Amongst the key headlines from this year’s consultation, which engaged around 14,000 fans via almost every club in Scotland, are that supporters do not believe the admission price for games in Scotland represents value for money.
“Your relationship with your club,” ranked third as a determinate around whether supporters would attend matches.
And over 50% of supporters believe there should be more resources given to tackle and stamp out forms of unacceptable conduct, but there was not majority support for “strict liability”. A large majority (71%) were opposed to the Offensive Behaviour Act (OBA).
SD Scotland has set out three core “asks” to football’s governing bodies in Scotland as a result of the findings.
The majority of Scottish fans believe the admission price for games in Scotland is either ‘very poor’ or ‘poor’ value for money according to the survey.
Although this is the most significant concern for supporters, the number who considered value for money poor or very poor has reduced by 14% year on year.
The issue of value for money is a theme throughout supporter responses with fans considering affordability of the game to be the biggest threat to the future of the game. and 55% of fans disagreeing with the idea that Scottish football is committed to a high-quality fan experience.
Interestingly, 75% of supporters say that they don’t base their decisions on attending matches around live TV selections.
Although 56% believe Scottish football doesn’t reflect good value for money, positively that statistic has dropped 5% from last year.
Officially recognised as the lead supporters group in Scotland by the Scottish Professional Football League (SPFL) and the Scottish Football Association (Scottish FA), Supporters Direct Scotland has established a formal means to engage with the game’s key decision makers and represent fans’ views.
This is achieved through the organisation’s place on the Scottish FA Congress as Supporter Representatives. Findings of this year’s survey have also been presented or shared with:
Other key themes to arise from the survey include the supporter experience and fans’ involvement and relationship with their clubs.
The survey results come a time of significant change for Supporters Direct Scotland who will become an independent organisation from December 2017. Supporters Direct Scotland will also establish a new charity foundation to support ongoing work to promote community engagement.
Head of Supporters Direct Scotland Andrew Jenkin says:
“What we are seeing now is a really clear demand from supporters to see greater value for money around football. Supporters Direct Scotland appreciates the extremely challenging balance that our clubs face, and we want to support them. Addressing value for money might include looking at more pricing variation, and ways of delivering added value. Attendances are by-and-large an improving picture, but it’s absolutely critical we future-proof Scottish football by being on the front foot.
“Once again, supporters also tell us they want to be engaged by their clubs. The relationship a supporter has with a club has a direct impact on their decision to attend games or spend money. That means there is a role for clubs to think really carefully about how they reflect the values of their club, not the other way around. To reflect the values of your supporters you need to know and talk to them, and we hope our forthcoming new guide on Structured Dialogue can be effective in providing examples of best practice.
“Supporter experience is not rated highly, and part of that is dictated to by fan behaviour. Supporters continue to tell us there is a problem, and now there’s a real moving sense that the Offensive Behaviour Act, for its broad promises has delivered little. So we have a problem, but not the sort of solution that is necessary. In order to positively influence the future agenda here, we are asking the SPFL and the Scottish FA to work with us to deliver a supporter-led event on how we can bring about a change in culture needed to ensure that our grounds are bouncing with enthusiasm, but not unnecessarily aggressive.
“We’re making these asks to Scottish football at a time when as an organisation we are making a genuine difference to the game in this country. Our Supporter Liaison Programme in partnership with the Scottish FA and supported by UEFA is providing training and development to the increasing number of SLOs across the country.
“Our Club Development Scotland project has seen us work with a number of professional and community clubs providing financial, legal and practical advice around developing sustainable community led business models.
“Colours of our Scarves, remains our flagship community programme promoting tolerance and equality in schools across the country.
“We have also recently secured funding to explore the setting up of a “Fans Bank” or community fund, which would allow for Supporters Direct Scotland to potentially set up a social investment loan facility for clubs at all levels of the game to use the resource for social benefit. The funding from the Paul Hamlyn Foundation will be used to research, analyse and develop a robust model for the future.
“Supporters can play a significant role in securing the brightest future for Scottish football. Our commitment is to work with those who govern the game – and the country – to ensure that the voice of supporters is heard, and acted upon.”
