This past week or so has seen the Supporter’s Trust achieve significant profile on the back of its ‘Stop The Moaning, Get A Loan In’ initiative, and the obvious success of the scheme to date.
Phil Sumbler, for JackArmy.net, recently interviewed Paul Morris about where the Trust is today, and his role in it. Last Friday, Nigel Hamer covered more than a reasonable amount of column space in the Evening Post, as the Trust announced the total to date of monies received from the public. There was a time when the Evening Post seemed more than a little reluctant to promote the Trust’s efforts, so maybe the change of personnel in Adelaide Street is proving beneficial.
Add to that the radio waves that have been eaten up by Trust spokespersons over the weeks, and no one on the inside could complain that they are not being given adequate exposure in some form or another.
There does, however, seem to be one consistent thread to the articles, interviews and comments from many of the Trust Board members, and that is one of disappointment, aimed constantly at three groups. Firstly the members, and the poor level of involvement against the battle cry of ‘Get Involved, Be Involved’, secondly the business community, and their reluctance to take up sponsorship and donation opportunities in any significant way, and finally the fans, for the low membership numbers against the hardcore fan base.
Maybe if we look at these three issues, and then consider some of the responses and quotes, that have appeared recently from the Trust, we could throw some light on a few possible answers, or at least give a few suggestions of where to start looking. I do not want to track back on the Trust’s history in its first year, as that has been well covered in many places, and all the successes highlighted. I just want to focus on certain comments that have been made recently, and areas that the Trust may have overlooked in their search for ways to overcome the current disappointments.
Generally at the moment, there is an expectation from within the Trust that everybody should contribute to its well being, and consequently that of the club’s, either through membership, sponsorship and advertising, or donation. The lack of understanding why EVERY fan isn’t a member is beyond some of them, and the assumption that every fan should be is beyond me I’m afraid. Is that level of expectancy realistic or even fair.
In all walks of life, the level of membership of any organisation is, I would be fairly certain, quite low in relation to the participants in the given activity. It’s almost a fact of life, that within any membership, those who could be classed or considered as active would again be fairly modest in number. That is where the Trust is today, and it is very possible that things may not change that dramatically.
We were lauded as being one of the largest member Trusts in the League, and yet our attendances (the ‘hardcore’) would have to be quite some way down any list, so other clubs must be doing far worse in their conversion rates. Banging the drum constantly over this issue is not recruiting more members, but in fact turning many off. It is the same ‘I can’t understand why they won’t join’ attitude, which came to the fore in the recent interview with Phil Sumbler.
‘I remain disappointed at the level of Trust membership in that as fans we tend to boast about our “hardcore of 3500 or so fans “. ………………. I don’t think that it’s naive of me to believe that membership numbers should, at least get near to the “hardcore ” numbers we brag about………… Sadly it appears that it needs a crisis to make people join or take interest.’
I was told around the time of my involvement with the Trust that the most successful trusts in the country were generally those at clubs with the biggest headaches. The fact is that people will rally in times of crisis, and we just have to accept. We need to keep thinking of ways to attract more without the attitude that they SHOULD join.
To my way of thinking, if you say you support the Swans, you should be prepared to become a member of the Trust. There ARE no arguments against it. The trust is Pro Swans, the fans are Pro Swans ergo Fans should be Trust members. I’d be interested to hear of a good reason NOT to be a member if you claim to be a fan. !!!
I cited ‘mistrust’ and ‘apathy’ before but there are some people who are just plain bloody minded and wouldn’t join if you gave membership away free but one recurring theme is also “can’t be bothered”. When it gets to that stage what can you do?
Paul Morris JackArmy.net interview, November 2002
I do not think that this approach will ever be successful.
How many of the non-member fans that have responded to the ‘Get A Loan In’ appeal have been granted or offered a year’s membership on the back of one of their weekly £5 contributions. It would seem to be an ideal way for the Trust to boost membership, and give themselves a chance to demonstrate the benefits to these new members over the next year, when they will hopefully rejoin.
