- The director themselves needs to be able to demonstrate that they have the confidence and support of the membership of the supporters’ trust, and that they listen to and engage in dialogue with them
- The board of the club needs to understand that having a fan on the board should have a cultural impact on the way the business is run, helping to be the bridgehead for Fan Engagement to become a thread woven into the business
Supporter Directors are a phenomenon that emerged in English football with the ‘supporters’ trust movement’, kick-started by Brian Lomax, the founder of the first supporters’ trust at Northampton Town FC.
Brian strongly believed that all football clubs had to be far more integrated with their fans, and that one of the ways this could be done would be through a fans organisation having an equity interest in the club, and a formal director on the board to represent their interests. This makes it a governance role: something that is part of the structure behind the running of the club.
The intention has generally been for supporter directors be elected, though over time, this has varied between election by the members and by the board of the supporters’ trust.
Over the years, this role has been found to be important in instilling a culture more responsive to Fan Engagement, at clubs themselves, as well as the wider game as a result.
However, one of the inherent risks with the role is that the role becomes itself the conduit for all fan activity, instead of being an influence on the rest of the board to create a better, more strategic approach to Fan Engagement (for example through a Strategic Fan Engagement Plan)