Publishing Reports from Fan Engagement Meetings

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Key Insights

  1. Remember the culture of football and the expectations of fans. Trust is something that was in short supply for many years, and is still a relevant issue for many fans. And clubs are institutions that have been around for years precisely because of fans
  2. It’s not just football: wider business has far greater expectations on it these days too, and has to be far more open and transparent 
  3. Go for openness first. That doesn’t mean publishing your left-back’s salary, but you’ll find it a much less restrictive way of looking at the issue

Reporting on fans parliaments or board-to-board meetings in particular can require some thought.

Very often, these relationships are established because the club (and groups) have acknowledged that a more focused relationship is required, perhaps one that permits discussion on more controversial or delicate issues such as the budget.

No-one should dismiss those concerns. Football clubs have struggled with the expectation that they should be more open with information and its distribution after years of the complete opposite being the case. A lot of information also becomes public by default (transfer fees and wages for example) as it leaks out through various channels and is spread by social media. There is also the more general pressure on companies and organisations to justify more of what they do to customers, stakeholders, regulators. As consultants PWC say:

“Both private companies and public institutions now attract much greater scrutiny. They’re expected to explain their business practices, disclose key relationships, justify their remuneration models, discuss their succession plans and make a wider contribution to society.”

Even still, many of those who enter football will probably not be used to the expectations of transparency that now exist in the game, and especially exactly why this is the case in the specific case of football.

Many of the expectations come from the many breakdowns of trust which saw the creation of supporters’ trusts and huge, related increase in activism by football fans to protect their clubs – and in many senses to protect and reinforce the integrity of the game in more general terms.

At the heart of almost everything a supporters’ trust does sits a concern for issues around governance and transparency. None of this should be discounted.

When you’re planning your meetings, what you can discuss, and what you can publish, we would encourage clubs to try to adopt a ‘yes first’ approach to sharing information. Instead of thinking “what can we tell them?”, flip it on its head, and ask “what can we absolutely not tell them?”

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