The Supporters Summit 2017

Board Member Jane Lonsdale reports on this year’s Supporters Summit, hosted jointly by Supporters Direct and the Football Supporters’ Federation and held at St George’s Park over the weekend of 1 and 2 July.

The annual two-day Supporters Summit is a great opportunity to learn more and to network with members of other supporters’ trusts. The sessions I attended included ones on clubs in crisis, preventing child abuse in football, and ticket pricing in the EFL.

Clubs in crisis  With speakers from Blackpool, Leyton Orient and Coventry City, the discussion focused on the effect of unsuitable owners and what the football authorities could do to provide regulation. I left the session thinking how lucky we are right now that we are fan-owned. However, we must never become complacent and never think “it won’t happen to us” (again)!

Child abuse in football  There were only a handful of us present at this session, and more women than men (very different than normal at a football conference). The key speaker on this difficult subject was an abuse survivor who is telling his story to raise awareness. He was accompanied by two lawyers specialising in the subject who explained the legalities and the inquiry currently being led by the FA. I have since been in touch with our club’s safeguarding officer, Frank Thompson, to tell him about this session. The message was clear: we shouldn’t assume that it is a single, designated person’s responsibility to ensure the safety of young people at our club. We all have a role to play, whether as a board member, a fan, a parent, an academy coach or a welfare officer.

Ticket pricing in the EFL  Amazingly, there are 52 separate price points for away fans in the Championship alone! Our club charges away fans the same as it does home fans (£24 for a seat in the John Green Stand, and £17 to stand on the Rygas Terrace). Not all clubs do the same, though, and the Football Supporters’ Federation (FSF) is going to put together a proposal for creating a level playing field for away fan pricing.

On the Saturday evening there was a showing of the short film Wonderkid, followed by a Q&A session with its maker, Rhys Chapman. This thought-provoking and, in my opinion, brilliant piece of film deals with another difficult subject – homophobia in football. It is available to watch online, and I would recommend it to all. I am investigating whether the club could put on an open showing of Wonderkid.

The AGMs of both Supporters Direct (SD) and the FSF were held on the Sunday, covering appointments to their boards and resolutions. Tim Hillyer attended both AGMs, and voted on our behalf at the FSF meeting. Also on Sunday, I joined representatives from other trust-run clubs at a meeting run by SD, where we learned from each other, and shared advice and ideas on best practice. SD also showed us their new online platform, which is similar to the Dons Trust Webjam.

Overall, I had an interesting couple of days working on behalf of the Trust. If you would like more information on the summit, please email me at jane.lonsdale@thedonstrust.org. If you are a member of the Trust Webjam, you can go there to read my blog on the event.

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