A view from the Supporters Summit

Board member Kris Stewart reports on the recent Supporters Summit held at Wembley, which was attended by several Dons Trust Board members. This article originally appeared in the Dons vs Shrewsbury Town matchday programme on 9 August 2014.

Exciting times, eh? Another season back in the Football League, some very encouraging signings, and we’re looking the best we ever have for actually getting home. I hope our achievements together make you as proud to own our club as they do me.

What have your elected representatives been up this summer? As reported in the Chelsea programme, a lot has been going on, and it’s been a particularly busy time for those assisting in the New Stadium Project. One event that has become a fixture of the summer break is the annual meeting of the national organisations we belong to – Supporters Direct (SD) and the Football Supporters’ Federation (FSF).

This year’s “Supporters Summit” was a couple of weeks ago at Wembley – not the best venue, but it was free, the FA presumably feeling a bit guilty. Jane Lonsdale, Zoe Linkson, David Growns and Matt Breach went on the Saturday, and Dons Trust secretary David Hall and I were at the “Community-owned clubs” meeting on the Friday. I also followed Saturday’s proceedings on the live stream, and these are my thoughts, with some input from others.

The big thing on the Saturday morning was a video message from current FA Chairman Greg Dyke. He was one of the architects of the Premier League breakaway, and recently he proposed further damage to the English football pyramid with his ludicrous “League Three” idea. The Trust board commented on this on the official website (“A response to the England Commission’s report”, posted on 9 May). You can watch Dyke’s video here – my favourite part is where he talks about being a fan himself and talking to other fans, illustrated with clips of himself on a yacht off the coast of Brazil.

Dyke is sticking to his League Three proposal, whereby the League competition we fought so hard to get back into (after his organisation allowed the theft of our League place) would be downgraded to provide opposition for Chelsea’s reserves. He also acknowledged that the FA Council is completely unrepresentative of the game and of modern society. He even accepted that supporters aren’t represented as we should be. He didn’t make any proposals to change these things, mind. There was little if any mention of lower-league, non-league or grassroots football. Many of those in the room seemed hugely unimpressed.

Over the course of the weekend, delegates made their own suggestions for improving the game. Supporter- owned clubs from Congleton to Portsmouth talked about how we can work together more closely. There were discussions about commercial opportunities and lobbying for improvements in governance, regulation and tax law.

What else? Well, we learned from the Tottenham trust how well they involve young adult members, and Jane in particular will be following up on that. The FSF debates on ticket prices are of interest to us, though “twenty’s plenty” for away fans in the Premiership might indicate some massive budget cuts in lower leagues, which no-one is ready for. Protecting club identity might seem like something we don’t have to worry too much about – compared with Cardiff City and Hull City fans, at least. But there were warnings from others that all supporters need to stay on their guard. Like other clubs, we depend on sponsorship and gifts for a proportion of our income. The donors may not ask for much. They may not ask to be chairman, or to change the club colours, or to move the ground. But they may make requests which over the years have the cumulative effect of changing something important about our club – and that is what we need to guard against. And finally, Zoe will be bringing back some lessons on supporting and promoting diversity.

All in all it was an enjoyable and informative event, and one I’d encourage more to get along to next time. To find out more, send an email to info@thedonstrust.org or come and find any board member on a match day (ask at the Dons Trust gazebo).