Fan-led review of Football Governance: Dulwich Hamlet Supporters’ Trust gives evidence

Fan-led review of Football Governance: Dulwich Hamlet Supporters’ Trust gives evidence

22nd Jun 2021

Dulwich Hamlet Supporters’ Trust was invited to give evidence to Tracey Crouch MP yesterday, as part of the Government’s fan-led review into football governance. The session was chaired by Tracey herself and featured representatives of the expert panel including David Mahoney (COO of the England and Wales Cricket Board), Lord Finkelstein (Independent member), Kevin Miles (Chief Executive of the Football Supporters’ Association) and James Tedford (Former Secretary, Southport FC).

Tim Scott, DHST Board Member and FSA National Council representative, started the meeting by providing a detailed outline of the club’s recent experiences, along with the context of how the Trust and the Club Board have worked closely to overcome threats to the club's existence and achieve transparency and good governance. The presentation emphasised some of the key themes emerging from the fan-led review so far, including the role of fans in the running of clubs, the facilitation of structured dialogue and the potential for a fully funded, independent regulator.In a first for the evidence sessions, representatives of the Supporters’ Trust were joined by Club Chair, Ben Clasper, leading Tracey to note how positive it was that Trust and Club were standing side by side rather than at loggerheads, as she has seen in other cases. Building on this, Ben explained how proper governance at the Club is about roles and skill-sets rather than individuals and the recognition that there is more to be gained through transparency, communication and collaboration than not. We also discussed whether a model similar to that at Dulwich could be replicated at bigger clubs higher up the pyramid and how that could be best supported.

We also discussed, given the current issues at National League level, whether there was a role for the NL to bridge between non-league and league clubs. It was highlighted how revenue models are significantly different (Dulwich relying on up to 50% of income coming from match day bar takings which could not be sustained higher up the pyramid structure for example). 

We agreed from both a club and fan perspective that protecting the structure of the league system was important but that clubs needed the support that looked at the system holistically – supporting teams going up as well as coming down the ladder and re-appraising restrictions such as those on alcohol sales and 3G pitches, which currently act as significant barriers to progress for some clubs. A well organised and supported national league would be crucial for those clubs operating in the margins.

Finally we discussed how best to support and promote effective fan engagement alongside club governance. The experience Dulwich has had is perhaps unusual, with a knowledgeable and capable Trust being able to invest in the club (both financially and in terms of the time and skills of volunteers) and to take an active role in the running of the club thanks to the willingness of the club to work in collaboration. This can be made easier for all clubs with more comprehensive and properly enforced standards for structured supporter engagement at club and national level.