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The Changing Face of Supporter Representation in Scottish Football

Date: 5th April 2017

A Guardian article titled ‘The English can stop sneering at Scottish football now’ published on the 12th of March received a warm welcome among followers when shared via our Twitter account. The piece by Kevin McKenna summed up and articulated a growing frustration at some sectors of English football focused media who have recently put down and dismissed the quality of Scottish football – but the arguments are wrong and the comparisons unfair.

As was evidenced by another of the Guardian’s writers, David Conn, at our 5th Annual Supporters Summit on the 19th of March, despite sharing a border, financially English and Scottish football are worlds apart. Despite this, Conn framed the narrative positively, pointing to the increasing amount of supporter involvement in Scottish football. Whether this has come about because of financial situations at clubs or from a position of strength and through proactive work from clubs, authorities and supporters, Conn’s speech pointed to Scotland now being well advanced in terms of supporter involvement and ownership in their clubs’ governance and running.

This is well illustrated through the recent example of Motherwell FC converting to fan ownership status with fellow Premiership side Heart of Midlothian and Championship St Mirren having also structured deals to join them over the coming years. It points to a positive future whereby Scottish supporters can have a direct influence in the decision making processes within their clubs, something Supporters groups in England face a bigger barrier in on account of the higher costs of attaining a meaningful shareholding.

The Supporters Summit also saw the launch of our 6th Scottish Football Supporters Survey, offering fans the genuine opportunity to have their voice heard within the formal governance structures of the Scottish game. Through the annual survey and our place on the Scottish FA’s Congress as supporter representatives, we’ve developed a mechanism through which supporters can have their say on a range of issues, from player development to league reconstruction to discrimination. Following last year’s record breaking survey, the biggest consultation of supporters in Scottish football to date (pictured), results were fed back to the Scottish FA’s Professional Game Board and results shared with clubs. This year, fans, clubs and other stakeholders have also had opportunities to feed into the questions they’d like to see feature, helping ensure the survey is a resource and offering tangible insight and benefits to decision makers.

Encouragingly, recent months have also seen the appointment of a number of new Supporter Liaison Officers who we’ve worked in partnership with the Scottish FA with in developing a network of to share best practice with and assist in upskilling. Through the SLO role, fans should have a clear point of contact within their club who works towards building relationships and communicating viewpoints to one another. We look forward to our next Development Day where we will welcome Malmo FF’s SLO Pierre Nordberg (the focus of a recent BBC feature on Sweden’s approach to quelling fan disorder) and learn how the SLO role is delivered across Europe.

Supporters are central to the social and financial vibrancy of any football club and the benefits of further involving them are unlimited and include improved relationships with fans at club and national level, greater insight into supporter view points and financial benefits from increased attendances, merchandise sales and sponsorship deals as fans feel closer to the club.

Football is by definition a cooperative activity: one that relies on the coming together of financial capital, human capital and social capital. More than any other group supporters make long term capital commitments to their club. Nowhere is this more true than Scotland where a recent UEFA Benchmarking report showed that Scottish supporters make a greater financial contribution to their clubs’ revenue than in any other member country. Their contribution merits representation at all levels – something that is starting to bare fruit.


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