Fans and Football First campaign: Proposal for future fan engagement at THFC
THST Fans Survey 2021
Football Supporters’ Association VAR survey findings
Business and Community Liaison Group meeting
Support for Foodbanks during Euro 2020
THST Q2 Board Meeting
Some fans have lost confidence in the leadership of our Club. Criticism grows louder by the day, and has grown even since THST members voted to call for the Executive Board’s resignation in the wake of the European Super League fiasco. A fiasco that has so far cost the Club over £10m in fines and untold reputational damage. And that vote was the result of accumulated discontent about a series of decisions taken over the last few years.
The drawn-out managerial search has further damaged the Club and fuelled discontent. While there has no doubt been much that can be dismissed as speculation, the impression of a lack of clarity over the Club’s direction is strong.
All of which means these are difficult times for THST, too. We have to articulate our members’ views, and we have to say what we think is right. And that, of course, may not always be well received by the Club’s hierarchy. We will continue to try to have the conversations necessary to represent fans and ensure issues are dealt with properly.
So where does that leave us? We could, as some want us to, sloganise and call protests at which fans can vent their anger. But we have a responsibility to come up with solutions, not just play to the gallery. And to promote unity, not set fan against fan. The announcement by the Government of a fan-led review into the way our game and our clubs are run gave us the chance to do something positive that might secure real and lasting change.
We are continuing to argue our case, and continuing to press the Club’s leadership to engage, to acknowledge the problems, and to work to resolve them. We have to deal with the decision-makers, whatever our differences, and however much some of their previous actions have made that relationship difficult.
We need to be very clear here. The campaign for governance reform presents the best chance for fans to have any influence on the way our clubs are run. We have dedicated the vast majority of our time over the last few months to develop viable proposals for change and working with those across the game and in politics who recognise the need for change.
There are a significant minority of voices who continue to argue that this is futile, and that the Trust is only pursuing this course of action for its own benefit. They are wrong. The strength of their rhetoric tries to disguise the fact that they have no solutions. And they succeed only in demoralising where confidence needs to be built.
We remain willing to work with anyone who is genuinely interested in achieving the change so many supporters want. And we’ve been heartened by the individuals and fan groups who have approached us to discuss the way forward and to offer backing and advice. Your support is more vital than ever.
1. Fans and Football First campaign: Proposal for future fan engagement at THFC
Fans and Football First is the banner under which we are running our positive campaign for change. In our last newsletter we asked for members with corporate governance, finance and legal expertise to contact us to help us develop some detail. A number did, and we held a successful workshop in which we discussed a number of issues we needed to solve. That group continues to discuss and develop plans via email.
On 8 June, a working group of THST Board members met with Levi Harris, the Club’s Supporter Liaison Officer, to discuss the proposals the Club had outlined in its statement of 11 May. After listening to an explanation of the Club’s plans, we gave our response. We said while we welcomed the stated commitment to giving fans a voice on the Board, we did not feel the Club’s proposals delivered a solution that would have the confidence of supporters. We thought the Club Advisory Panel had little real power and its suggested composition failed to reflect the diversity of the fan base. We felt that more needed to be done to rebalance the Club’s Board structure, and we were surprised to hear the Club wanted to have everything in place by August – two months before the Government’s review published its report. We gave a brief outline of the plans we were developing and said we would flesh those proposals out and formally submit them for further discussion. There was no objection from the Club’s SLO to this suggested course of action.
A week later, we gave evidence to Tracey Crouch MP and members of the Government’s fan-led review panel. We outlined the situation at Spurs and set out how we thought things could be improved. The main thrust of our presentation was that leaving relationships between clubs and their fans to be conducted solely on the basis of goodwill was not sufficient, and that legislative and regulatory change was needed in the unique business of football. The panel thanked us for the thought and detail that went into the presentation and asked a number of questions around how we defined supporters, what level of responsibility we thought it was appropriate for fan directors to take on, and how we saw the role of independent non-executive directors.
One key point raised by the panel was whether supporter directors would be willing to take on personal liability as directors of large companies. THST Board member Stephen Cavalier was able to draw on his experience as the chief executive of a company with independent directors on its board to point out that limited liability meant that the risk was not as great as some panel members were assuming. And we were able to discuss further how our plans for a two-tier structure helped address issues around responsibility and accountability.
The same evening, we attended a session at which the FSA’s Premier League network presented the panel with the experiences of a number of supporter groups not invited to submit evidence individually. We were impressed with how engaged the panel members were in both sessions, and with their knowledge and awareness of the issues.
