Putting fans first by Everton FC

Ian Walton

The clubs recent steps to put supporters first is going down well

History has sadly declared David Moyes a failure at Goodison Park. Ever since his departure to Manchester United in the summer, his actions have tarnished his reputation with the Goodison faithful beyond repair, but there is one thing he left which will not be lost, Everton are The People's Club.

Every football fan thinks their club is the best in the world, but in recent years there were many Evertonians who felt the club had lost its connection with the supporters. It had become more closed, communication was minimal and the fans uneasy with it. Their approach has changed this season though, and their Spanish manager and an excellent public relations team headed by Alan Myers are spearheading it. Roberto Martinez has been heralded an inspirational signing since his move from Wigan, but the latter, Mr Myers, has proved just as big a masterstroke.

From the get go, there was a sense that the new manager understood this football club, and he has repeatedly proved that theory to be true. His decision to put up photos of club legends around Goodison, to remind current players of the history of the club he says, was a fan favourite. Inviting a select set of fans for a special interview proved a massive success, whilst his constant desire to return Everton to the top of the English game, where he believes they belong, was always going to get fans on his side.

However, those working behind the scenes are doing just as good a job. Everton recently announced a new shirt deal with Umbro, replacing Nike from next year onwards. Much has been made of Nike's lack of interest in the club, with complaints about lack of stock, poor designs and general lack of care widespread. Umbro however, seems a better fit, with their ethos better matching that of the club, never mind the successful past partnership both enjoy together. Even the manner in which the deal was announced was typically Everton. Rather than an announcement of the usual kind, a select group of fans were chosen and, unaware of what they were in for, taken to the Umbro factory, given a tour and presented with their own personalised kits as well as a Q&A with Mr Martinez at the end. A Twitter campaign followed the day and produced some excellent publicity, despite the lack of disappointment that it wasn't a new stadium, signing or buyer for the club.

A similar campaign has seen fans involved in other projects, such as the illumination of Prince Rupert's Tower in the club colours and crest, something that will remain a permanent fixture, and even season ticket pricing. The club recently announced that their popular pricing scheme has been frozen for another year. This means that to take juniors (under 11) to home games comes in at £5 per match, whilst those under 16 are less than £8 a game. It is something that has seen an 8.22% increase in uptake from young Blues already. The club has even increased its payment plan options, meaning that Blues can now pay in ten monthly instalments with Direct Debit, making it easier for families with large season tickets bills in these hard financial times.

Even at the heart of the football club, the fans come first. Everton in the Community run numerous schemes to help the communities in which it operates, and have more awards than they can shake a stick at. Just like the Everton Free School, there isn't anything like it at any other football club. No doubt other football clubs work in the community, but none of them do it like Everton. The recent events with Malaysian fan Ric Wee and the reaction from the club, wherein he got to meet the manager and players and was invited back, shows how much Everton care about their fans and Twitter has been awash with rival fans declaring their admiration of the clubs actions.

Many will point to one thing to disprove this theory, and that was the furor over this season's badge redesign. Arguably they would be right. The whole process was a fiasco but it was swiftly rectified by the club. They realised their mistake, sadly too late to fix for this year, and quickly offered the fans the chance to pick their favourite. Some complained at the lack of options, but it is easy to forget that they were lucky to be asked in the first place. Many other clubs wouldn't have bothered, nor would they have changed despite such negative criticism.

All in all, there is something special brewing at Everton Football Club, both on the pitch and off it. Whilst Roberto Martinez's team continues to push for Champions League qualification, the club is continuing to rebuild its rapport with the fan base that had become somewhat disillusioned in recent years. Though some will claim that all of this is irrelevant whilst the club cannot compete financially, slowly but surely the soul that makes Everton The People's Club is returning to Goodison Park, and I for one am pleased to welcome it back.

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