Board members Brian Mertens and Tim Hartley attended a meeting of supporters’ trusts in Birmingham last week to discuss joint campaigning across the Premier League. Eight teams, including Chelsea, Liverpool, Arsenal and Swansea, were represented and we discussed a whole range of issues of interest to fans.
Chelsea’s Ross Mooring talked about how by coming together the Chelsea Pitch Owners Group challenged Roman Abramovic’s attempts to buy them out of their own ground. They forced a vote which they won in a campaign bringing fans together to protect the heritage of the club.
Ann Marie from the Aston Villa Trust wants us to come together to campaign for a return of Safe Standing at grounds and told us about the electronic surveying they had done at Villa. There was unanimous support at the meeting for clubs to be able to choose whether they bring back some form of terracing and we told them how we have got our club to agree to support a pilot study of Safe Standing.
Tim Payton from Arsenal discussed their work to ‘educate’ the fanbase on issues of football governance and finance. He agreed it sometimes feels like a subject for anoraks but says that supporters need to understand how our clubs are run and who actually owns them. We also talked about how Trusts engage with younger groups and whether we should be part of groups like Stand for Football (formally Stand Against Modern Football.) Liverpool for example has worked with the club to get younger fans involved in running ‘roller’ flags across the Kop before kick-off.
The Spurs Trust discussed how they represent supporters to the Club board. They see their role as effectively a ‘translator’ or intermediary on match day issues, which creates a relevance for those fans who might not always see the point of a Trust. I am glad to say that we have at last had our first meeting with the Cardiff chairman, Mehmet Dalman, and we are looking forward to making a presentation to his board to explain what the Trust is and what we do.
Brian and I were asked about the change of the kit colour last season, the way that the Club had gone about it and the hardening of our members’ opposition to it. The proposed changes at Hull and Everton were also mentioned. The ‘football family’ is agreed that such changes should not be able to be made without any consultation with fans.
Neil Springate talked about Fulham’s successful campaign in 2002-03 (Back to the Cottage) and the very political nature of it. There was a huge level of engagement with the local councillors, residents and others showing the need for intelligent political engagement on the part of trusts. Jim White from the Jacks told us how they had pressed for reciprocal deals on away ticketing and the ‘Twenty’s Plenty’ campaign for £20 away tickets. This is a campaign that we as a Trust have pushed with the club and I think we have some good results to show for it.
Following the meeting we were able to find out from every Trust what colour shirt they wear away from home. It was no surprise to learn that not everyone wears the primary shirt colour as often as possible. We were able to use this information in recent our meeting with the Cardiff chairman and lobbied him for the team to wear blue whenever possible at away matches.
Supporters Direct will be sharing ideas on how we engage with younger fans and is collating information on ticket pricing. We will also be pushing the Premier League to define what they mean by a ‘structured relationship’ with fans groups. The role of the Supporter Liaison Officer will be monitored as there is a danger that clubs are paying lip service to the role as envisaged by UEFA.
These meetings are a great opportunity to share experience and make contacts. As they say, ‘Mewn undod mae nerth.’ ‘Unity is Strength.’