22/23 Fan Engagement Review: The Premier League

Even though fixtures are out, the season is finally over, Europe is done and dusted, and the focus turns to the fan engagement year in The Premier League. If you want to read more about what happened in the EFL Championship, League One and Two, go back to the news pages and you’ll find them there.

Arsenal Supporters Trust have been involved in meetings with the club regarding ticketing. Ticket arrangements for the 23/24 season have recently been announced and there some benefits being introduced that the trust specifically lobbied for. These include increased resources to tackle ticket touting, reducing the number of games mandatorily included on the season ticket and more support for young people with an increase in concessionary benefits.

These changes just serve to highlight the impact that supporters’ trusts are able to have when given both a chance and proper channels with which to engage.

The Trust at Aston Villa were involved in the first ever Fan Advisory Board meeting which was held on the 20th April. There were a number of fan representatives in attendance and club officials at the event included Chief Executive Officer Christion Purslow (who has since announced that he’s departing) and Chief Operating Officer Paul Tyrrell.

The topics under discussion ranged from the results of the recent Holte End survey, rail seating and season ticket pricing.

Fulham Supporters Trust have been busy with a campaign in the wake of the expensive season tickets prices that were recently announced. The #AffordableFulham campaign seeks to share a myriad of the messages they have received from supporters, and explain the direct impact these price rises will have. 

There is a very real fear the loyal, long-term supporters could be priced out of going to Craven Cottage in future seasons which would negatively impact the sustainability of the fanbase. Previously the Trust have tried writing an open letter to owner Shahid Khan, discussion via their regular meetings with the club and Chairman’s representatives, interviews in both written and televised press and an opinion piece in response to a Shahid Khan interview in the Times. Despite this, Fulham have not changed the prices –  hence the #AffordableFulham campaign. 

Spirit of Shankly and Liverpool entered into a new era of fan engagement with the launch of their Supporters Board. This board will work with Liverpool on strategic issues that could affect the future of the club such as long-term plans, ticketing strategy, improving equality, diversity and inclusion and influencing Liverpool’s decisions off the pitch.

The Supporters Board also carries a veto on existential matters of importance such as joining a breakaway league or moving away from Anfield. This power of veto is written into the clubs’ Articles of Association which means that even if there is a change of ownership the club could not move away from Anfield without supporter agreement. A really positive step in terms of fan engagement.

The Supporters Board will meet with the Liverpool Board once per season and the Liverpool Executive Committee three times per season. You might also be interested in the report TFE’s Kevin Rye did for Spirit of Shankly a few years before on Liverpool’s fan engagement.

Nottingham Forest Supporters Trust have recently released the first of a two part interview with the Chairman of the club, Nicholas Randall KC. Questions came from both Trust members and the wider fanbase with part one of the interview covering topics such as the performance of the club on its return to the top flight, current roles and responsibilities of senior staff, club finances and financial fair play, recruitment strategy, commercial activities and sponsorship, season ticket renewals and pricing and redevelopment of the City Ground.

Part two was due to be filmed and released following the final game of the season. This will cover academy plans, improvement of facilities, away ticketing, building on success of the women’s team, future of fan dialogue, community work and lowering the club’s carbon footprint.

In April the ticketing team at Tottenham Hotspur Supporters Trust met with Spurs’ Head of Ticketing and Head of Supporter Engagement for a session in which key issues namely match day pricing, season tickets and seat relocation were discussed.

Moreover, the Trust has welcomed the creation of a Fan Advisory Board (FAB) and has agreed to take up the two allocated seats on the board. They have agreed to review the effectiveness of the FAB in twelve months’ time.

There have been some positive steps taken in terms of fan engagement in the Premier League this year. However, you would have to suggest that it is still not nearly enough. The transparency on display from Nottingham Forest in particular is very pleasing to see, and schemes such as the Supporters Board at Liverpool are a move in the right direction. 

Despite this, we can see from examples such as Fulham that in some instances, being heard doesn’t necessarily mean things change.

Both the new Fan Engagement Standard (FES), and of course the new Independent Regulator for football, will help to improve fan engagement at  Premier League level, especially given that the FES was endorsed by all clubs in the top flight. It’s now time for that to translate into long-term change.

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