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BST response to BFC's "Seasiders Together" charter.

for Blackpool Fans, our Club and our Community



All,


This response has been sent to the club today and consists of BST members feedback and the thoughts of the BST Committee.


We look forward to future dialogue to help improve the process for all involved.


SEASIDERS TOGETHER:  BLACKPOOL SUPPORTERS TRUST RESPONSE

 

 

Overall summary

 

•   we are pleased that the club acknowledges that it has to address the issue of fan engagement, with an implicit recognition that it needs to do better in this area

 

•   looking to the future, the club clearly recognises that legislation is coming and that it needs to anticipate it, and be seen to be doing so. But key features of the Government White Paper like democracy and accountability do not feature strongly here - if at all

 

•   we feel the club has to offer a much greater level of detail about what the purpose of the strategy is. Offering a “voice” and promising supporters will be “heard” is very vague

 

•   we are concerned at how little real control over the strategy is being delegated to supporters. The Fans Panel will have membership and composition determined by the club, as will the Stakeholder Panel  (more on this below)

 

•   we were especially surprised that the section on the Recognised Fan Groups was published when the criteria for involvement are still not settled. The very narrow focus on membership numbers only is disappointing - there is far more to some of our long-standing Supporter Groups than mere numbers  (see Annex B)

 

•   we do not understand where the Stakeholder Panel fits in. The club has listed a range of partners here that does not include the most important one of all - namely the fans.  If it sees this consultation group as being separate from those for supporters, we would question why it has been included in the strategy at all. It reads like an afterthought

 

•   perhaps the most disappointing aspect of the proposals is the near invisibility of the club’s Board of Directors. The only group which is guaranteed access to the Board is one that the club proposes will not include supporters. We cannot see how that can be justified as being a progressive approach to fan engagement

 

•   our view is that the club is proposing a lot of activity here with many moving parts. But there is no explanation of how those parts fit together, or which will be judged the most important. Nor has the club offered any thoughts on how it will measure the success of this initiative

 

•   we are disappointed with the levels of access  on offer here. The club are proposing to grant greater access to the club to fans that THEY have appointed than they do to representatives of supporters who have been democratically elected. Again, we are not sure how this can be justified

 

Finally, we are concerned that there might be a sizeable gap in the plans for engagement. Any fan who :

 

-     does not wish to be included in the Fans Panel

-     is not a member of a Supporters Group

-     is not a season ticket holder

 

appears to have no obvious right of access to the club except via the annual survey. This falls short of current standards set by the EFL and we are sure is not something you intend

 

 

Conclusion

 

•   we think there is still a lot to do to make the strategy fit for future purpose

 

•   the proposals for fans fora and the survey are a good basis to work from, albeit we have some questions about both

 

•   we feel that the proposals for the three different modes of engagement with fans and others are confusing, incomplete and it is not clear what overall purpose they are designed to serve

 

•   there is very little delegation of control to supporters. In our view, fan engagement should be driven largely by fans ; and this strategy does not deliver that

 

 

Comments on the detail of each section of the strategy are set out in separate Annexes below.

 

Annex A : Fans Panel

 

 

•   the self-nomination process : how will it be assessed? Who by? What input will Recognised Fan Groups and members of the Stakeholder Panel have to the process?

 

•   choice of categories : how has the list been arrived at ? Why is it solely for the club to determine? Can recognised fan groups and members of the stakeholder panel make suggestions? If so, how will they be assessed, and who by ?

 

•   why have the club concentrated exclusively on demography? Could they not invite fans on the basis of professional skills and experience?

 

•   why is the initial  process one of appointment, and not election ? Should fans not have a role in choosing who represents them?

 

•   the language is very confused throughout this section ; at various points self nomination, appointment and re-election are all mentioned and it is unclear what is specifically being proposed.

 

•   how long will the self-nomination and assessment process take ? Can the club guarantee that the membership and their remit will be agreed by the beginning of the 2024/25 season?

 

•   why is this group guaranteed three meetings per year, with named job holders? The language used here is more specific than elsewhere, and this group is being offered more access than other groups. Why?

 

 Annex B : Recognised Fan Groups

 

•   the lack of membership criteria for these groups is very unfortunate - as it is precisely the information that most groups will feel they need

 

•   why have the club published the strategy  without this crucial content, of direct interest to all the fan groups?

