Supporter Community Ownership in Football”.  Contents were: strategic partnerships, sponsorship, Co-op added value, resilience, finance, facilities, spending, supporter satisfaction, volunteering and participation, supporter spending, donations and transparency.  12 points but represented on a PowerPoint slide as 11 to try and fit with a team positions
formation.  Was 8 repeated twice on purpose?

The sample size and methodology of paper 4 I will have to look into. It didn’t seem particularly ‘deep’ despite being presented by a consultancy called Substance?  The panel of speakers put credence on the achievement of £2 average secondary spend in stadia, such as AFC Wimbledon and AFC Telford.  Give me a project to increase that figure any day.

A really good point on the day was one that opposes my beleaguered County’s approach to liaison with local government.  Established trusts are now approaching their respective local authorities with structures and governance that means they can assist in being catalysts, partners or providers of community benefits.  Rather than approaching with a ‘begging bowl’.  FC United and Brentford FC’s trusts recognised as examples of best practice in the process.

Missing ‘tools’ from the comrades were a request for SD to add advisors from financial/accounting professions – to avoid any pitfalls in longer term planning.  A ‘community club kitemark’ may be in the pipeline also – watch that space!

It was good to meet two academic friends of mine namely: Coventry and Birkbeck.  The Chairman of Newcastle’s Supporters Trust explained the Club under Mike Ashley.  FC United’s General Manager kindly introduced me to the Editor of FC Business whom seemed genuinely interested in my fundraising prowess and FC Sports Marketing’s work in Turkey.

Fate took me by luck to a dinner table with two representatives of Stockport County Supporters’ Co-operative where we shared stories on common ground.

Jigsaw pieces

So Tony Evans is the new Owner at “County”.  The article suggests his first step will be to bring in Bell Pottinger.  Well it doesn’t take a genius to know on a commercial basis that their fees wouldn’t be viable in a non-league (or even lower league) environment.  However, if yesterday’s ‘scoop’ is anything to go by they may be in need of even more PR help if the rumours are found to be true.

@nonleagueshow has suggested that Evans may be a front man for Stephen Vaughan.  Known for the wrong reasons in football especially more recently at Chester City FC (R.I.P).

Rob Dawson at Manchester Evening News said about the imminent takeover “They’ve gone about things in a very professional way, which can only be a good thing.” 

If the belief is founded then I really worry.  You only need to read the award winning football blog “Football Management” to witness facts about some of the characters behind the scenes.

Just had it confirmed by a Stockport County employee that one of Vaughan’s right hand men is now running the Club’s Training Ground.  Are the pieces in this nightmare starting to fall in to place or may a clearer less alarming picture come out?

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.