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Fan Engagement: The Big Picture in 2021/2022

Fan Engagement: The Big Picture in 2021/2022

Welcome to the Fan Engagement Index 2021/2022.

First of all, as always, we have to say thanks to the hardworking and dedicated staff working across football in Fan Engagement roles, wherever you are. Whatever you do, whether it’s dealing with enquiries on a matchday, administering supporters’ boards, leading fans forums, whatever your role, thank you.

Despite the progress made over the four years since the Fan Engagement Index launched, fan engagement very much remains the Cinderella service of football. I know that through a multitude of anecdotal conversations and evidence, that too little time and money is spent on this most critical of functions. There is a change in the air with the changes adopted as a result of years of pressure from fans, and progressive clubs themselves making the case, but the change needs to be across the board.

As we also do each year, it’s also worth pointing out just because a club is doing well or badly in the league, or its ownership or administration is popular, or unpopular, it doesn’t necessarily follow that it’s good or bad at engagement. There might be problems in one area of the club, but it’s quite normal that fan engagement staff are working at full tilt, delivering week-in-week-out. That’s why the Fan Engagement Index exists: to ensure that we have the full picture.

We talk about this on the Fan Engagement Pod, and the weekly newsletter is a must for those who want to keep up with what’s happening.

The Independent Regulator becomes a reality

Who could forget that in April of 2021, the owners of six Premier League clubs announced their intentions to join a closed shop European Superleague. There’s no point restating what’s already been said. Safe to say, this was a daft scheme, cooked up for a handful of clubs to make more money out of football than they already were doing.

And so, after the period covered by this year’s Index in November 2022, Tracey Crouch MP’s report recommending an independent regulator for football made it past the same staging post that fellow Tory David Mellor’s Football Task Force reached in 1999. Except unlike 1999, when there was a lack of political will and The FA, Premier and Football Leagues managed to bury the recommendation, that will not happen. Tory and Labour, one in government, the other the most likely alternative, are both in agreement, the white paper has been published. It’s happening.

We’ve been supportive of the review and ultimately, persuaded of the need for an independent regulator. If nothing else, it’ll challenge and disrupt the complacent attitude of too many, and importantly, empower those who want to do the right things. That includes, of course, proper fan engagement and transparency.

The Premier League Fan Engagement Standard (FES)

The Fan Engagement Standard (FES) was introduced by the Premier League in November of 2022 and has been brought in to reinforce Premier League club’s pledge to making sure that there is long-term purposeful engagement with supporters. It was clearly pre-emptive as a measure designed to address valid criticisms, but welcome nonetheless. Clubs are now in the process of deciding what measures they want to introduce, with the deadline to notify the league fast approaching. It’ll be interesting to see how this affects the Fan Engagement Index ratings in the future, and also how this is affected by the establishment of the regulator.

Sustainability Index

We have also granted the campaigning organisation Fair Game, made up of clubs and other allies, permission to incorporate the Fan Engagement Index into their new Sustainability Index, a metric for measuring financial sustainability good governance, equality standards and fan engagement. 90% of the metric for engagement is made up of the Fan Engagement Index score.

The Sustainability Index like the Fan Engagement Index, is a way of demonstrating good practice in football, and we agree should ideally form the basis of some elements of financial redistribution in the game. We’d urge you take a read.

This year’s Fan Engagement Index – algorithm is published

We have taken the decision to publish the algorithm in full from this year. In the past, we didn’t publish this part of the Index that breaks down the scores and explains exactly what each element receives. The reason was nothing sinister, simply that we had decided not to at that stage.

Since last year, we’ve discussed the algorithm (the scoring system) with a number experts and academics, including Christina Philippou at the University of Portsmouth, and Chris Wynne at UCFB Wembley, who provided some useful input that has justified the confidence we have in the Index. As a result, and with a few minor tweaks (though one significant change to Twitter dialogue – see below), it’s now in the public domain. We’re certain that this can only reinforce the Index’s position as the only substantive, and leading industry-leading metric on Fan Engagement.

Twitter accounts scoring change

There is one major change to this year’s scoring that will affect some clubs, which is that we now score the same points for all Twitter accounts who engage in dialogue. This means that whether a club runs a Supporter Services ‘Help’ channel or an SLO channel on Twitter, we score it the same. We felt this was a fair adjustment, given that the function of the SLO and a supporter services department, team, manager (or similar role) was essentially the same when it comes to listening on social.


Sidney Wise & Kevin Rye