Kevin Rye

Think Fan Engagement (TFE) was founded by Kevin Rye, an expert in Fan Engagement & the relationship between fans and clubs, and creator of the Fan Engagement Index. He’s got years of experience working on campaigns, club crises, structured dialogue, fan engagement and governance with fans, their representatives, clubs, leagues, governing bodies & other stakeholders and companies in football and sport in England, Europe and beyond. You can find out exactly what he’s done by going to his timeline (below).

He also teaches on the Football Business and Media undergraduate programme at UCFB, Wembley, holds a post-graduate Diploma in Public Relations, specialising in the relationship between clubs and fans, and is a member of the CIPR and fellow of The RSA.

Go to 2001-2002 AFC Wimbledon/WISA/The Dons Trust activist/committee member/adviser.

Go to 2004-2015 Supporters Direct & SD Europe (former Head of Policy PR)

Go to 2015 onwards Think Fan Engagement/independent consultant

2001-2002 AFC Wimbledon/WISA/The Dons Trust

Kev cut his teeth in football on the Committee of the Wimbledon Independent Supporters Association (WISA), during the period where Wimbledon fans were fighting to prevent the franchising of their club to Milton Keynes. WISA was also the body largely behind the setting-up of The Dons Trust, and in 2002, AFC Wimbledon. He was first Publicity Assistant, then Publicity Officer. He also spoke publicly on behalf of the reformed club in Summer 2002.

2001/2002

  • Establishing press and marketing strategies to oppose the move of Wimbledon Football Club to Milton Keynes
  • Commissioned & oversaw ICM Research Opinion Poll that proved overwhelmingly that residents of Wimbledon & Merton Borough wanted Wimbledon Football Club to return to Merton
  • Part of the team coordinating the response of organised supporters (WISA, The Dons Trust) to the proposals and to build a case for the return of the club to the London Borough of Merton
  • Established WISA lobbying campaign at Westminster
  • National media spokesman for AFC Wimbledon
  • Delivered training session ‘how to work with the media’ for supporters’ trusts/groups/activists at Supporters Direct national conference at Birbeck College (University of London)

2004-2015 Supporters Direct & SD Europe (former Head of Policy & PR)

Kev began working for SD during the period of chaos caused by the collapse of ITV Digital, taking on the communications role, as well as doing casework. He helped establish SD as a force in English football, and subsequently supported its expansion into Europe via SD Europe. He eventually became its Head of Policy and PR.

  • Established tens of new supporters’ trusts in English and European football, advising them on structured dialogue with their clubs
  • Part of the team that established SD Europe as a voice to argue for greater fan involvement in European football
  • National/International spokesman for Supporters Direct/SD Europe
  • Advised The EFL, Premier League, National League, The FA, UEFA, European NGBs and leagues on dialogue & fan engagement
  • Regular expert guest in the media on fan engagement, structured dialogue, football finances and governance
  • Training football clubs and supporters’ trusts in PR and media strategy
  • Advised investigative journalists at Panorama, Dispatches, File On 4 and other major football finance/governance and football corruption documentaries

2004-2005

  • Coordinated Supporters Direct’s media response to the All Party Football Group report on English Football and its Finances
  • Advised CFU & Cambridge United FC on club’s financial crisis
  • Worked with fans and insolvency practitioners at Wrexham AFC to reverse sale of Racecourse Ground
  • Worked with GLA members to re-establish Culture & Sport Committee’s investigations into the loss of football grounds in London
  • Coordinated Supporters Direct’s media response to the Glazer takeover of Manchester United
  • Advised FC United of Manchester on their establishment & running press day for match versus AFC Wimbledon
  • Part of the team advising York City on their return to majority private ownership

2006-2007

  • Advised board of Cambridge City FC & supporters’ trust on financial crisis & ground sale
  • Advised Southampton Football Club directors/Chairman on structured dialogue and Fan Engagement strategy

2007-2008

  • Advised the Chairman and board of Notts County FC on ownership and communications strategy/fan ownership
  • Advised fan director & supporters’ trust at Luton Town FC on their role during financial crisis
  • Advised Liverpool fans on the separate establishment of Spirit of Shankly, AFC Liverpool & and Share Liverpool initiatives & their relationships with the board of Liverpool FC
  • Advised the board of AFC Bournemouth Supporters Trust on their control of the club

2007-2009

  • Part of the team that carried out the feasibility study into the establishment of SD Europe 

2007-2015

2009-2010

  • Worked with Spirit of Shankly and Share Liverpool to coordinate their work & eventually merge the two
  • Advised Chester fans on club reformation; worked with FA regulatory team on the reformed Chester FC’s league application, including subsequent successful appeal for higher placement
  • Worked with insolvency practitioners, supporters’ trust, Welsh FA, English FA to place the reformed Merthyr Town FC back in the English football pyramid
  • Part of the team that advised Chesterfield FC on their return to majority private ownership
  • Advised Crystal Palace Supporters’ Trust on financial crisis at Crystal Palace FC

