Catching up on the last few Rob’s Column from the Lincolnshire Echo.
Breaking news for you…when it comes to how football is governed in the future, Lincoln City don’t want to reach minimum standards. I’ll let that sink in. They don’t want to do what the newly published football governance White Paper specifies as being acceptable. Now read on.
The Fan Led Review recommendations published a year or more ago covered the distribution of funds, checks on people running clubs, and other big-ticket matters.
When it comes to the involvement of fans in their clubs, the recommendations described how a Golden Share could be held by fans via their Trusts and how that would give fans a tangible say when major changes were being put forward. They said too how Shadow Boards would be set up so that supporters and club staff would work together for the benefit of all the fans and the club itself.
It’s become clear that the new White Paper on which the future of football governance will be based on has watered down the requirements for a Golden Share and Shadow Board. It states that clubs can meet good levels of fan engagement in a wider range of ways, if they so choose. The Football Regulator will oversee all this.
Our Trust and all the other people working with the club on its governance await therefore with great anticipation what the Lincoln City board view as good measures of fan engagement. Of course we’re pushing for our Trust and other supporter bodies being fully part of the Imps and how they are run. It’s already becoming clear though that the directors and executive staff have no intention of just meeting minimum requirements. They want us to have exemplary levels of fan involvement rather than just scrape through the Regulator’s tests.
In the last annual Fan Engagement Index our club came 5th out of 92 in how fans are consulted and are part of their club. True to form our chairman and his board aren’t satisfied with that and, as the new legislation on governance develops, we might see us climb that ratings table even higher.
As supporters I think you can sum this up by saying, yet again in this period of the club’s history, we are indeed a very lucky lot.
There’s never a quiet time at Lincoln City but last week was especially busy. The long-awaited Fan Led Review White Paper was published and, with Clive Nates and investors over, the club held a series of significant off-field events.
Whilst it’s obviously a big deal, I’ll cover the implications of the White Paper in the future. It’ll run and run, especially as the PL and EFL face each other up on the financial battlefield, so there’ll be plenty of time.
The club held a Strategy Day at the Hilton Hotel a week ago last Wednesday and it was great to see everyone around a table. The WMA guys were there, of course all the directors and exec staff were involved, and others were there remotely including Harvey Jabara who had an early-hours start.
As chair of Lincs Cricket I’ve attended ECB presentations at Lords and other erstwhile venues, and when I was on the Imps board all those years ago I went to Football League events and AGM’s. I even spoke at one, although it was the first speech of the day after a long very sociable evening the night before, so the less said about that the better.
If you attended a Strategy Day put on by any Championship club or most Premier League ones I don’t think they’d have been any more professional than the event Lincoln City put on last week. In the same way it was better than any of those ECB gatherings I’ve sat in on too.
Backed by an impressive 162 page pre-read document CEO Liam Scully and senior staff focussed on the here-and-now and the options going forward in terms of football and commercial strategies. The sustainability of Lincoln City is of course the golden thread running through such matters, but the ambition of the club to grow and progress higher and how we achieve it had equal emphasis.
From that superb day, including at the board meeting the next afternoon, decisions are being made and will be developed to make solid the proposals we all heard about and debated.
Twenty odd years ago, when I was chair of the Imps, the one of the main strategies was which bills we could pay and which ones we could leave for a bit longer. Perhaps that’s a bit harsh, but you know what I mean. Nowadays our club is very very different. Different in a extremely good way.
My Facebook profile picture found its way onto a Lost Football Grounds site this week. I’m standing in the goalmouth after the infamous pitchside wall collapse during the 1975 Stoke City cup game the night before.
I’m there because as a surveyor I was at that time involved in working out what the club needed to do to comply with the newly published Safety at Sports Ground Act. The wall falling over, where apart from a broken leg injuries were mercifully minor, acted as a significant nudge in getting the club to get remedial work done.
The Sincil Bank of that era was not the well appointed venue it is now. Two stands were built entirely in timber with bench seats, the Sincil Bank side was terracing with no roof, and the toilets…best to not even describe them. We all loved it of course but, looking back, it was a bit rudimentary.
Forty-eight short years later and I’m with a mate watching us beat Bristol Rovers in the third tier of the English pyramid.
When you get to the autumn years (or maybe, gulp, they’re the winter ones) you like to take a step back – not literally – and think what the current Lincoln City is now. There was ten minutes to go and, ignoring the action for just a few seconds, I’m in awe of the atmosphere of another big crowd, the ground being modern and efficient, the hierarchy and structure of the club being superb, and knowing that a state of the art training facility is standing there a couple of miles away.
Previous chairman, not least John Reames, deserve huge credit for this Sincil Bank transformation. Clive Nates and his board and staff have continued this progress quite magnificently with, as you’ll know, a lot more development to follow. The Trust and other fans organisations have all played a small part in the survival and progression of Lincoln City too.
When – or maybe even ‘if’ now – we slip up at home, or have a couple of bad losses, it’s worth remembering where we were and where we are now. The old ‘taking a strep back’ routine works for me and gets it all in perspective. One thing is for sure, we’ve definitely come a long way.