Supporters’ Direct Annual Conference Round Up
The Annual SD fans weekend in Chester on the 15th and 16th of July proved to be a very interesting programme of ideas and aspirations for Supporter Trusts and the Supporters Direct movement.
SD Chairwoman Dame Pauline Green greeted the assembled delegates and introduced the new Acting Chief Executive Brian Burgess, with whom many Supporter Trust members are familiar from his previous work with Bees United and his time served on both the Board of Brentford and SD.
Tom Hall (Head of Policy and Development at SD), Jim Brown (Baker Brown Associates) and Adam Brown (Substance), outlined the key points from the SD Briefing Papers dealing with ‘Financing Supporter Community Ownership’ and the ‘Business Advantages of Supporter Community Ownership in Football’
Jim Brown’s presentation drew from information centred on a two year project looking at community issues. From a football supporter’s perspective it touched upon the usual issues of Football being dominated by the wealthy few who are not constrained by financial fundamentals and revenue spending far outstripping revenue income. The issue of the lack of equity capital and too much loan capital was described as being expensive and short term and that was felt to inevitably place control in the hands of the lender, leaving clubs to be stripped of their physical assets (land, property) and loaded with intangible assets (players, brand). Some stakeholders (star players, star managers, agents and some owners) are extracting huge fortunes from the game and meanwhile fans are paying the price directly (match day), or indirectly (media subscriptions).
After these initial discussions, delegates from England, Wales and Scotland and representatives from 11 continental European nations (Belgium; Denmark; France; Germany; Greece; Ireland; Israel; Italy; Portugal; Spain and Sweden) came together to discuss a variety of issues, including UEFA’s Financial Fair Play regulations; the ongoing development of the Supporter Liaison Officer role; and Europe-wide campaigning strategies.
At the end of the conference the 170+ delegates reflected on the state of play of the supporters’ trust movement, and what the future may hold. This session featured a discussion, and speeches from SD’s Acting Chief Executive, Brian Burgess, and two special guests: Mark Bradley (The Fan Experience Company) and William Gaillard (Senior Adviser to Michel Platini at UEFA). William spoke positively about the relationship between SD and UEFA and of the impact Supporters Trusts were having on the game. He spoke about how clubs across Europe had different models of ownership and the concerns felt by Michel Platini, the President of UEFA, “that at a time when the owners, managers and players, the advertisers and sponsors, are all foreign, the only element left that is local and loyal are the fans”. William went on to say that EUFA were looking to have “more transparency, predictability and sustainability in a game that was not going in that direction”. He was very encouraging of the efforts of supporters’ trusts and the work carried out by Supporters’ Direct. You can see his whole presentation at http://www.slideshare.net/suppdirect/chester-sd-w-gaillard