It has long been recognised that Professional Football has become a big business. However, unlike other businesses, supporters are much more than customers.
Supporters are central to the social and financial vibrancy of any football club. A fundamental difference between football clubs and many other organisations is the strength of relationships that exist between supporters and their clubs, and the enduring nature of those relationships. Football is by definition a cooperative activity: one that relies on the coming together of financial capital, human capital and social capital.
Enhancing supporters’ involvement in their clubs governances provides an opportunity for clubs to maximise the potential returns (financial, human and social) of supporters’ on-going capital investments. To that end it is important that clubs have a full understanding of how supporter involvement may be beneficial to them.
Many clubs already engage successfully and regularly with their supporters in a variety of different ways but the opportunity to enhance supporter involvement in football clubs is important to many supporters who want greater accountability and an opportunity to play a more active role in supporting their clubs.
At an instrumental level, seeking to improve relationships with any organisation’s key stakeholder can only be beneficial to that organisation’s performance. Greater supporter involvement provides the potential for a club to better understand its supporters and to better leverage those relationships in furtherance of its financial, social and community objectives.
More inclusive governance would not only align more closely with the underlying nature of football clubs but would also provide a structure though which improving relationships between clubs and their supporters could be prioritised, in turn ensuring clubs are best placed to maximise their financial and social performance.
Sometimes marginalised and excluded from their clubs, supporters should be at the heart of their football clubs and by enhancing their level of involvement supporters and clubs can mutually benefit, contributing to making the clubs more financially sustainable and socially vibrant.
These benefits include:
• Improved relationships with fans at club and national level
• Direct communication channels
• Greater transparency
• Greater insight into supporter view points
• Financial benefits from increased attendances merchandise sales and sponsorship deals as fans feel closer to the club.
The majority of reasonable, responsible supporters should be taken more seriously because they are the major long-term ‘cultural investors’. Involving them and their feedback in decision-making processes will help clubs make better choices.