What I want from my football club - Part 1: Supporter interaction
The Seventy Two has canvassed the opinion of several Football League writers from a variety of different clubs to ask one simple question: what do you want from your football club? Given around 300 words to play with, there were numerous responses so we will be looking at a cross-section every day this week, beginning with the thoughts of Burnley, Blackpool and Sheffield United supporters.
Burnley by Adam Haworth
“I’ve often thought about what I want from my club, Burnley, in terms of interaction with me and other fans. Those things I want are simple things – news as soon as it breaks, insight into the club and involvement of players with us fans. Now, due to developments in technology, those few things have been partially fulfilled.
Ever since a few of our players (namely Jack Cork, Danny Fox and Tyrone Mears who have since left the club) joined Twitter, the club has automatically provided fans with increased interaction.
I cannot emphasise enough the power of social media in increasing any business’s accessibility to their customers and this certainly applies to football clubs.
After Burnley’s media manager Darren Bentley joined Twitter, many questions have been raised (and answered) about sensitive topics, including the club’s finances – a topic close to everyone who cares about the club. And this issue in particular highlights the use of Twitter for the benefit of the club – because there would be a definitive answer on these sensitive issues and therefore less negative vibes – as well as us fans who can benefit from the renewed openness.
For those less Internet-able, the programme and PA announcements provide important information and interaction with the fans. Burnley’s programme is superb. Named Claret and You (we play in Claret and **blue**), the programme won the “best match day magazine” category at the recent Football League awards. Obviously a good match day programme helps to improve relations between the club and supporters.
It’s great that the club have taken these strides towards fan interaction and I feel we should highlight the positives, despite inevitable improvements that can be made.
Blackpool by Chris Walker
At a time when Ian Holloway and his players are providing the best football seen at Bloomfield Road in a generation, you might think there would be little to quibble about for Blackpool fans. However, off-the-pitch there are a fair few concerns about the stewardship of the club, most prominently displayed with the revelation that majority shareholder Owen Oyston took a director’s salary of £11m straight out of the club in our Premier League season. This large chunk of cash being directed out of the club’s funds, coupled with slow progress in developing a lasting legacy from the riches of the top flight, leaves a sour taste in the mouth.
However, what exacerbates the off-field issues further is a distinct lack of communication. Public relations at the club are virtually non-existent and chairman Karl Oyston almost seems to revel in treating supporters with utter contempt. When the team are performing so well, it should be easy for the club to provide good links between themselves and the fans, but communication between the two sides is probably at its worst in the last 20 years.
As fans it feels as if we are being taken for granted with no transparency or openness from the club. The majority of supporters are right-minded people and will be more understanding when decisions are rationally explained, but there is little sign of this happening. Good communication costs very little, and if the football club could actively engage with its fans, it would surely be beneficial for all involved.
Sheffield United by Ian Rands
What do I want from Sheffield United? I want honesty and communication. Am I getting it right now? Well, to an extent, yes. It is better than it has been, but there is still plenty of room for improvement.
It has been a turbulent last 18 months following United, with a number of disastrous decisions, culminating in significant financial losses, four managers, a high turnover of players – particularly on loan – and relegation to League One. All this followed the launch of the much vaunted ‘The Blades Way’ which was never properly explained, but appeared to be an over-arching manner of operating and communicating that has since disappeared. Perhaps unsurprising given that The Blades Way led to relegation.
The club’s communication lines do appear to be improving, with fans’ forums occurring on a sporadic, but more frequent, basis and a fans communication group formed, although little output is seen, never mind change on the back of it. The last few months has seen the club trying to develop social media channels. Unfortunately, they appear to be a one way communication tool and on match-days it has become depressingly corporate, plugging various club sponsors. The old foibles still exist. An email to the club asking for its support and blessing for a #twitterblades Player of The Year award goes unanswered nearly a week later.
With a turnover of £16m falling £2m short of the Cost of Sales figure (which includes players’ wages), the move towards meeting financial fair play and away from relying on subsidisation by Kevin McCabe and his companies will be both turbulent and painful. In those circumstances, with star players on substantial wages, the club will need to set fans expectations carefully, even if promotion is achieved. The fear is that if they can’t do the basics well, how will they manage the communication around such contentious issues? Will they be clear and honest on the club’s financial position and implications in terms of playing staff over the summer?