We continued to develop a set of proposals that could be put in front of THFC. We discussed them with the chairs of the Proud Lilywhites and SpursAbility, with a view to putting the plan to the Club with the backing of three of the most established general fan groups. But we were also aware that, with over a month gone since the Club had set its thoughts out, we needed to keep the conversation going. So after some initial discussion it was decided that THST would put forward the plan we had worked up while the Proud Lilywhites and SpursAbility discussed the detail with their members. We thank the Proud Lilywhites for expressing broad support for the proposal, and also thank the chair of SpursAbility for her support.
We submitted the proposal to THFC on 21 June. We received a short response thanking us for our contribution and telling us the Club would be “considering all stakeholder submissions in conjunction with the findings of the Government’s review for football governance”. We replied asking for further clarification, and also asked if considering submissions in conjunction with the Government review in October meant the Club had abandoned its plans to push things through by August. The Club replied that it was looking to pull all stakeholder contributions “together into one full consultation report and hold” and that it would “review and sense-check” its ideas after the review published its finding in October.
We replied again asking for clarification of what this meant, and pointing out that one conversation on Zoom with the SLO followed by the Club going away and deciding what it was going to do didn’t constitute consultation. The Club then confirmed it would “align with the October timetable” and offered to pick up conversation in early July.
We are currently finalising our full written submission to the Government review. Once this is sent in to the DCMS, we will publish the full document on our website. We hope that in the meantime the Club will see the value of agreeing to genuinely discuss developing a structure that would deliver something far higher than the bar set by the Government review’s recommendation and establish the kind of standard-setting arrangement the Club says it wants.
The Fans and Football First campaign tries to give some top-line principles for what is necessarily a complex set of ideas so that as many fans as possible can get behind them. We took part in the making of the Dear Board film as part of the effort to popularise the message. That film has now been viewed by over 250,000 people, and it will form part of the submission to the Government review.
It has also gained the public support of well-known Spurs fans including broadcaster Paul Hawksbee, musician Jah Wobble, England cricketer Rikki Clarke, Hilary Benn MP, former BBC political correspondent editor Norman Smith, singer Antony Costa, and former Daily Express sports editor Norman Giller.
We believe it’s important that we have outputs and objectives that we can refer to, not just slogans and wish lists to reel off. We know there is enormous discontent with what is happening to our Club at the moment, which makes it even more important we spend time coming up with real solutions and trying to ensure they are put into action. That’s hard, often dull, but nonetheless important work. We’re really pleased at the number of individual fans who have stepped forward to offer practical help and advice as we try to do this. It shows that supporters can play their part.
2. THST Fan Survey 2021
Our seventh end of season Fan Survey was open from Wednesday 9 June to Friday 18 June. As always, it’s a chunky piece of work covering 11 different sections – this time including home and away ticketing, plans for returning to the stadium, broadcast, governance, ENIC’s stewardship, on field performance and priorities, THFC supporter engagement, as well as some feedback on us and how we’re doing. We’re delighted to have received almost 8,500 responses from THST members and non-members, Season Ticket Holders, One Hotspur Members, overseas fans, UK-based fans and all across an age range from under 18 to over 65.
Our survey team is now busy reading the thousands of comments and working through the data. We’ll then write up the findings and have those with you by early August. Any particularly timely findings, we’ll try to release a little earlier.
We’d like to say a huge thanks for your support with this project. Having such a large and robust dataset really does enable us to accurately reflect the views of the majority of Trust members, and the wider fan base. Your opinions and views help us to adopt positions, as well as guiding our approach to our dealings with the Club hierarchy. Thank you again for taking the time to share your thoughts with us.
3. Football Supporters’ Association VAR survey findings
The Football Supporters’ Association published the findings of the largest survey of fans about VAR – and the results were pretty conclusive. Of the 33,000 fans who replied, 95% who had experienced VAR in stadiums and 94% of those who watched on TV said VAR made watching the game less enjoyable. Four in 10 of those who responded said they would be likely to attend fewer games in future because of VAR.
Along with other supporter groups, THST publicised the survey and encouraged fans to take part – so thanks to those of you that did. Because we’d pushed the FSA’s survey, we kept the VAR section in our own survey short.
The full findings of the FSA’s survey can be found on the organisation’s website.
4. Business and Community Liaison Group meeting
A rather short BCLG meeting was held on 1 June. The main two areas of discussion were the Goods Yard development and feedback from the Aston Villa match.
As far as the developments at the Goods Yard, Printworks and The Depot are concerned, public consultation on the schemes is now complete, and plans have been submitted to Haringey planning department. Haringey will advise when the planning application has been submitted, at which stage formal comments can be made by the public.