2010-2012

  • Worked with the League of Ireland and FAI to integrate the voice of fans in Irish football
  • Worked with UEFA to develop fan engagement and structured dialogue
  • Advised groups and clubs on structured dialogue, ownership and fan engagement in Poland, Denmark, Spain, Italy, Germany, Russia
  • Advised the board of Cork City FC on ownership and fan engagement
  • Worked with Irish football fans and clubs on national lobby of the Irish government/Dail/TDs
  • Advised the board of Anorthosis (Famagusta) on ownership and fan engagement
  • Advised the board of Aris Thessaloniki FC on ownership and fan engagement
  • Worked with the board and fans of Bohemians (Dublin) to save the club
  • Advised fans of Al-Ahly (Libya)
  • Established SD Europe’s first presence in the former Yugoslavia (Zagreb) and advised other fan activists in the Balkans
  • Part of the team that delivered the successful takeover of Wrexham AFC by Wrexham Supporters Trust
  • Worked with government departments to introduce Asset of Community Value legislation & ran campaign to encourage football clubs to become listed under the Act
  • Wrote and executed the PR/media relations strategy for Wimbledon’s first match against Milton Keynes
  • Established and ran the Premier League group of supporters’ trusts & coordinating national approach to campaigns
  • Part of the SD Europe team that created influential report ‘Heart of the Game – Why Supporters are Vital to Improving Governance in Football’. Helped run related Europe-wide lobbying campaign
  • Project Manager for SD Europe’s ‘Improving Football Governance through Supporter Involvement and Community Ownership‘, an EC funded project in eight European Countries

2012-2015

  • Coordinated Supporters Direct’s external relations strategy on the financial crisis at Portsmouth FC with the club & Pompey supporters’ trust
  • Part of the team that delivered the successful takeover of Portsmouth FC by the Pompey Trust
  • Commissioned independent ICM Research poll – the most comprehensive ever – demonstrating that 77% of football fans in England ‘want formal consultation on changes relating to their club’
  • Worked with Premier League Supporters Trusts and the Football Supporters Federation to establish campaign to lower away ticket prices in English football
  • Worked with the EFL & Coventry City Supporters Trust on the crisis at Coventry City
  • Advised fans of Hereford United on club’s ownership crisis & asset stripping
  • Advised Fulham Supporters Trust on establishing structured dialogue with Fulham Football Club
  • Worked with the Welsh Assembly government, AMs, fans & clubs to develop football policy
  • Coordinated successful dual listing of Anfield and Old Trafford by Spirit of Shankly (Liverpool) & Manchester United Supporters Trust
  • Coordinated national football policy with Labour, Cooperative, Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties, including with Damian Collins (ex-CMS Committee Chair)
  • Advised Tottenham Hotspur Supporters Trust on their relationship with the board of the club
  • Advised Everton fans on their relations with the club & shareholders association & establishing the Everton Supporters Trust
  • Advised Newcastle United Supporters Trust on their relationship with Newcastle United FC
  • Coordinated external relations strategy for SD Scotland
  • Part of the team helping to reform Hereford FC

2015 onwards Think Fan Engagement/independent consultant

Kev struck out on his own in 2015, first as a consultant, then subsequently through Fan Insights, now Think Fan Engagement, gaining particular notoriety for challenging clubs and the wider industry to improve its Fan Engagement via the creation of the Fan Engagement Index.

He works across the industry, and also with commercial and other organisations interested in marketing their fan-related services to clubs. He also continues to maintain good relationships with many of the activists in the game, in many cases continuing to provide support and advice to various groups. 

2015-2017

  • Advised the owners of Dulwich Hamlet on fan engagement and overall property development strategy for Champion Hill stadium, working with Andrew Howard MD of Hard Hat/BECG (the biggest built environment communications consultants in the UK)

2015-2018

  • Coordinated Olympic Stadium Coalition of supporters trusts, MPs, GLA AMs & civic society organisations to develop proposals for fair rent of the Olympic Stadium by West Ham United

2015-Present

  • Advise multiple football clubs on structured dialogue and fan engagement

2017

2018

2019

2019-2021

  • Worked with Fan Engagement teams at Everton and Leicester City on fan engagement case studies

2021

2020-present

  • Advising Rugby League Super League clubs on structured dialogue, fan engagement and fan-facing communications
  • Key adviser on the establishment and strategy of the Fair Game UK campaign
  • Established the Fan Engagement Pod, interviewing CEOs, club chairs, Fan Engagement strategists, and communications experts in the field of Fan Engagement

2021

2021-2022

  • Established the new SLO Team and SLO strategy at AFC Wimbledon
  • Establishing & overseeing trial of BulbShare‘s World leading audience/fan engagement platform trial at Doncaster Rovers FC

We’d also like to recognise the help and support of so many people who helped us get off the ground, and have provided valuable insight and expertise along the way. Thank you in particular to Dan McGeachie, Olly Deed, Oliver Holtaway and Edward Anderson.

And to Brian Lomax and Jacqui Forster: you really were Inspirational. Your legacy lives on.