Fans Forum Formation

So, Sheffield Wednesday have announced that the chairman will be hosting a fans’ forum at Hillsborough on Thursday 20 December, and already it’s got people talking, especially due to our current predicament. Having attended Steering Groups and fans’ forums at Sheffield Wednesday previously, here are my thoughts on how they should work, amongst other things.

The first thing I noticed when attending fans’ forums were the numbers. While there are thousands who want to have their say, and rightly so, there are just too many people at the meetings themselves. This leads to questions being repeated, often with slightly different wordings, with utter chaos ensuing.

I was trying to think of a number that was appropriate, and I came up with 60. Now, people may they that this number is far too small, but bear with me. Beginning at 6.30pm, I think a group of 20 supporters should have a 90 minute sitting with the club attendees. This would allow a much more structured discussion to take place, which potentially will lead to a more desirable outcome.

Three groups of 20 people, 90 minutes per group, with a 15 minute break in between sessions, that’s my idea. The selection of people to attend would have to be made fairly, but it should cover a whole range of people. Local press should be invited along as usual, with the Sheffield Star and Radio Sheffield to attend the forum in full.

The chairman, Katrien Meire, Trevor Braithwait, Alastair Wilson and the current manager of the football club should all be in attendance. What I feel is important is that the club representative who the question is directed at, or the one with the most knowledge on the subject, should be allowed to answer. This will help to prevent the sessions going round in circles, which often happens at evenings such as these.

The fans’ forum has to be seen by everyone as an opportunity to get everyone back on the same page. I noticed in the statement made by the club it said: “the chairman is urging in particular any fans who use the platform of social media to leave untrue and potentially damaging posts to attend and address any concerning issues face to face.” While I understand the reasoning behind this, it does concern me.

The message immediately invites confrontation. A slanging match won’t help anyone, I assure you. I don’t think the evening leading into tit for tat arguments about tweets or trivial matters would be very productive. People do make untrue and potentially damaging posts on social media, but I don’t think an evening arguing over it is what a fans’ forum should be about.

I do think those attending should be allowed to express displeasure and criticism and I think that this should then be listened to, with a thorough and well thought out answer following. While there may be points the club representatives wish to challenge, it should be done so with respect and not in a condescending manner.

It’s important what is discussed at the fans’ forum is fed back to those not there accurately, so I personally would suggest the club, Sheffield Star and Radio Sheffield are the ones allowed to live tweet from the event. Maybe, we could also see it broadcast live on Facebook or Periscope? Nothing should be hidden after all.

Everyone should walk out of the fans’ forum feeling a lot better than when they went in, that has to be the aim. If promises are made or the club say they will look into something, it needs to be chased up to ensure that people are sticking to their side of the bargain so to speak.

Nobody gains from the club under performing both on and off the pitch, so that’s why it’s vital we begin to build bridges. A productive fans’ forum is a great place to start, as everyone wants the same thing, Sheffield Wednesday to be successful in every department.

Finally, you’d expect the main topics and points to be covered by 60 people, but there are bound to be questions others have thought of which haven’t been asked. Could we possibly open up an email exchange which allows ongoing communication between the club and supporters? Obviously, it shouldn’t be treat as a direct line to rant and rave, but it could be mutually beneficial if done correctly.

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