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What do we mean by supporter engagement?

It is about clubs, the FA and the Leagues all listening to fans, acting upon their concerns and giving them a permanent voice when decisions are being taken that affect them

Is that not the same as supporters rights?

There is of course an overlap. But there are many aspects of what clubs and football authorities do that does not fall under the definition of supporter rights. It doesn’t mean that they are not important. Nor does it mean that supporters should not be able to have their say about them and influence how they are handled.

Why is this important?

Strong engagement with fans is a key part of the relationship with them. When done well, it helps place clubs at the heart of the local community; it helps footballing authorities to win confidence and trust.

So how is it going at the moment?

The FSA view is that the picture is very mixed. Some very good work has been done for instance on Structured Dialogue, which is more regular and in-depth than what happens in some other countries. The clubs setting the pace are very good indeed.

However, standards are very inconsistent across clubs, Leagues and footballing bodies. At present, there is no proper mechanism for measuring this, or ensuring that overall standards are driven by the “best in class”. What the individual fan gets by way of engagement is still something of a lottery.

What are the FSA asking for?

A pretty thorough overhaul of the whole area. Specifically:

•    an early assessment of how widespread reported problems really are, that involves everyone with a stake in the process

•    a review of the role of the Supporters Liaison Officer (SLO). This is hugely effective when done well, but standards are patchy and the role could probably be strengthened

•    better, more inclusive arrangements for consultation at the club level, possibly scrapping initiatives like the Fans Parliament and Fans Forum in favour of Fan Advisory Boards

•    big improvements at the national level, covering dialogues between the FSA and Leagues, extended to take in the FA, the National League and the Women’s Game

•    as covered elsewhere, supporter representatives on the Board of the various Leagues AND the FA

•    more fully funded training for supporter representatives, managed through the FSA

•    the whole area of engagement to be placed within the purview of the new independent regulator

July 2021

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