Friday, October 19, 2012

Your game needs you

What do Scottish football fans want?

Ask 100 people. Get 99 different answers.

We're not short of opinions. Events this summer showed that there are times when clubs are forced to listen.

Too often though clubs feel able to ignore the paying punter.

Partly that's the arrogance of a game that wants to run itself as a business while ignoring its "customers."

And partly it's because the channels for constructive communication between fans and clubs have simply not existed.

It's too easy for chairmen and chief executives to write off forums and social media sites as a playground for the overly opinionated or the crazily disaffected.

They latch on to the most extreme views, claim the tail is wagging the dog and give themselves an excuse to ignore anything that might be considered constructive. And there is a lot of constructive opinion out there.

And those fans with something constructive to say might be about to find a collective voice with the launch of new initiative from Supporters Direct Scotland.

A 'Fans Parliament' is to be launched across Scotland giving fans of every club a vehicle to air their views - and have those views collected and reported to Scottish football's overly complicated governing bodies and the Scottish Government.

Launched at the Scottish Parliament yesterday the initiative builds on the recommendations made in the McLeish Report that fans were recognised as key stakeholders in the game with a role to play in shaping the future of Scottish football.

The author of that report, Henry McLeish, said:

"It has been a unique year for football fans in Scotland, on a local as well as national basis, with ordinary fans’ voices being heard loud and clear in a way they’ve never been heard, or listened to, before. Now there is a drive and determination to ensure that the momentum that was gained isn’t lost.

"The new 'Fans Parliament' initiative will provide a platform for fans to continue the debate in the knowledge that it will be reported back to the Scottish Government and to the organisations running football in Scotland."

Fans will be encouraged to get involved through a series of roadshows, at matches, using social media and at www.scottishfans.org.

Paul Goodwin, head of Supporters Direct in Scotland, said:

"Fans voices are being listened to more than ever before and we know that in recent months there has been an unprecedented debate about the game in Scotland.

"Through Supporters Direct Scotland fans have a direct route into government and policy makers and we want the new ‘Fans Parliament’ initiative to be the conduit for the debate and discussion between fans across the country and, in effect, be the voice of Scottish football fans.

"As an organisation funded by the Scottish Government we have the ability to present supporters views directly to them as well as to the SPL, SFL and the SFA. Talks have already started at Hampden Park looking at how we formalise this relationship with the governing bodies."

An interesting scheme this. Football fans are not a homogeneous bunch. I've probably got no more in common with the chap who sits next to me at Easter Road than a shared love of Hibs and some subconscious masochism.

Our views on the future of our club probably diverge. Our views on the future of Scottish football almost certainly do.

Football fans don't necessarily do consensus.

So surveying fans, pulling together those opinions and turning those findings into something positive and focused enough to influence the SFA, SPL and SFL is likely to be a mammoth undertaking.

Not an impossible undertaking though. And a very worthwhile one.

I've met with some of the people involved and I can vouch for their enthusiasm in seeing this through.

And given that most of us should agree that a sustainable future for Scottish football is an absolute must, there is common ground to build on.

There's also a simple message for the men stalking the corridors of power at Hampden and ruling clubs like their own private dominions.

140 years of autocracy has got us where we are today.

There has to be a better way.

The first roadshow will be held in Edinburgh on 28th October with Pat Stanton and Gary Mackay in attendance.

Register by email: roadshows@supporters-direct.org with your name and date of birth.

www.scottishfans.org