Stewart Regan, Chief Executive at the Scottish FA, said:
“This is an important survey for us and we use the findings to help us understand the issues affecting Scottish football and to review and measure fans’ attitudes from year to year.
“Supporters Direct Scotland are part of our Congress and have a voice on that platform alongside club representatives, PFA Scotland, the media and other league and affiliate members. We will consider these findings within Congress and will also focus on some of the topics at our annual Convention. Our aim will be to share good practice and spark discussion around how Scottish football can do more to deliver value for money to supporters.
“This is an area that we are working on with our Scotland Supporters Club. This campaign we’ve invested in a shuttle bus service to help supporters get to and from Hampden for Scotland international matches and we have also introduced fan zones at our home games. On top of this, we are in the middle of a separate research project looking at ways to improve the Scotland Supporters Club package. We’ve had 3,000 responses to our call for feedback which will help us shape the offer in the future.
“Tackling unacceptable conduct also remains at the forefront of our minds and earlier this year we strengthened our guidance to our members with the clubs now accepting more responsibility in Scottish Cup matches to investigate and impose sanctions on those who have misbehaved at our games.”
SPFL Chief Executive Neil Doncaster welcomed the input of supporters, saying:
“The Scottish Football Supporters Survey is a very valuable, annual barometer of the issues most important to fans across the country. We thank each and every fan who took the time to complete the survey which again shows just how much Scottish football supporters care about the game.
“The SPFL recognizes that value for money and ticket pricing are, and arguably always will be, top priorities for supporters while also acknowledging the considerable work clubs commit to in this area, which was an ‘ask’ of last year’s survey. Indeed a 14% reduction in those who deem ‘value for money’ as being poor or very poor is evidence that clubs are making some progress on this front. On pricing specifically, the most recent BBC Price of Football survey again provided considerable evidence of ticket prices either being frozen or reduced across all leagues, with the average price of the cheapest season ticket across all 12 Ladbrokes Premiership clubs down. Further, the SPFL’s own research last November revealed that the vast majority of clubs provide free tickets for community groups, charitable causes and others who would find it otherwise challenging to attend a game, with an estimated 84,000 given away in the season before last. There is always more work that can be done and we welcome the input of SD Scotland, working with the SPFL and Scottish FA, to proactively examine and identify further innovations in pricing as well as new ideas around value for money and added value which could be put forward for consideration by clubs.
“On the subject of Unacceptable Conduct, we continue to work closely with Scottish Government, Scottish FA and our clubs. In January of this year the SPFL published updated and newly approved League-wide guidance on Unacceptable Conduct, applicable to all 42 member clubs. Recently, we also agreed to collate and share information with both the Scottish Government and Police Scotland regarding incidents of Unacceptable Conduct at SPFL matches at regular intervals throughout the current Scottish football season. This demonstrates the SPFL’s commitment to curbing Unacceptable Conduct in our stadia and we continue to work with the Scottish Government on this matter. It is important we all continue to work together to help make Scottish football as safe and welcoming an environment for fans as possible.
“While the purpose of the survey is to identify areas for improvement, it is also worth highlighting some of Scottish football’s success stories, investments and opportunities, both recent and current. That 63% of supporters are in favour of the new format of the Betfred Cup is a real vindication of the brave decision of clubs to shake up the format – with the return to a pre-Christmas final particularly popular – and is reflected in a significantly enhanced live broadcast deal and record payouts to clubs competing. There has been major investment and innovation at some of our biggest clubs’ stadia to enhance matchday experience for supporters, Celtic Park’s safe standing area (the first in the UK) and the new Tynecastle Park main stand development being two great examples. Further, Aberdeen FC is presently campaigning for support for a new stadium development, which would be the biggest seen in this country for many years and includes supporter-friendly facilities such as a dedicated fan zone, community pavilion, museum, café and bar. Investment in current and new stadia, at all levels, can only further improve the quality of experience for fans of all ages.
We all share a common goal of wishing Scottish football to be in the very best health possible, both on the pitch and off it, for the benefit of supporters, players and all involved at our 42 clubs. Supporters Direct Scotland has an important role to play in representing the view of fans across Scotland and we look forward to working with Andrew Jenkin and his team to identify ways to further enhance the game for supporters in the year ahead.”