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Dialogue in 2019/2020

‘Dialogue creates equals of publics in relation to the organisation communicating’ (Michael Kent & Maureen Taylor)

  • Dialogue isn’t just a conversation, nor is it a negotiation, nor one side listening and the other talking. It doesn’t mean only listening to those you already agree with
  • In football, the term is now widely used, particularly since the 2015 Government Expert Working Group (EWG)
  • There are a range of different expectations and demands from fans where dialogue is concerned
  • Some want to just be able to ask the club about a match, ticketing or merchandise issue
  • Others might attend fans forums, or watch the live or recorded stream online.
  • Others are activists who take a greater interest. They are often elected to represent the views of other fans. They all require different forms of dialogue

Plenty of clubs only appear to operate Fans Forums, which whilst they are good for overall transparency & dialogue, don’t help clubs to drill down into the issues and get more qualitative feedback, nor do they help build closer relationships with groups of activists (supporters’ trusts particularly, but also ‘ultras’ groups concerned with issues like ticketing, affordability or stadium atmosphere.

We could find little or in some cases, no information for the period about regular formal meetings between fans and club that could qualify as ‘dialogue’ at several clubs: Swindon Town, Stevenage, Cardiff City, Port Vale & Macclesfield Town. This doesn’t mean that they didn’t carry out any such meetings, but we haven’t been able to find a record of them. We are aware that at least one of those clubs – Cardiff City – have begun to make sure that is happening, which will be reflected in the 2020/2021 edition.

Part of what the Index does is to follow the journey of a fan trying to find out information about how a club engages with them, and this is a problem. More concerning still is if some clubs really aren’t carrying out any formal dialogue. It raises the question of why, given that the report of the Expert Working Group on Supporter Ownership and Engagement (2015) made this an expectation if not a requirement. We’re left asking: who holds clubs to account if The EFL or Premier League don’t or won’t do it?

Some clubs are not properly using the processes of dialogue they do have to engage and consult across all relevant issues and areas of the club that concern fans and their representatives. There is a habit of ‘box ticking’. Some clubs will point to consultation and engagement on ticketing, or even guarantees that they won’t make changes to the ‘patrimony’ – colours, badge, identity – of the club without the active say-so of fans. Whilst this is clearly a big step-on from the near wild-west period particularly between the 1980s and early 2000s when clubs, the very real concern remains that many clubs still have a habit of practising ‘engagement’ at arms-length, and not seeking engagement on certain issues, presumably because the owners or officials regard those as ‘off limits’.

This raises two questions: how do you balance the legitimate interests of someone who owns the football club as a company who regards it as their right to make largely unfettered decisions about their property, with the legitimate interests of the fans who regard that football club as theirs in the moral sense? If some of the outstanding clubs in this area, for example Reading, Carlisle United, Lincoln City, Luton Town and Leicester City manage to bring fans into their decision making processes through Dialogue, why not any others?

Fans are part-time customers but full-time stakeholders, and have a very distinct form of relationship with the business (the club). At times, therefore, that will require a club that is otherwise privately owned, as many who perform well in the Index already do, to actively incorporate the views of those fans into decision-making. If the owners of a club don’t like that, then we would advise that they don’t own a football club, and instead invest their money elsewhere!

If you’re interested in chatting about the Fan Engagement Index, or what Think Fan Engagement can do for you, your club, your brand or your client, drop us a line.

Dialogue Table 2019/2020

Place

Club

Division

Dialogue Total

1

Reading

Championship

80

2

Carlisle United

League Two

75

3

Lincoln City

League One

75

4

Portsmouth

League One

75

5

Leicester City

Premier League

75

6

Luton Town

Championship

75

7

Cambridge United

League Two

65

8

Doncaster Rovers

League One

65

9

Everton

Premier League

65

10

Accrington Stanley

League One

65

11

Exeter City

League Two

60

12

Norwich City

Premier League

60

13

Grimsby Town

League Two

60

14

Tranmere Rovers

League One

60

15

Bristol Rovers

League One

60

16

Plymouth Argyle

League Two

55

17

Walsall

League Two

55

18

Newport County

League Two

50

19

Milton Keynes Dons

League One

50

20

AFC Wimbledon

League One

45

21

Wycombe Wanderers

League One

45

22

Oldham Athletic

League Two

45

23

Morecambe

League Two

45

24

Barnsley

Championship

45

25

Nottingham Forest

Championship

45

26

Rochdale

League One

40

27

Crawley Town

League Two

40

28

Brentford

Championship

40

29

Swansea City

Championship

40

30

Derby County

Championship

40

31

Sunderland

League One

40

32

Crewe Alexandra

League Two

40

33

Rotherham United

League One

40

34

Aston Villa

Championship

40

35

Southend United

League One

40

36

West Ham United

Premier League

40

37

Millwall

Championship

35

38

Shrewsbury Town

League One

35

39

Fulham

Championship

35

40

Wolverhampton Wanderers

Premier League

35

41

Manchester City

Premier League

35

42

Peterborough United

League One

35

43

AFC Bournemouth

Premier League

35

44

Colchester United

League Two

35

45

Southampton

Premier League

30

46

Brighton & Hove Albion

Premier League

30

47

Leyton Orient

League Two

30

48

Blackburn Rovers

Championship

30

49

Bristol City

Championship

30

50

Ipswich Town

League One

30

51

Tottenham Hotspur

Premier League

30

52

Crystal Palace

Premier League

30

53

Queens Park Rangers

Championship

25

54

Arsenal

Premier League

25

55

Northampton Town

League Two

25

56

Forest Green Rovers

League Two

25

57

Liverpool

Premier League

25

58

Watford

Premier League

25

59

Stoke City

Championship

20

60

Wigan Athletic

Championship

20

61

Bradford City

League Two

20

62

Huddersfield Town

Premier League

20

63

Coventry City

League One

20

64

West Bromwich Albion

Championship

20

65

Newcastle United

Premier League

20

66

Chelsea

Premier League

20

67

Bolton Wanderers

League One

20

68

Stevenage

League Two

15

69

Birmingham City

Championship

15

70

Blackpool

League One

15

71

Hull City

Championship

15

72

Manchester United

Premier League

15

73

Sheffield United

Premier League

15

74

Fleetwood Town

League One

15

75

Middlesbrough

Championship

15

76

Scunthorpe United

League Two

15

77

Charlton Athletic

Championship

15

78

Oxford United

League One

15

79

Burnley

Premier League

15

80

Cardiff City

Championship

15

81

Mansfield Town

League Two

15

82

Leeds United

Championship

15

83

Cheltenham Town

League Two

10

84

Burton Albion

League One

10

85

Preston North-End

Championship

10

86

Gillingham

League One

10

87

Salford City

League Two

10

88

Sheffield Wednesday

Championship

10

89

Port Vale

League Two

5

90

Macclesfield Town

League Two

0

91

Swindon Town

League Two

0

 

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