A WELCOME FROM THE FAN ADVISORY BOARD
By Jazz Bal, Chair of Everton Fan Advisory Board
In the coming weeks and months there will be a lot written across football about Fan Advisory Boards or, as they are becoming more commonly known, FABs.
Across the Premier League, steps are beginning to be taken to form boards in what I think can only be viewed as a positive step-change in supporter and club relations. But, as always, Evertonians and our Club are leading the way - we are the first Fan Advisory Board with independently elected representatives in the Premier League.
For Everton and Evertonians, this is an opportunity for dialogue that is being grasped - and as the new Chair of Everton’s FAB, I’m keen to ensure we represent all Blues effectively and authentically as we begin to meet and engage with the senior figures at our Club.
The events of last season showed what the power of our fanbase can achieve - and the last few weeks of the campaign highlighted the impact positivity and unity can create.
Through the FAB, we all now have a direct line to the senior officials at Everton – as part of a process that has been fully endorsed by the Club’s CEO, Denise Barrett-Baxendale. We are engaging with Board members directly, and it was reassuring to hear from Denise during our inaugural meeting that Everton’s Board members will not only listen, but that the feedback that comes through from the FAB will be fully taken into account as part of the Club’s strategic decision-making moving forward.
I must stress that our job as a FAB isn’t to replace the other incredible groups doing amazing work. The Everton Disabled Supporters’ Association (ESDA), the Everton Fans’ Forum, the Everton Supporters’ Club Committee, the Everton Heritage Society, the Everton Women Supporters’ Club, members or groups associated to the Football Supporters’ Association, Everton’s International Supporters’ Club network, the Club’s shareholders… they all do great work in supporting fans with any operational matters related to the special interest of that group. That great work will continue, as will the individual dialogue those groups have with the Club. Their work will also play a critical role in helping inform and shape the priority areas for the FAB, ensuring that the views of Evertonians form a part of that.
Our focus will be on the strategic aspects of our Club, learning more about the decision-making, governance and the future direction of Everton. We will advise and provide input and feedback. We will bring suggestions, ideas and opportunities from our global fanbase to the table. And when it is right to do so, we will challenge the Club’s most senior representatives in a timely and appropriate way. The Club has already outlined its desire to hear where it can be further challenged; where we as supporters feel improvements can be made. While we all appreciate there is a lot of work required, our collective aim as supporters is the same as the Club’s; we want the best possible version of Everton - and to ensure the Club returns to where it belongs, challenging for honours both domestically and in Europe.
I think it should be acknowledged that Everton as a club has given us, as fans, the opportunity to deliver a FAB in what I believe is the right way. The development of our FAB has been a truly supporter-led process. I don’t believe this is something that any other club has done, and I genuinely believe we have an Advisory Board that has benefitted from that hands-off approach the Club’s CEO has shown; having faith in the process from the outset.
It is now more than 15 months since the attempts by some to create a European Super League. In the wake of those failed actions, Denise engaged the Fans’ Forum to begin the process of understanding what fan representation at the highest and most strategic levels of our club could look like from a supporter perspective.
During those discussions I informed Denise and senior Club representatives that the Forum would initiate a broader conversation with the wider fanbase, including various supporter, stakeholder and society groups the Club already has structured dialogue with. That discussion and the Club’s trust and commitment to make this a fan-led process resulted in the creation of the Everton Stakeholder Steering Group (ESSG), a body of supporter and stakeholder groups representing our diverse fanbase.
The ESSG, which included member groups directly representing more than 20,000 Evertonians, took on the responsibility of helping devise a process that would lead to the development of the FAB as we now know it. We held meetings, focus groups and helped the Club devise surveys (which received more than 20,000 responses) that led to us developing a proposal for how we, as supporters, would like an Everton FAB to operate. We tested that proposal with the wider fanbase through more surveys and then presented our findings back to the Club.
While all this was happening against the backdrop of the Fan Led Review, Everton has always been responsive on the matter. It has always been clear the FAB is as important to the Club as it is to us supporters. While I stepped away from the election process after putting my name forward, I can only comment on how smooth the independently-verified election process ran.
The outcome of that process is the first truly independent and elected FAB in existence in the UK.
As a FAB, we are now up and running. The FAB will initially meet monthly, and in addition to this, we will also meet with the Club quarterly. But it is our intention to listen and represent fans on key strategic matters every day.
At our introductory meeting I was proud to be elected the first chair of the Everton FAB; also elected to key roles were. Hana Roks (vice chair) and Julie Clarke (Secretary).
Make no mistake, my fellow members and I fully understand our job is to reflect the views of the entire fanbase to the Everton Board and Senior Management team. We appreciate that Blues across the world will have different opinions on many things - and our views won’t be solely dictated by social media. We are eager to hear and represent ALL Evertonians as we embark on a new chapter of how football supporters engage with the club they love.
To do that we will look at a range of communication tools and methods, and ways in which we can be as visible as possible through our own channels and events. While we work on these initiatives, we have created an email address for supporters to contact us - [email protected]
It is crucial that we are as accessible and visible as possible to ensure we are truly representing - in a fair and accurate way - the wishes and views of the collective Everton fanbase. In unity, there is strength. And there is no fanbase better than ours.
We are determined to ensure we share and provide transparency as your FAB – and we can’t wait to hear from you.
Jazz / Everton FC