Swansea City Supporters' Trust

Football Supporters’ Association AGM

Football Supporters’ Association (FSA) – Annual General Meeting

Trust Board member Adam Lewis writes….…

Last Saturday I attended the FSA’s Annual General Meeting in Wimbledon, where representatives for Supporters Groups and Trusts from across the country met to review the activities of the FSA and engage in a number of discussions on topics affecting football and fans today.

The FSA is the national representative body for football supporters in England and Wales and focusses on representing supporters and their interests at a national level, with leading organisations such as the Football Association, Premier League, and the Football League. They were a key partner in the development of the Fan Led Review, which the Trust also participated in and shared subsequent surveys to our members.

The Annual General Meeting

The AGM followed a standard agenda, where minutes from the previous AGM were read and agreed, questions were asked to the FSA Board, officials and associates were elected to the FSA board, and motions were tabled by different supporter groups. The questions raised related mainly to funding sources of the FSA and the future plans of funding for the organisation.

The Trust, like all attendees, were provided with the four motions in advance, and agreed a voting position on each of them (pending any on-the-day additions or amendments). There were votes cast on the motions tabled, which I have summarised below:

  1. The FSA to issue an urgent public statement of solidarity with all Transgender footballers and supporters, including non-binary and gender non-forming people. The motion was tabled by the Women’s Game Network, outlining the significant challenges that many transgender people have in playing and/or supporting the game we all love. I took note of one quote from the summary that I thought was incredibly impactful given some of the focus on transgender athletes and equity in competition lately – “People don’t transition to win, they transition because they have to”. This motion was carried unanimously, with the Trust voting in favour of it.

 

  1. The FSA to commit to exploring how to create greater participation and representation of young people within the FSA and provide advice on this to supporter organisations and community-owned football clubs to build this representation in their structures.
    This topic is one of great importance, as whilst there were many great representatives in the room, there was a real lack of diversity in age groups. The Trust has also been working hard at how to attract younger members and will continue to do so in the coming months.
    This motion was carried unanimously, with the Trust voting in favour of it.
 
  1. The FSA to develop a plan of action to address the role of cryptocurrency, NFTs, and fan-tokens that provide ‘engagement opportunities’ for fans in their clubs. The motion calls on the FSA to (i) engage with the FA, Premier League and Football League to develop common self-regulatory standards for any cryptocurrency partnerships entered into by clubs; (ii) to develop an awareness campaign for fans around the risks of these products, and (iii) to lobby the government for statutory regulation of cryptocurrency as it relates to football.
    This motion was carried unanimously, with the Trust voting in favour of it.
 
  1. The FSA to support the Supporters Direct Europe Board recommendation for a merger between SD Europe and the Football Supporters Europe (FSE) group.
    This motion was proposed by Malcolm Clarke, FSA Chair. The motion was carried unanimously, with the Trust voting in favour of it.
 

This concluded the formal part of the day, with a quick lunch planned for representatives to meet and discuss their relevant Trust activities, before the afternoon workshops started.

The Workshops

I attended two workshops in the afternoon, which focussed on two hugely important issues that are affecting the game today and will likely have an effect in the future.

Workshop 1 – Cryptocurrency – Good or Bad

This session was focussed on providing representatives with more information on cryptocurrency, non-fungible tokens (NFTs) and Decentralised Autonomous Organisations (DAOs) and their role in football. There was a very lively discussion around the ethics of cryptocurrency that at times veered away from its role in football, however the session provided a useful starting point in understanding the risks associated with these products in football. A recent BBC report estimates that more than £260m has been spent on fan tokens/cryptocurrency and with the market for these things only anticipated to grow, there are real risks in play for football fans across the country.

The most concerning area for many fans has been fan tokens aimed at providing ‘engagement opportunities’ with their clubs, including choosing the colour of training kits, walkout music, and other non-core operational decisions. This pay for access type revenue stream is something that many representatives at the FSA forum expressed grave concerns about.

My key reflections from the session were:

  • Cryptocurrency and NFTs are here to stay, and it is likely that more clubs will seek to take advantage of the revenue streams brought about by cryptocurrency partnerships and/or the distribution of NFTs and Fan Tokens;
  • It is imperative for the Trust to spend time to understand more about these, and develop a well-evidenced and balanced view of their role in football ready for any future discussions with the club, should these be raised as opportunities;
 

I’m sure my fellow Board Members won’t mind me saying that this is an area we are currently light on in terms of knowledge and experience, and so if you think you can help us to develop a well-researched position, we would love to hear from you (info@swanstrust.co.uk).

Workshop 2 – Sustainability in Football

The Sustainability workshop was seemingly well-timed given the unprecedented heatwave that we are seeing across the UK at the moment. This workshop was led by two charity groups – Pledgeball and Football for Futures – and provided some interesting perspectives on ways to reduce the carbon footprint associated with the game.

Some quick stats from the session that I took down, which were particularly alarming:

  • 25%: The number of English Football League stadiums that are at risk of annual flooding by 2050 due to rising sea levels and extreme weather events;
  • 1 Month: The average amount of action lost across grassroots football in the UK every year due to bad weather. I am sure many of our own members and fans feel the effect of that in November and December already.
  • Thirty million tonnes: the volume of carbon dioxide generated by the global football industry every year; this is the same as that emitted by Denmark or Tunisia.
 

It’s clear that sustainability and its impact on football will be far reaching, but the most important part of enabling the changes needed will be by bringing fans and teams along on the journey to create a more sustainable model. There are competing pressures at all levels of the pyramid, especially when it comes to revenue and commercial success, but there are opportunities to implement easy, affordable, and impactful changes that will help tackle the problem.

Key reflections:

    • The Trust should seek to develop an action plan on sustainability for the organisation to ensure we consider the environmental impact of our work – this should also be a tangible objective of our upcoming strategy;
    • As part of our sustainability objective, we should seek to work with the club to explore joint initiatives and ways for us to reduce our carbon footprint as a club without having a negative impact on underlying revenue or financial sustainability.
     

Again, if you are interested in helping us explore ways to deliver these objectives or have a background/interest in climate and sustainability, we would love to hear from you (info@swanstrust.co.uk).

I hope you found the above update useful – representing the Trust at the AGM was a great privilege and provided some very interesting topics for discussion amongst the Board, with our members, and with the club as well.

We’d love to hear any feedback or questions you have, and if you’re open to working with us on some of the challenges that I have outlined above.

If you’re not a member of the FSA, you can join as an individual Supporter by clicking here.

Adam Lewis
Swansea City Supporters’ Trust
19th July 2022

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