Matthew Breach, Chair of the Dons Trust Board, reports on the annual conference for football fans held this year at Wembley in July.
The Supporters Summit, an annual event jointly organised by Supporters Direct and the Football Supporters’ Federation, was held this year at Wembley on the weekend of 16–17 July. The venue was provided free of charge by the FA, in a rare example of generosity to the fans’ movement.
The event usually follows a similar pattern. The first day is designed to be of general interest to fans from a very wide range of clubs, with presentations, workshops and an exhibition consisting of stands hosting football-related businesses, followed by a social event on the Saturday evening.
The second day is more focused on supporter ownership, with workshops on subjects of interest to trusts that already own their clubs or are working towards owning them, followed in the afternoon by the AGMs of the FSF and SD.
This year Jane Lonsdale and I represented the Dons Trust Board, and the AFC Wimbledon contingent also included DT member Tim Hillyer, who is on the board of the FSF. After proceedings opened with a moving tribute to the late Brian Lomax, Kevin Miles, Chief Executive of the FSF, highlighted some of the successes of the year for the supporters’ movement – including our play-off win just six weeks previously.
The keynote address is always of interest as it features a key member of the Football Governance structure giving a speech on the state of the game. I last attended the summit in 2014, when the address was given by Greg Dyke via a video link from a yacht in Rio harbour just before the opening game of the FIFA World Cup. As you can imagine, his lecture on how the introduction of B teams into the Football League would improve the England national team, because “that was all that was important”, went down very badly with those not luxuriating in Brazil!
While some of his suggestions were equally poorly received, at least this year Ian Lenagan, chair of the newly rebranded English Football League, attended in person, giving fans the chance to question him. His speech was a curate’s egg as far as fans are concerned: commitments to much greater fan engagement and support for safe standing were positives, but the introduction of academy teams into the Checkatrade Trophy (formerly the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy) and eliminating FA Cup replays to allow a winter break were not greeted with enthusiasm by those in attendance.
The summit then split up into a number of workshops for the rest of the day. Jane presented a well-received paper at a session on supporter-led campaigns which outlined our Bring The Dons Home campaign on behalf of the DT and all the BTDH volunteers.
Meanwhile, I attended a session on fan culture (at which some good ideas were put forward by delegates from Spurs and Brentford that we could incorporate into our new stadium) and a session on a new concept from SD which looked at rating clubs on how supporter-friendly they are.
The Sunday sessions were very interesting as the tables were largely turned, and we spent a fair amount of time passing on our experiences of running a club to several representatives from other trusts which were either just starting out on that road or were seriously looking at taking over their club.
The final session for us was the SD AGM, where I’m pleased to say it was confirmed that Tim Hillyer was elected to the SD Board as representative of the FSF; congratulations to Tim, and we look forward to strengthening our relationship with both these bodies.
This article originally appeared in the matchday programme for the game against Bolton Wanderers, played on August 13, 2016.