Supporters Summit 2015 review

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Here’s the Supporters Direct review of the Summit, complete with Hull City taking centre stage in Malcom Clarke’s address.

The Supporters Summit 2015 was held at The Mercure Manchester Piccadilly on the 18th July and hosted by Supporters Direct and Football Supporters Federation.

This year we saw over 260 delegates attend for our annual showpiece event and saw fans from all over the country networking and discussing what really matters in football… fans.

There were a number of workshops and other functions held throughout the day for fans to engage and discuss hot topics in the game including a FIFA Q & A session, issues affecting all tiers of English Football, SD rugby league networking and much more.

This is the fourth event hosted by the two organisations and an awful lot has happened since the last in 2014.

After registration the day kicked off with opening remarks from Supporters Direct chair Brian Burgess and Football Supporters Federation’s chair Malcolm Clarke. Speaking at the summit on the topic of the disputes around Hull City’s name change Malcolm stated, “There are no grounds for complacency. There are very powerful people who own football clubs who effectively want the right to do what they want.”

This gave members and fans a warm welcome and a taster of what to expect from the day.

With lots on the agenda and many points to raise, where better to start with a FIFA Q & A session hosted by football reporter and presenter Lynsey Hooper with a panel including Jaimie Fuller (Sports Ethic Campaigner), Stephen Russell (Playfair Qatar) and Tom Greatrex (former MP and founder of The Fulham Supporters’ Trust.) The panel discussed issues such as how the game is governed, fan pressure on Sepp Blatter and boycotting the Russia and Qatar World Cups. An interesting quote from Jaimie Fuller, “the number of seats on FIFA exco should be elected by fans and players, they should have a say in electing president too.” Jamie also  highlighted the fact that the role sport plays within the community is far greater than the sport itself.

The forum agreed that it was entirely legitimate to target and work with sponsors to effect change.  In the case of FIFA this means multinational companies distancing themselves from events they sponsor, such as the World Cup to force reform. The FIFA situation shows the power of sport to bring reform and is equally relevant on a smaller scale.

This a fast moving story and we are sure there will be plenty of developments to discuss next year!

Throughout the afternoon there were a wide range of workshops to attend, with expert panels, covering a broad range of subjects across football. Here fans could walk in to any workshop that interested them and have an opportunity to have their say amongst like minded people. Supporters Direct workshops on the day included ‘Another Way’ – A Different Route to Success, Tales from the Terraces, Fans Diversity and many more. (For the full list of workshops see end page)

In ‘Another Way’ – A Different Route to Success, James Mathie (SD Club Development Manager) was joined by Mark Evans (lifelong supporter, Merthyr Town) and Des Lynch (Board member, FC United Of Manchester) who shared their club’s promotion run and success under fan ownership. Here SD took a look at how off field success can translate into a winning first team.  Despite winning promotion last season both clubs had won more trophies and accolades for their work in the community in the past year (some of which were proudly on display from Merthyr). Mark spoke about the new challenges they faced and how the club continued to grow with the facility expansion, taking on a larger paid workforce and the importance of keeping the core principles of what they stood for. Des gave an inspiring account of all the projects FCUM already support from beekeeping to women’s days, much of which had been achieved before the club had their own facility at Moston.

One of the more popular workshops was Tales From the Terraces, hosted by Jacqui Forster and Nicola Hudson (SD)  It was fantastic to hear various stories from supporters trusts and groups who have had highs and lows with the partnerships at their clubs.  There were presentations from four groups  representing their trusts which included Hull City Supporters Trust, Iron Trust (Scunthorpe United), Bradford City Supporters Trust and the Brakes Trust (Leamington  FC).

During their presentation, Hull City Supporters Trust touched on the current issue of the club owner Mr Allam wanting to change the club name and how the supporters trust made a dignified campaign.    The group also heard from the Iron Trust who once had a good relationship with the club but now are having issues with the current owner who is not keen on the partnership

Another workshop with a real appetite and a great turn out was The Expert Working (EWG) Group on Football Supporter Ownership and Engagement. This seminar attended by over 50 fans and hosted by James Mathie (SD) and Kevin Miles (FSF). The group was launched by the government in 2014 to try to remove barriers to club supporter ownership and improve involvement and engagement between clubs and supporters. The EWG continues to make good progress towards its goal of announcing recommendations with the support of the group in November, and the session provided another opportunity to canvass opinion following the call for evidence and subsequent presentations from some of the participants.

James Mathie described the four main areas that were being explored as, “Improving the focus and funding of supporter groups to prepare for bids/increasing shared ownership; removing barriers and creating opportunities for accredited supporters trusts during the sale of clubs and within the insolvency process; formalising structured engagement between clubs and fans and improving governance and increasing fan representation.

From some workshops came a common subject regarding SLO’s (Supporter Liaison Officers) where fans discussed the importance of having SLO’s but also the significance of their work. Do club’s really take them seriously?  Are SLO’s being utilised in the right way?

The general consensus is that fan representative groups need have a bigger say and authority. Information is given to club SLO’s but clubs are not asking for it. Both SD and the FSF have asked that SLOs keep them in the loop with regards to initiatives and “wins” so that these can be publicised to bring about greater awareness of the role.

After some great speeches and workshops in the morning sessions, those in attendance were treated to lunch and invited to watch a documentary by BT Sport Films featuring Arsenals Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.  The Arsenal forward has been working with young footballers in the UK and abroad and explores the positive influence that football has on young people.

Towards the end of the day there was a closing session in the main room with a speech fro special guest Andy Walsh, chief executive of FC United of Manchester.

During Andy’s speech he spoke about the success of the #twentysplenty campaign which launched in 2013 and is set up to recognise the contribution of away fans and cap away tickets at all levels at £20 and how coordinated pressure can bring about change in the game. “We can all unite against what we don’t like, but it is another thing to put something in its place. As supporters we protect the interests of the game and also our own, because if we don’t nobody else will,” Andy passionately stated to those in attendance.

The day was closed by remarks from Kevin Miles, chief executive of FSF.

At this point I’d like to give a special mention to Jacqui Forster (SD Head of Casework & Consultation Affairs) who was presented with The Richard Lillicrap award for her hard work at SD at the SD AGM which was held the evening before the Summit.  Jacqui was rightfully given a standing ovation as she collected her award from SD chair Brian Burgess. “Unusually the winner of this was a member of the SD staff who, despite very serious health issues, continues to work and goes way beyond the call of enthuse, motivate and assist fans form and maintain trusts,” said SD vice – chair Elaine Dean.

Jacqui has been with the organisation for 12 years and was nominated by Walsall Supporters Trust.

The general feeling from delegates was very positive and it was great to see our members networking for the benefit of fans. Lets hope next year will be just as good.
More – including photos & videos – from SD here.

 

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