Monday’s Fans’ Parliament (FP) meeting completed my first year as a member of the forum.
As stated back in September, I hated the notion of the FP and it was the reason I took the decision to join and see for myself what it had to offer.
With a season down and with huge frustrations from the supporters much of the debate over the last 10 months came down to the standard of the football, transfer deals, squad selection – pretty much everything regular chairs of the meeting Jez Moxey and Matt Grayson had limited control over.
To add to further frustration on the fans’ part a number of high profile decisions, such as the sale of Richard Stearmna, the u-turn over Benik Afobe, the timing of the £10 Sir Jack campaign and the sponsorship deal with The Money Shop had left many fans feeling questionable decisions were being made to the detriment of our club.
It is why I feel something needs to be done to make us fans feel a part of this club again.
On Monday, I stood up before the FP and delivered a proposal to fellow members – including Jez Moxey and Matt Grayson – calling on supporters to be given a vote on issues that go on at the club.
My reason for it was, to empower the FP – which is criticised by many Wolves fans as ‘pointless’; build a bridge between the club and its public for which it has struggled to motivate in light of a poor season both on and off the field and give fans a more concentrated voice which is often lost amidst social media, internet forums and pub chatter.
I was genuinely pleased to have the support of those fans I sought counsel with before putting the proposal together. While they supported my effort, like myself, they knew had little chance if any of getting Wolves to agree to the motion I put to them.
The outline proposal was the following:
– The Club, the FP, season ticket holders, and members holder to sign up to an agreement allowing fans the right to vote on items concerning the club.
– The items up for vote will be decided by the club.
– For items considered of high importance the results to be collated independently.
– A chairman of the FP and from the FP to be elected by fellow members.
– The FP chair can officially call for a vote should it receive enough support from fellow members/season ticket holders/ membership holders.
One thing for certain is that Wolves are very proud to have a fan consultation group and having informed the club before the meeting I was to be making these suggestions I was not surprised that on every table there was a list of every achievement the Fans’ Parliament had accomplished over the years.
Whether it was coincidence or strategic I’ll let you decide.
But the notion to give fans a vote was not something that was not born from behind the keyboard of my laptop or the bottom of a pint glass, it had come from studying the slow progress made on matters raised by fans in the FP to completion.
For example at my very first meeting – in September – I was asked about the possibility to travel up to see Celtic about their safe standing area. On Monday I was asked to put my name down to travel up to Celtic about their safe standing area. Same question, 10 months apart, no visit.
For months I have monitored growing frustration in the meetings and I also spent hours reading two years worth of FP minutes where the same fan issues were repeated numerous times throughout.
In that two year period just a couple of items that could be described as significant were firstly brought up at the FP then carried out. They were the scoreboard in the Steve Bull Stand and a permanent tribute to Sir Jack Hayward – and I told the meeting this.
Most would struggle to come up with anything more than those examples and I explained that it didn’t represent fair payback on the time spent by people who attended the meetings in their own time.
The reality is if Wolves had presented fans with an option to vote on matters, officials would feel more of an obligation to fulfil the decision when they know thousands have voted for the cause.
Of course Wolves will say ‘we have a forum for fans to put their view’ and the question they have to ask is ‘to what scale to we allow fans to vote on matters?’
Now in seriousness there isn’t going to be a scenario where we have an online poll allowing fans to choose if we spend our transfer funds on a centre back or a centre forward.
But I told Jez and Matt that this didn’t have to be the way.
I told them that they could trust supporters and that their trust in fans would be measured by the importance of the matter we were allowed to vote on – in fact I repeated that point so it wasn’t lost.
Should Wolves, for instance, get fans to vote on what flavour crisps we put behind the concession stand, could you imagine the fall out? The contempt of which we would have been treated to even be asked such a question would make the process a laughing stock – and the club too.
However, as was suggested to me, should fans get a vote on whether we should have safe standing at Molineux then the response, and respect, would be more favourable.
As fans we know there is nothing worse than feeling like the club you love doesn’t listen to you and you have only to look at Charlton Athletic, Blackpool, Newcastle United and our neighbours Villa to see what damage it can do.
For me, I believe empowering our fans to vote on matters which affect them presents an opportunity for Wolves to re-engage with a public it is struggling to lift and make those dedicated supporters feel like their voices are listened to rather than simply being heard.
I told the FP all of this.
And sure it was no surprise that both Jez and Matt weren’t exactly welcoming the proposal with open arms, rather emphasising, once more, that we have a Fans’ Parliament.
Despite the frustrating process the FP is a model the club is comfortable with and one which they feel goes above and beyond anything any other club is doing right now.
But what gave me hope was that such power for our fans wasn’t entirely ruled out by both of them.
And so I agreed with Jez and Matt to speak to other clubs in the UK and Europe on how they consult their fans and how their supporters are part of the decision making process to see what we could learn from others.
From there who knows, but for me it was crucial to spark this debate, to have it presented for the Wolves public to see and to stand-up so us fans can never feel we support in silence.