Workshops ran in two separate time slots (12.05pm-1pm, 2.30pm-3.30pm) with four running at any one time:
12.05pm-1pm (first session):
Away Fans Matter – they’reat the sharp end when it comes to ticketing, policing and the cost of travel. We’re beginning to see the benefits of Twenty’s Plenty which has saved travelling fans £649,000 since its inception and more clubs do “get” the importance of away supporters. What next for this campaign? And how can you get involved. Panel: Garreth Cummins (FSF), Martin O'Hara (Deputy Chair, FSF). Post-event notes:
- Garreth Cummins (FSF) opened the Away Fans Matter workshop with a worrying statistic – the number of away fans attending games all across the league was decreasing, and had been for a few years. Away Fans Matter was set up to champion the away fan, whose contribution to a football match is vital.
To compile data and opinions in a more empirical way than anecdotal experiences, the FSF had started getting fans across the country to fill out an Away Fans Feedback Survey. Around 10,000 fans have supplied information, a stark contrast to the distinct lack of a voice that away fans had just a few years ago. The survey and resulting data allows fans to engage more directly with clubs, giving the FSF a real platform with which to try and improve experiences for them.
The survey ranged from questions about how fans travelled to games to more subjective things like their motivation for attending and overall experience. A member of the audience pointed out that a fan’s experience is surely affected by the result, but Garreth said that only 4% of those surveyed had listed likelihood of victory as a predominant reason for their attendance.
Furthermore, scores were relatively repeatable year on year: the clubs with ‘bad’ or ‘good’ records were awarded similar scores by different clubs’ fans. These are the sort of statements that empirical data allows the FSF to make, again enforcing their ability to liaison with clubs.
The results compiled by the FSF were striking. As Alfio Sciacca of Tifosy put it: “It was really interesting to see how clubs that rank top in the league can rank poorly when it comes to hosting an experience for away fans”. The top seven clubs for away fan hospitality were currently outside the Premier League, while some of the country’s biggest clubs (Chelsea, Manchester United etc.) did rather poorly. It was pointed out by an audience member that this may be because the richer teams have to care less – fans will turn up to their games regardless. For clubs in the Football League, attendance is a far bigger proportion of their total revenue.
You can see last season’s Away Fans Survey results here – more detailed feedback is also available to clubs and FSF affiliates.
- Expert Working Group on Football Supporter Ownership and Engagement was launched by the Government in 2014, to try and remove barriers to ownership and engagement. The full report is due in November - both the FSF and SD sit on the panel - and this workshop will look at progress to date. Panel: Kevin Miles (FSF) and James Mathie (SD). Post-event notes (via Co-operative news):
There was also a report from the Expert Working Group on Football Supporter Ownership and Engagement, which was launched by the coalition government in 2014 to try to remove a number of barriers. Kevin Miles (FSF) and James Mathie (SD) looked at the progress made so far, ahead of the full report which will be published in November.
One notable success for the Group so far is a change to insolvency rules, announced in June, which reduces some barriers to a supporter ownership bid. Now if a club goes into insolvency, they must speak to the supporters trust within 15 days. The new rules have also given more power to the administrator.
The final report will focus on four areas, said Mr Mathie: improving the focus and funding of supporters groups to prepare for bids/increasing share 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.
But Mr Miles said the realities of the politics of the process had to be taken into account. ”There are some strong recommendations coming out that will be taken seriously,” he said, “but everything out of the group must be consensual – we have to get the best we can that merges with consensual agreements […] There’s a lot of support at the central league level – and a lot of caution at individual club level.”
- Fans for Diversity is the FSF’s joint campaign with Kick It Outwhich tackles perceived barriers to live football. The campaign has established schemes to encourage young Asian fans along to matches, promote disability football and cultural events between supporter groups.
- Panel: Anwar Uddin (FSF)
- Venue: Park Lane
- Tales from the terraces - Supporters' trusts and groups have always tried to work in partnership with their clubs. We hear from those who have stories to tell of achievements at their club, and tales of woe. The contrasts can be stark but the lessons are of value to us all.
- Panel: Jacqui Forster (SD)
- Venue: The Senate
2.30pm-3.30pm (second session)
- Another way - a different route to success will look at clubs who dance to their own rhythm. Merthyr Town and FC United of Manchester both won promotion this season, but they’ve won as many accolades for their performances off-the-pitch as on it. SD look at how off-field success can translate into a winning first team.
- Panel: James Mathie (SD), Mark Evans (Merthyr Town) and FC United of Manchester
- Venue: Park Avenue
- Making fans heard - Countless decisions are taken throughout the season that affect fans – whether it be kick-off times, heavy-handed policing or reduced ticket allocations. We want to see more fans engaged with Safety Advisory Groups, influencing things for the better.
- Panel: Martin Cloake (Tottenham Hotspur Supporters’ Trust), Dale Haslam (Manchester United Supporters’ Trust / Reds Away), Chief Superintendent Carl Krueger (Merseyside Police)
- Venue: The Executive Suite
- Pride in Football - The LGBT fans’ movement continues to grow with support from the FSF and Kick It Out. In 2014, a national network was established for the first time under the Pride in Football banner. Find out more about that work in this session. Panel: Chris Paouros (Proud Lilywhites), John Browne (Canal Street Blues), Di Cunningham (Proud Canaries). Post-event notes:
- The ‘Pride in Football’ movement is relatively young – it was only born as a national network for LGBT club groups in 2014. The workshop, headed by Chris Paouros of Proud Lilywhites and Di Cunningham of Proud Canaries, split itself into two parts. The first focused on the aims and successes of the movement as a whole, while the second challenged the audience to imagine how these aims might be achieved and what that would look like.
Since the first LGBT football club group ‘Gay Gooners’ was started, there has been an increase in the number of such groups around the country. And justifiably so: if the average attendance of a Premier League football match is 36,083, there would be (based on a more universal homosexuality incidence rate of about 6%) 2,000+ LGBT fans at every game.
The continued prevalence of homophobic language and abuse within football has created an aura of sexual insensitivity that Pride in Football and Kick It Out cooperated through a ‘Football vs Homophobia’ campaign to help solve, galvanizing LGBT fans to change their particular ecosystem one step at a time.
“What would a perfectly equal and inclusive football match look like?” asked Chris, “And what would help create this end?” The audience was split into groups and tasked with finding the answers to these questions. On the prior, a footballing utopia was imagined: home and away fans sat together like in other sports, LGBT fans attending was in no way abnormal to their own community or others, and fan interaction was based on mutual respect rather than malicious schadenfreude. Players who were themselves LGBT were perfectly comfortable to be ‘out’ and embraced their status as societal role models.
How this could happen? Much depended on creating a less hostile environment for both fans and players, so that LGBT people could be equally comfortable on the pitch and in the stands. This would take education and reform, perhaps even on a constitutional level – one suggestion was that emulation of the Bundesliga’s 51% fan ownership model would shift the main concern of a club’s board from corporate profit to the fans’ experiences and interests.
At the end of the workshop, each of the participants pledged a way in which they could directly further the ‘Pride in Football’ cause, such as setting up an LGBT group within their own club or supporting an already existing one. Through engaging the average fan and crowdsourcing activism in such a way, the movement will continue swiftly on its path to an equal footballing utopia.
- #ShareTVWealth - Ticket prices protests show no sign of abating with the Premier League’s £5.14bn domestic media deal a 70% increase on the previous package. How can fans ensure some of this money is spent reducing ticket prices and supporting lower league/grassroots football? Find out more about the FSF’s #ShareTVWealth campaign.
- Panel: Kevin Miles (FSF)
- Venue: The Senate