 

•   the absence of this key information means the entire section lacks transparency….

 

•   …. which in turn makes the overall process very hard to assess

 

•   how will the application process work? Who assesses it, and is there a right of appeal? If yes, who to?

 

•   criteria for selection : only Membership numbers are mentioned. Why?

 

Other possible criteria :

 

- democratic status

 

- rules based, or not

 

-     named officers, or not

 

- historic significance (see below)

 

•   future legislative requirements - how will these be factored in ? (e.g. legacy issues which may be named on the face of legislation)

 

•   should future licensing conditions set by a Regulator  specifically address fan engagement, how will this be managed?

 

•   why only 1 or 2 meetings per year? This compares unfavourably with the access offered to the Fans Panel ; and seems inadequate for long-standing, historic groups such as Yorkshire Seasiders, BASIL and Leyland & Chorley Seasiders. These three groups have offered steadfast support to the club for decades ; being possibly reduced to one meeting per year with an as yet unnamed group of officials seems a poor reward for their loyalty

 

•   overall, the club’s entire focus seems to be on engagement through set-piece meetings ; in our view this would be inefficient, and unlikely to get the best results for club or fans

 

•   the proposed “benefits” that are on offer to the various supporter groups are uninspiring. You must be able to do better than a mention on the club’s website, the use of a club logo and the right to vote in polls that nobody has asked for. We would be happy to discuss this with the club and with other groups

 

•   we obviously cannot speak for other supporter groups. But we think most if not all of them want a continuing dialogue with the club - not an occasional audience. The whole section covering Recognised fan Groups  is thoroughly unsatisfactory, as there is little clarity about what is on offer, or how it fits with everything else

 

 

Annex C : Stakeholder Panel

 

Having strong relationships with external partners is obviously important for ANY football club, and especially one that is currently contemplating big investments in the club’s physical infrastructure. It is right that the club puts senior management effort into this.

 

All that said, we are perplexed by the decision to include it in a supporter engagement strategy,  as we do not think it really belongs there.  What detail has been offered is, in our view, likely to raise more questions than there are answers, and we have listed some of them below.

 

 

•   why is this the only group named as getting access to the BFC Board ?

 

•   why is there no mention of fan groups - the most important stakeholders of all?

 

•   how can membership be by appointment ? Surely external organisations will self nominate, or be invited?

 

•   what is the role of our award-winning Community Trust ? They are not specifically mentioned, but to our mind are vital in making some of these key relationships work

 

•   in this context, what is meant by “long term projects” and “non-footballing matters” ? Can you give examples?

 

•   how will fans (in groups or not) be kept informed of the work of the Stakeholder Panel?

 

•   how do the Fans Panel and the Recognised Fan Groups interact with the Stakeholder Panel? How can  they affect the nature of the work that it does?

 

Annex D : Supporters Fora

 

We are very much in favour of these ; they generate interest, and are the main way in which those fans who are not members of any supporters group can talk directly to the club. They should be as unstructured and free flowing as possible, with fans setting the agenda at least some of the time.

 

We have some questions :

 

•   why only one per year guaranteed?

 

•   who sets the agenda ?

 

•   can recognised fan groups take part, for example to address attendees on key issues?

 

 

Whatever format the club adopts, it should be as transparent as possible. In our opinion, this means that meetings should be live-streamed to anyone who wants to take part in that way. A recording of the meeting should also be published on the club website for the benefit of anyone who wants to watch it at their leisure.

 

All Supporter Groups have been asking for this level of transparency ever since Mr. Sadler took control of the club. The club’s reluctance to provide it is difficult to understand and is doing damage to its standing with non-aligned fans who feel they are being excluded. The launch of this new strategy is a good chance to put that right.

 

Annex E : Supporters Survey

 

Again, this is a welcome offer and we very much support it. In our experience, it is a very effective  way to take the mood of fans on a range of topics. Our questions are:

 

•   what sort of topics will these focus on? 

 

•   who determines what these are?

 

•   who will design them?  (BST have a good deal of in-house expertise in this area and would be delighted to help)

 

•   what role will the Fans Panel and Recognised Fan Groups have in the above?

 

•   how will the surveys feed into the work of the various tiers of engagement ? How will this be assessed?

 

 

BST

February 15th 2024

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