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Looking At The 2019 Supporters’ Summit

Date: 24th June 2019

On Saturday I attended this year’s Supporters Direct Supporters’ Summit

This summer’s event was held at the Oriam in Edinburgh. It was a great venue and I can definitely see why our national sides use this complex before their big games as it seems to have everything they’d need under one roof. 

As usual the summit had terrific speakers and a lot of it was looking Scottish Fan culture. 

First up was Supporters Direct Scotland chief executive Alan Russell. Alan was giving us a lowdown on what would be happening during the event and making sure we all knew that it was interactive and we could question all the speakers. 

The first speaker was Dr Richard Purves, who is a research fellow that’s currently researching the experiences football fans in Scotland & England have with alcohol. We were told about the current regulations regarding alcohol and football and why/when they were introduced. 

He stated that it’s a three year project and only kicked off in February. Already evidence suggests that fans in both countries want to see alcohol reintroduced into football stadia. As well as speaking to fans and supporters trusts, Richard said that the project would also conduct interviews with the main stakeholders in our game. He said they would also reach a stage where they’d give a certain amount of supporters cameras to video their experience regarding alcohol during game days. 

Richard also said that they are looking for more people to get involved, so you can follow their progress on twitter @Alcohol_FC.

It was a great discussion and highlighted to me, once again, that we need to have a more public debate regarding reintroducing alcohol to certain football games. 

Up next was David Alexander from FansBet

David gave the room a talk about how FansBet give back when you bet with them. Not directly back to you the punter but to the football club via different fans’ initiatives like fan media, community trusts and general club improvements. They won’t hand over cash to line the pockets of board members, instead it will be used to help the club and the local communities. 

Mr Alexander also stated that FansBet wouldn’t wish to sponsor a team’s kit but would look at putting the money forward to have a club’s trust or charity adorn the strip. That’s a great idea, in my opinion. 

I know that giant gambling companies are becoming an issue within our game as they attract the vulnerable but it was nice to hear of a company willing to give back to football teams and support good fan causes. 

Paul Smith then took centre stage to discuss the great Tartan Sunshine Appeal (@TASA1999). 

I’ve followed the Tartan Sunshine Appeal for a while on twitter but this talk gave me more of an idea on the fantastic stuff they do. Essentially they donated to children’s charities in every country in which the national team visit to play in an away game. They’ve not missed an away encounter to help a charity in that country since 2003! 

It once again proves that football can be an excellent tool for good and that these Scottish football fans are heroes. It was also interesting to hear that the SFA are always willing to help the charity, if they can! 

We then had a speech from Killie Trust (@TrustInKillie) member Andy Millar

I hadn’t realised that the Killie Trust had been going for as long as they have. Andy was very honest and stated that it had been a long struggle to get recognition. To establish such a trust takes a lot of effort and money and you also need to find a way to convince a team’s board to start a discussion with you. 

Andy did say that it was all worthwhile after they finally got a member onto Kilmarnock’s board in 2018. He said that Cathy Jamieson has been a wonderful first fan representative on the board. It was great to hear that things are a lot better for Killie fans both on and off the park! 

The last speaker of the afternoon was John McBride from Police Scotland. Mr McBride is a Police Match Commander for Glasgow’s four stadia. 

It was clearly that this was the talk that everyone in attendance was most looking forward to and John started by saying he’ll answer all questions put to him, even if we didn’t like the answers. 

I found it interesting that the Police aren’t in control inside the stadium but the clubs or the associations are until something like a pitch invasion happens and then control gets signed over. Hence why there’s often more police outside a stadium rather than inside. 

The talk got a bit sidetracked by the tactical debate surrounding the use of police horses. John said he preferred to use 10 horses, I thought to myself that surely 11 would be better for a football game. 

The police officer said that while drinking and sectarian singing are still problems, he felt that the biggest threat for him was the pyros that were being set off inside grounds and I agree with that. John said that he told someone in UEFA that they shouldn’t use pyros in their glamour games as it sends out the wrong message. 

John McBride was true to his word and answered any question thrown at him, He stated that Police Scotland wanted a better relationship with fans and that actually his worst experience of trouble in a ground came at a Stone Roses gig at Hampden. 

All in all I thought the summit was great. Once again I was disappointed by the attendance as I really think so many more fans would’ve had a terrific, insightful day had they come down to the Oriam. 

Hopefully more will turn up to the free event next year, I for one will look to promote it to as many potential attendees as possible. 

 

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