Tottenham Hotspur & the Spurs Trust
- Don’t view independent supporters’ groups as opponents when they can be great allies
- Don’t be scared to share confidential information
- View the fans as representatives of stakeholders, not as part of an amorphous blob of ‘fans’ that you see every home match
The relationships between fans representatives and the board or owners of a club can often be the most difficult to navigate. In some cases, such groups can be viewed with suspicion by those running clubs: why would people organise in this way unless their role is to undermine or criticise? Why should one group be preferred over another? But that isn’t the case at all clubs.
Another major issue in these relationships – particularly where they struggle – is ‘confidentiality’. This word is one almost baked into the football industry, and it sometimes isn’t as necessary as it can get presented. Perhaps it comes more from tradition than necessity. Simply calling for agenda items, and publishing minutes on time and regularly, are elements of transparency and openness (as well as the actual content of the minutes and issues discussed, of course) that are vital to effective Fan Engagement.
The board of Tottenham Hotspur FC have managed for around seven years to have a strong board-to-board relationship with the Tottenham Hotspur Supporters Trust. Not only that, the relationship has gone through the entire period of time where White Hart Lane was being planned, developed and delivered. These times are a challenge for any football club, but for one with the profile of Spurs, an arguably bigger challenge, with the development taking in the development of a much wider area around White Hart Lane, and its impact on the community.
Three times a year, the elected board of the Spurs Trust meet with Chairman Daniel Levy, Executive Director Donna Cullen, the Head of Supporter Services, Head of Ticketing and Membership, and the club’s Safety Officer, and they cover issues ranging from financing, ticketing and travel, to stadium and local issues with transport. Importantly, minutes are published within 72 hours of the meeting taking place, and a general call to all fans is put out by THST for any issues that they want raised.
It creates a process that reinforces the relationship and the seriousness with which the club takes it. It also means the trust’s role of bridge between the fanbase and senior management/ownership is being respected. Those things matter. Although there will always be discussions about whether clubs are for example revealing enough information, having the relationship in the first place is at the very least the starting point.
It’s our experience that for a really effective relationship, it takes two to tango, and THST have established a reputation as an effective representative for fans, but in the case of Tottenham Hotspur FC the club are clearly content that the relationships brings important insights to them.
If you want to read more about the relationship between Tottenham Hotspur FC and the Tottenham Hotspur Supporters Trust, go to the THST website, where you can find the minutes under ‘Board to Board’.