Supporters' Direct conference, September 2002
by Doug Harper, LOFT Chairman
On Thursday 12th September 2002, Supporters' Direct held their second national conference. LOFT was well represented by four committee members out of delegates of about 180 from over 60 different trusts.
At the opening Plenary, The Rt. Hon. Tessa Jowell MP and Secretary Of State for Culture, Media and Sport spoke to us and informed us that Supporters' Direct had been guaranteed funding for the year 2003/04, which was good news, and demonstrates what a positive force the governement believes the Supporters' Direct initiative to be.
Among other speakers was Professor Derek Frasier, Chair of the Independent Football Commission.The IFC is an organisation that supporters turn to, when they have a grievance against a specific football club and have exhausted every other avenue, such as the Football League and F.A. For more information on the IFC go to www.theifc.co.uk
Professor Jonathan Michie, Director of Supporters' Direct explained about a research paper called 'The State of the Game, the Corporate Governance of Football Clubs 2002'. This 60 page document was the result of questions to Football Clubs and supporters' groups and although it may not sound very exciting, it is an interesting research paper that will be summarised soon for inclusion on the website.
Next up was a workshop called Slow Burn Trusts. Trusts are sometimes seen as the last resort of a club in crisis, but there are many clubs (orient being one) who are not "In crisis" but where the fans have decided to form a Trust. This session offered advice for those sorts of clubs as to how to build up their organisations. We learned a lot from this and hopefully we will all see the fruits of this soon.
After lunch (a very nice Chicken Biriani, it must be said) the other 3 LOFT delegates went to a workshop called "Club, Trust and Community", where Neil Watson (formerly of the much-lauded Leyton Orient Community Sports Programme) explained how Trusts can work within the Community. Hopefully this session will provide new ideas and strategies for the LOFT working party
Meanwhile, I went to a workshop about the Football Supporters Federation (FSF), which is a new organisation, formed as a merger of the FSA and the NFFSC. It was mentioned at the last LOFT meeting and we intend to vote on whether to join it at the next. I will be writing more about the FSF before the next meeting.
The closing Plenary was a debate on the Future of football.The panel included David Conn (from The Independent), Kris Stewart, (Chair of AFC Wimbledon) and Billy Bragg (from Barking!!) The debate was interesting, but I was disappointed not to hear Billy sing.
The day itself managed to recharge everyone's batteries and give us renewed vigour. I went to the launch of Supporters' Direct, two years ago and it was small room with a handful of people there, how times change. I could see the conference that Supporters' Direct aims to be around for a long while yet.
On a personal note, I will treasure the moment when I commandeered the Gas Trust camera to have my picture taken with Billy Bragg. As the picture was about to be taken, a fellow delegate asked Billy if he would talk to his mate on his mobile as he did not believe that Billy was there. Billy picked up the mobile and said "Hallo, Billy Bragg here". The guy on the other end of the phone obviously did not believe him so Billy said "Ok, I will prove it is me, hang on" Billy then went into a corner and softly sang "I was a miner "etc but the guy still did not believe him...
For more information about Supporters Direct, who support the work of LOFT, see their website at www.supporters-direct.org.