How open should we be?

The club and Trust are often criticised for not being more forthcoming. That’s not always the wrong approach, says Dons Trust Board member Luke Mackenzie, but perhaps we could do better.

Ronan Keating once sang that “You say it best when you say nothing at all.” And there have been times when that seems to be our maxim, as a club and a Trust. Don’t say much, and don’t be controversial. Contrast that with the approach taken by a recent visitor to the Cherry Red Records Stadium – Accrington Stanley chairman Andy Holt.

We have been watching Bury and Bolton struggling for their existence in League One. As I write this, Bury have been expelled from the EFL, though Bolton still have their heads above water (just), but we have so far said nothing on the subject.

Andy Holt on the other hand, has never been shy to share his views on the game and the EFL (have a look for @AndyhHolt on Twitter). So, I started to ponder, do we really do ourselves a disservice, and is there actually a different approach we could consider adopting in regard to communicating with our fans and members?

A personal viewpoint

I suppose I should start with one of the difficulties we face. Chairs of clubs can say what they want – after all, they are expressing a personal viewpoint. It’s unusual in any walk of life to get nine or ten people together who share the same view, and that’s the difficulty the Dons Trust Board face when we want to share our collective thoughts.

Having a stated position on something and then sharing it isn’t as simple as pressing the “post” button on a tweet. It can involve numerous email chains and conversations, and even then a conclusion isn’t always reached. But that alone doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try and communicate better.

So, what barriers are there to our communication? Commercial confidentiality is often cited. It’s why we don’t always find out the length of players’ contracts, it’s why the playing and management budgets aren’t made public, it’s why we don’t find out the profit margins on our kits.

The easy option?

But is this acceptable as a club owned by the membership? Do we just take the easy option and hide behind it? Most fans and members will want to know more, even if it’s just why these figures aren’t made public, so is it something we need to think about?

Perhaps we do ourselves more harm than good by citing commercial confidentiality, because for everything we don’t say, rumours will spread.

In the last few weeks I’ve read on social media about the severity and percentage of the cut in our playing budget, how much individual squad members are earning, theories behind signings or non-signings and – most amusingly – a conspiracy theory about why the Football Club Board want the team to be relegated.

Of course, some of those things are laughable, and most are guesswork. But why does this happen, and how can we stop it? Well, we could be brave and break the mould. After all, that’s what got us here in the first place. We could be as open as we can about everything, tell it how it is – but be in no doubt, that would bring some huge risks to our business.

Seeking members’ views

Alternatively, we could seek more views from our membership and fanbase. This undoubtedly must happen. An example of this might be our approach to the Trophy, a competition that has certainly stirred emotions. Or your views on the matchday experience – what do we, as fans, really want when we come to our games? The latter could undoubtedly help to shape Plough Lane. And there’s more, so much more.

But if I can make a plea to you, whether you think things are great or you think things are awful, please never doubt the intention on the part of the club and the Trust of wanting to do the right thing. And understand that sometimes, that right thing just might be to remain silent, even when many may think otherwise.

Of course, communication is a two-way process, and the membership will have a great opportunity to tell us how they think we should act – and I urge you to take it. Over the coming months, we will be sending out some surveys ahead of our move back to Plough Lane.

Please make sure you respond if you can and make your voice heard. Be like Andy Holt: tell us what you really think.

(This article originally appeared in the matchday programme for the game against Wycombe Wanderers, played on Saturday 31 August 2019.)