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The Everton Fans’ Forum needs a global outlook

We chatted with Tony Sampson, aiming to become the first overseas candidate in the Forum

Everton v Crystal Palace - Premier League - Goodison Park Photo by Tim Markland/EMPICS/PA Images via Getty Images

The Everton Fan’s Forum is an initiative set up to bring the fans closer to the Club, by providing honest and candid feedback on a host of issues and topics that are important to supporters.

Everton Football Club currently has thousands of fans worldwide, connected to by a network of over 150 Supporters’ Clubs. However, there has not been a representative member for the international supporters of the Club to have their voices heard.

In this era of globalization, Everton have been left behind by a large number of English and European clubs in enlarging their footprint around the world. Granted the results on the pitch have not lent themselves to winning over new fans, but multiple opportunities to gain new supporters and increase revenue streams have been passed up in the past as well.

The Fan’s Forum is currently in the process of voting in new members again, with Everton fan Tony Sampson who currently resides in Chicago also throwing in his hat into the ring.

We spoke with Tony about his background and what he felt he could bring to the Forum in a short Q&A.

RBM: First off, tell us a bit about yourself, and how you came to be a Blue.

TS: I’m a Scouser and grew up in the south end of the city. Like lots of Blues, I’ve got my Dad to thank for me being an Evertonian. He used to follow Everton home and away when he was younger and I was about 5 when he first took me to Goodison.

We used to go in the Paddock in the corner by the Gwladys Street and he’d sit me on the barrier so I could see the pitch. Graeme Sharp was my favourite player growing up and the one I pretended to be in the school playground. There must have been something about Scottish strikers, because Big Dunc was also became one of my heroes. I was delighted to see him do so well for his brief spell in charge.

For the last few years, I’ve sat in the Family Enclosure with my Dad and 2 sons. We’ve still got our season tickets despite moving to Chicago last year.

How about the Fans Forum, what is their role? How is the Forum important for the supporters?

It exists to represent the interests of Evertonians - acting as the link between the fanbase and the Club. It’s been involved in a range of issues from ticketing, the introduction of a singing section as well as being behind the Holy Trinity statue of Kendall, Harvey and Ball outside Goodison.

Evertonians are a very passionate and diverse family. And like every family, there’s a wide range of views and opinions. Not just about what happens on the pitch, but also what happens of it - whether that’s about stadium safety, fan engagement or safe standing.

At a time when the Club is going through such a period of change with a new executive team, management team and on the verge of a historic stadium move, it’s never been more important to ensure that every member of the Everton family has a voice. And that includes the 50 or more official supporters groups outside the UK.

What makes you the right candidate for the Fans Forum?

Well first and foremost I’m a fan, so am 100% motivated by wanting the best for the Club and its supporters. Everton has been a huge part of my family’s life. It’s always been more than just going to the match. It’s also about being part a community and connecting with people who instinctively share the same passion.

Since moving overseas, I’ve been really struck by the strong desire for Blues’ fans to connect and strengthen the sense of belonging to the Club - whether that’s Scousers who’ve moved away or those that have chosen to follow Everton.

I’ve also realised that overseas Blues want to connect in different ways and for different reasons. I think having that understanding is really important in being able to represent their views and perspectives effectively.

My work has involved extensive consultation and collaboration with a wide variety of stakeholder groups, sometimes with conflicting views. It’s meant that I’ve regularly had to put myself in the shoes of others and look to find common ground where possible. I think that experience will help me make an impact on the Fans Forum.

I honestly don’t think that many fans know much about the Fans Forum or its objectives. I think its work needs to be driven by the issues the fans care about, so one thing I’d like to do is consult with Blues abroad to hear from them about what matters to them and how they might want to get involved.

I think it’s also important that they know who to contact if they’ve got a question or concern, so I’d want to be clear that I’d be a contact point for them and advocate on their behalf. There currently doesn’t seem to be a platform to keep fans updated and I’d want to work on that with other Forum members. We need to be clear about the priorities while also keeping people informed of progress.

If selected, you will be the first member of the Forum to be living abroad, how will you participate in meetings and activities?

Yes. I’m not sure if overseas supporters have applied in previous years, but if I do get through the vote, it would be the first time international fans have been represented. The fact that the Forum welcomed applications from fans outside the UK sends a clear signal that it’s serious about the international fanbase.

Technology today means that there are so many options for participating in meetings and staying connected wherever you are in the world. I actually did my interview for the Forum by video which worked really well so I don’t see it being an issue. I also visit the UK a few times a year, so for some meetings I’ll be able to attend in person.

I actually think that what goes on between meetings is just as important as the meetings themselves. I don’t want to be a member of the Forum just to attend meetings, I want to do it to get stuff done - whether that’s engaging and consulting with fans to get their views on key Club issues or working on key projects.

How can you help the club looking to expand its footprint abroad?

I think we need to know more about what the club’s plans are. If you take the US for example, the appointment of Tim Howard as Ambassador tells you that it wants to do something.

Football’s profile is building all the time in the US and the recent success of the women’s team at the World Cup and the lead up to the 2026 World Cup (over 60 games to be hosted in the US) means there’s a real opportunity for the club to expand its reach.

Working with the existing network of Everton supporters’ clubs across the country is going to be key to this. Since expressing interest in the Fans’ Forum, many have contacted me with ideas and a willingness to get involved.

I think there’s different ways of building that engagement. They could be formal partnerships to promote some of the club’s programmes or assistance to supporters groups with events to drive engagement in their local community.

For example, the Chicago Toffees ran an event in November to raise money for Everton in the Community (EiTC). We partnered with the Club and EiTC who helped us with signed items and supportive messages. Apart from raising over $3k for EiTC, we’ve had new members join the group and through an online auction were able to involve EFC supporters groups across the US. These are the type of local events that get Blues involved in the larger Everton community.

Connecting with the club in ways that make it about more than watching football on a weekend morning is what my candidacy is all about.

We thank Tony for taking the time to talk to us, and wish him all the best in his campaign.

The vote to select new members to the Everton Fans’ Forum is now open. All supporters with an Everton Customer Number are eligible to vote and select from a shortlist of nine candidates.

The four candidates who receive the highest number of votes will be invited to join the Fans’ Forum later this month. The voting period runs from Friday 7 February to Friday 21 February (4pm BST) and the results will be announced on Tuesday 25 February via the Club website.

Here is the information page for the Fans Forum vote, and here is the voting page along with bios of the nine candidates.

To vote, you’ll need an Everton Customer Number; if you do not have an Everton Customer Number to cast your vote, you can get this by quickly registering on the Digital Membership page.

You will find your customer number by logging into your account, clicking on the ‘Buy Tickets’ tab, then the ‘Profile Settings’ within ‘Account Settings’.