We’re aware of member concern about the focus and potential spend on these projects, and as ever invite members with expertise in the areas of planning and project management to contact us to do some more detailed work.
At the Aston Villa match, the 10,000 fans present did not exceed the threshold for the major event Local Area Management Plan. However, Haringey Council did decide to switch on part of the Matchday Controlled Parking Zone. THST has separately raised the issue of previously agreed plans being changed at the last minute and Haringey has agreed that communication should be better in future.
After the Villa match an entry point to White Hart Lane railway station was closed, which had caused some queuing issues. Unfortunately, this was due to a TfL contractor going home with the key. Matchday parking at the Goods Yard was used for the first time, which caused no additional traffic issues in the area.
The Club also held a vaccination day at the stadium on Saturday 19 June. Gary Mabbutt, Ledley King and Ossie Ardiles were all there as Club ambassadors to help the NHS roll out the vaccination programme. It was good to see our stadium being used for such a good cause and we’re glad the Club could play its part.
5. Support for Foodbanks during Euro 2020
The Premier League season might be over but food poverty isn’t, so to help support our local foodbanks in Tottenham and North Enfield throughout the summer, we’ve been appealing for your donations every time England play at game at the Euros. Help us Kick Off Against Hunger whenever the Three Lions kick off a match.
You can donate to the Foodbanks by texting COYSFOODBANK and any donation amount to 70085. To donate £10, text COYSFOODBANK 10, for example. Anything you can afford would be hugely appreciated.
We are also supporting another leaflet drop in N17 on Saturday 17 July, so if you would like to be involved please email Pete.Haine@THSTOfficial.com. Our last leaflet drop, carried out alongside our friends from Armed Forces Spurs, was very successful so please do give up some time if you can.
6. THST Q2 Board Meeting
The THST Board met virtually at the end of May for our Q2 Board Meeting. The agenda was heavily focused on the governance reform workstream mentioned at the top of this newsletter and on our Fans and Football First campaign.
There was a very positive update from our membership and finance team, following a significant surge in both full and associate membership around the ESL debacle in late April. We welcome new members to the Trust and hope to be able to speak with you all at a physical or online event or via our Forum in the very near future. Thank you once again for supporting the work we undertake on your behalf.
7. THST Forum
This month on the forum we have been focused largely on the THST contribution to the Fan Led Review of Football chaired by Tracey Crouch MP and the supporting document setting out our proposals in greater detail. The plan draws on current business practice, research and policy development carried out by supporter organisations, and the expert advice of a number of our members and supporters who have experience in governance, business and the legal field. The result is a plan that we feel will give fans a genuine voice in the boardroom. We really want to hear your feedback so please, if you haven’t already, give it a read and let us know your thoughts.
There is also discussion on the recruitment, or non-recruitment, of our new manager, the implications of the appointment of a Director of Football, as well as season ticket renewals, High Road property developments and our end of season survey. Forum members can start new discussions on off field areas of interest and we encourage everyone to get involved and share their views.
The THST Forum is open to full and life members of the Trust. Full and life members should to apply to join through the link on our site, and set yourself up an account. We should emphasise that Trust membership alone doesn’t give you automatic access to the forum, you need to register via the link.
To JOIN the Trust, please register here. To UPGRADE from free Associate Membership of the Trust to Full membership, please click here. If you’re already a Full or Life member of the Trust, click here to register for our Forum.
Coverage of our governance proposals featured on a number of sites…
Premier League fan groups give evidence to the fan-led review - Football Supporters' Association
Tottenham Hotspur Supporters' Trust submits restructuring plan to Daniel Levy
Tottenham fans submit restructure plans to Levy
… as did fan reaction to the club’s search for a new manager
Tottenham decide against Gattuso appointment amid fierce fan backlash
Spurs will not pursue Gattuso as manager - BBC Sport
Tottenham drop move for Gennaro Gattuso to be next manager after fan fury
Spurs will not pursue Gattuso as manager
Sources: Spurs' no on Gattuso due to fan anger
Fabio Paratici, Daniel Levy and Tottenham's muddled new head coach search
Paratici, Levy running out of time and trust as Gattuso exits Tottenham head coach shambles
Klinsmann declares interest in Spurs job after Gattuso talks called off
Tottenham end interest in Gennaro Gattuso as manager search goes on
Some of the upcoming findings from our annual survey were referenced in this piece on Covid passports
Premier League fans WANT Covid passes to secure full stadiums
And our film got a mention in this lovely piece by Simon Hattenstone in The Guardian
Never stopped me dreaming: how Euro 96 illuminated our world
30 June 2021
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