Trust chair Tim Hartley reports from the Fans Conference held in London
Supporters Direct and the Football Supporters Federation held a joint conference in London over the weekend.
Trust members from all over the UK heard the journalist Gabriele Marcotti make a plea for financial transparency at football clubs describing them as ‘social and community trusts’ rather than simple commercial businesses.
Mr Marcotti said that clubs should publish the wages of every player and employee like they do in the United States and, he said, that this had not led to wages inflation. He said access to information about clubs would allow fans to scrutinise them properly, a job which the media does not always do.
Marcotti also posed a good question: ‘Where did you first see your team play? On TV or live?’ Most of us oldies would say we first saw the Bluebirds play at Ninian Park, but there is a fear that if football becomes purely a television sport then we could lose that all important family and community link that makes the game so special to us.
The new Sky deal offers the Premiership a golden opportunity to secure the long term future of the game right down the divisions rather than further line the pockets of players and agents, but will they seize that opportunity.
Another session at the conference heard how the new Supporter Liaison Officer roles have proved crucial in improving relationships between fans and clubs across Europe. In Sweden fans themselves act on a part-time basis as liaison officers on match days. Every club will have its own answer to how this will work and we look forward to seeing how Cardiff moves ahead with this UEFA initiative. Delegates also heard from Show Racism the Red Card and from clubs who had bought their clubs through community share schemes.
The Supporters’ Trust movement goes from strength to strength. There are now 176 trusts across the UK with 31 of them owning their clubs. The next couple of weeks will show whether the government really does mean to take the reform of football seriously. A parliamentary inquiry reconvenes this week to discuss the football authorities (the Premiership, Football League and the FA) approach to ensuring financial transparency and fair play and supporter engagement.
Malcolm Clarke of the FSF says that if the authorities themselves will not act then the government must legislate.
Trust members were kept updated through twitter during the conference – #fansweekend @CCST1927