Having attended my first fans’ parliament meeting in September 2014 and my latest one last night, I feel I’m in a credible enough position to offer my thoughts on the platform and whether commonplace criticism of it is merited.
Last night represented my fourth meeting in total and while my overall minutes will appear in due course (once the official minutes are published) I can at least blog about my feelings about the parliament generally without risk of contravening official rules.
One point that has been repeatedly made by chief executive Jez Moxey – and head of marketing Matt Grayson – is that we should be thankful of the parliament itself, which offers way more accountability, openness and transparency than most, if not all other clubs. Indeed, our CEO regularly trumpets the forums as setting an industry standard, with WBA and Stoke City following Wolves’ lead – the only difference being that our CEO attends every meeting, whereas their topics of conversation are way more sanitised with less influential people.
Indeed, documents were placed on tables around the room last night, detailing the many achievements attributed to the parliament since being formed in 2006. These include the Flex-Ticket, the removal of admin fees on online match tickets, the introduction of an under-21 season ticket and work to introduce safe standing / rail seating through dialogue with the chairman of the Football Supporters Federation (an ongoing project). There were many more bullet points besides, which I will share in due course.
Last night, discussion touched upon the credibility of the parliament, with some fans bemoaning the cutting jibes made about it – and them for being associated with it – outside the room, when they really don’t appreciate what goes on from the inside. Or words to that effect.
I have heard similar. And I get the point.
My opinion, for what it’s worth, is that the Fans’ Parliament is a worthwhile set-up and I attach a high value to it. I wouldn’t have rushed back from the hard shoulder of the M40 in Warwickshire at 5.30pm last night following a hastily repaired flat tyre if I felt otherwise.
If people think it is a toothless entity then yes, I would understand, but I wouldn’t level that at Jez Moxey or Wolves as a whole, who can only create the entity and then field questions thereafter. (Bemoaning his carefully thought-out responses is another matter entirely).
Where the Fans’ Parliament falls so depressingly short is the complete lack of inclination from so many members to ask any meaningful questions at any given time.
With the buffet in place, the orange juice flowing and Messrs Grayson and Moxey in situ for the evening, far, far too many fans digest their wholemeal sandwiches and Indian nibbles, washed down with a cup of tea before looking on in silence.
I’d say 75 per cent of pertinent questions are asked by a minority of five or six members, while vast swathes of the room decline to engage in the act of rational discourse. Worse still, they don’t make any notes whatsoever at any point, making their presence at the parliament literally pointless.
The club can only take the horse to water. That some order beer from the bar instead as the meeting commences is not their fault.
After of one of the most underwhelming, soul-destroying seasons in living memory and you’d think questions would want to be asked?!
My questions to Jez Moxey, for what it is worth, were (and I am paraphrasing in one or two of these as I asked one or two off the cuff):
- Comparing Wolves in 2016 to when you first joined the club in 2000, season ticket sales are down, quality on the pitch is down, commercial revenue is presumably down, expectation is down and apathy is at an all-time high. How do you assess your performance during this time?
- Is a clause in Kevin McDonald’s contract prohibiting Kenny Jackett from playing him?
- How much of this ‘one eye on tomorrow’ philosophy do you believe to be the right thing in your heart, or how much is it the owner telling you we have no money and have no other choice but to sign players like Ojo and Wallace? For example, we spent big in signing Newton, Miller, Blake, Kennedy in 2002 but don’t think that spending is important today?
- You must have gone to Steve Morgan and said ‘give us 50 million’ and we can get promoted, which is pocket money to him. The fact he won’t results in us bringing in players like Sheyi Ojo and Wallace, who everyone in this room knew weren’t adequate replacements for Sako.
- What key performance indicators / objectives is Kenny Jackett working towards next season?
- A whole ruck of questions were asked about the Money Shop sponsorship, which I didn’t add to.
I will elaborate with answers as and when the official minutes are out, but for the time being, I wanted to clarify my thoughts on the fans’ parliament. With a number of members coming to an end of their four year tenures, I would only urge fans with dissenting voices to channel their frustrations in a positive way, apply to firstname.lastname@example.org to become a member and get it all off your chest.
That’s what it’s there for and long may it continue.