Next let’s look at the issue of corporate involvement with the Trust. Again there seems to be a level of expectancy that because it is the Football League club that is in need of cash, everyone should rally round. There a hundreds, no, more than that, thousands of businesses in this city and its surrounding areas, so why would they want to part cash to, what is, just another local business. Is Swansea City Football Club the only struggling business in the area, of course not?
So why not ask the successful ones to hand over charitable contributions to all ailing businesses? Would that seem a ludicrous suggestion? Yes we know it would, but what is the difference? Many businesses, if they failed, would have a far greater effect on the local economy than the football club, so if we do want businesses to get involved and support financially, surely there has to be a more professional way to do it, something that generates business for them, and attracts them to return with their cheque book next year and the year after.
We are disappointed that the business community generally have so far chosen not to become involved, lets hope they do when they realise what the supporters have contributed to date.
(Nigel Hamer, Trust Treasurer, Guest Book 16 November 2002)
The matter is now being addressed though as the loan scheme developments will have highlighted, with local businesses already approaching the Trust with sponsorship enquiries.
(Paul Morris, JackArmy.net)
Maybe the Trust could let us know which of these statements is more accurate?
‘I know that critics will say that we don’t give people enough info, but how much info to do you actually need just to join?(Paul Morris, JackArmy.net interview). ………….because if you were (a member) you would have known the percentage of our shareholding in the Club through our Newsletters. (Nigel Hamer, Trust Treasurer, Guest Book 15 November 2002)
The constant claims on openness within the club and the Trust have not cut much ice with the fans so far. Before writing this, I went to the Trust website to see what information was there from recent news items and events. Little seems to have been updated since late August or early September throughout the various pages.
This would seem to be the ideal vehicle to keep fans informed, as well as the newsletter each quarter. Trust Talk seems to have faded away. I don’t see the Evening Post each night, and was following this via the site, so I can only assume it has ceased.
A quarterly newsletter is not adequately informative, and we need a frequently updated site so that people can see what is going on. This is not the webmasters role; he needs to be fed with information.
Just from looking at the site, the membership number still stands at 1472, and has not moved for a long time (it was 1452 when I last wrote a Trust Talk article in May and – yes – I do visit the site to see what is happening). We know that membership has dropped; this was admitted to us, so why not update the figure weekly which was once the aim, and set a target to where we want the membership to rise.
I think that most observers will agree that since the Trust gained part ownership in the club, there has been an emphasis to involve fans more. (PM)
For the time being, joining up will help the Trust move forward and believe me the benefits will start to become more apparent. (PM)
What issues have the fans been involved in, and how often are the fans’ views sought on issues in any event? Just being a member does not give a fan a say in anything, without them being asked for their input. I am sure that if people could see issues being discussed openly, and the Trust challenging the club on matters, then attendances at Forums would increase, as more people would want to get their points of view across, and no doubt, so would membership in time. Until then, what are the benefits, because even if you join the Beano club, they give you tangible benefits for doing so? We don’t need badges and the likes, just the knowledge that being a member will make a difference, and at the moment that comfort just isn’t there.
The regular Q&A page ‘Ask The Trust’ was promised in May but has not materialised, and until there is more open communication, the barriers between the Trust and the non-members will remain.
If matters are progressing as we are told, and the Trust are putting many agenda items to the club board, and disagreeing with many decisions, then why can’t we be told what they are, for shouldn’t they be issues that either the fans have raised, or have an interest in? They should not, on every occasion, be matters that have come out of a Trust Board meeting of which the fans have no knowledge.
Too often, talking to a Trust Board member is akin to talking to the club itself, and that is not how it should be. Change that perception, and you will change people views on a lot of other issues that hamper the Trust. Start to remove a few layers of bricks from the walls that surround you, rather than build them as people question you. The fault for low membership and lack of business interest does not all lie with those parties, hold a mirror to yourselves, and maybe we will see more progress made this season than last, and hopefully without a crisis.