Supporter Consultation Group.
Tonight before the Manchester City game (least said, soonest mended) around 20 fans of Aston Villa met with General Charles Krulak, Lee Preece and Russell Jones. Other representatives from the community and marketing departments were there, as was Nicola Keye, Consumer Sales manager.
The purpose of the meeting was to forge a way forward so fans can get their ideas, gripes and input put to the board of directors.
As they explained in the agenda:
We are seeking your help, as representatives of Supporter Groups, Message Boards and Fanzines to strengthen the relationship between the Club and our supporters. As we enter a new era in our history, we are looking to establish links that will help us achieve our goals together.
They went on to explain that it is clear from the message boards that there are hundreds of supporters with ideas on how to move the club forward and it is also apparent that there is a need for the Club to explain why certain policies, practices and procedures exist. Consultation has never been our strong point and we have a history of making decisions that affect supporters without their knowledge or input.
Therefore they have decided to create a Supporters Consultation Group (SCG) and they defined the purpose as:
To find out what questions the fans want to ask the club.
To explain, where possible, their plans to supporters.
To encourage supporters to give them feedback.
To identify things we can do together.
Realistically it is obvious that there are logistical challenges to do this and also they explain:
We do not have the resources to engage with every supporter individually.
When we receive feedback, we need to establish it reflects the view of the majority.
There is a limit to the number of questions we can answer at any one time.
Not all suggestions we receive will be feasible or practical to implement.
We cannot consult on every decision that needs to be made.
There will be times when we disagree!
The SCG will be made up of the following as they believe a maximum of 15 participants is the most practical in order to get things done.
5 season ticket holders/ supporters who don't have an affiliation to a group.
5 Supporter Group chairmen.
1 Representative from Avids (Aston Villa Disabled Supporters)
1 Representative from Vital Villa
1 Representative from Villa Talk
1 Representative from Heroes & Villains
1 Representative from The Trust.
Meetings will take place on a quarterly basis.
The meetings won't be vehicles for the answer to be given, just for the questions to be put to the club. Quite rightly the answers will be broadcast as widely as possible through the Official and unofficial sites, the Claret and Blue magazine, the match day programmes, local press etc.
Villa will also expand the use of their online questionnaires (Voice in the Crowd - www.avfc.eglobalpanel.com) so that once questions are put and options are decided, more fans can have a say and vote for what they want.
The club also do recognise that not all fans are connected to the internet and will try to address that issue as well.
They summarised the plans saying:
We hope you will recognise that this is a genuine commitment from the Club to listen. With the right approach from the outset, we can establish the opportunity for thousands of Aston Villa supporters to play their part in the Club's future.
The meeting was certainly positive, the General spoke proudly of being involved at Villa and you can't help but hold out hope with the enthusiasm from the board, especially as the ultimate aim is once again to see the top European Trophy held aloft by Villa players.
There was also talk of a fan representative working at the club and it was agreed, if the position becomes reality, that a former player or someone with close links with the club should be used. It was also agreed that clear parameters would have to be set as the position if not could become somewhat of a nightmare!
What I enjoyed the most though was the champagne (in the normal world sparkling water), caviar (ham sandwiches), prawns (popadom crisps) and the lavish gifts (name tags).
Despite the loss, I left Villa Park feeling buoyed and positive about the future. We are a long way off competing with the European giants, but at least we now appear to have a board willing to give it a shot. The Lions roar will grow louder as the seasons progress.
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