The Everton Fans’ 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 50 Supporters’ Clubs.
We’ve spoken a couple of times previously with US-based Blue Tony Sampson a Scouser but now part of the Chicago Evertonians since moving to the US. One of the first international members of the forum, Tony has chatted with us in the past and the last time we talked the Forum was getting prepared to kick off a Global Consultation where international Blues were invited to tell the Everton Fans’ Forum about the areas of the Club that matter most to them most and give their views on feedback mechanisms and how they prefer to be kept informed of key developments.
Just a quick recap about the work done so far -
- 2 international representatives elected to EFC Fans’ Forum (FF) in Feb (Tony Sampson & Joe O’Reilly)
- Campaigned to give overseas Blues a voice on issues that impact them and provide a focal point
- Formed International Working Group in March, led by Tony Sampson
- Launched first ever FF survey with overseas supporters group 30 April – 20 May
- Presented findings to Everton Football Club in May & June along with series of recommendations on key areas for focus and action
- Survey results published Tuesday 7 July – results shared with supporters clubs and published on FF section of EFC website.
We caught up recently with Tony to talk about the results of the consultation.
What did you think of the survey and the responses you received overall?
Both Joe and I have spent time listening to supporters groups all over the globe since we got elected who’ve told us they want to be better engaged on Club issues. So the survey was an important early step in understanding a bit more about the things that they most care about and get their views on how they want to be involved in future.
The research we’ve done in the Fans’ Forum suggests that there are more than 100 supporters groups overseas - some of which are more informal groups of Blues who come together to watch games and run events, and others who have decided to get official affiliation status with the Club. We were really pleased with the diversity of the responses – with fans responding from 27 different countries around the world. 90% of those told us it was important for them to have a say about their Club, and 77% told us that they wanted to be involved in some way in the work of the Forum.
44% of those responding were from the US, which again didn’t come as a huge surprise, especially given the connections the Club has with former players and the network of supporters clubs that have developed there over the years.
The key takeaway is that there’s a diverse and devoted Everton following outside of the UK - that wants to be even further involved and connected to the Club. It was summed up by one of the pieces of feedback we received that said “We want to be part of Everton, not just a spectator in another country”.
What were some of the more expected asks you received regarding the experiences of fans abroad?
Some of the key themes that came through were consistent with what Joe and I have heard from supporters in recent months. Things like building greater brand visibility in international markets to ensure that Everton has the same levels of exposure as other Premier League Clubs, as well as issues related to accessing and purchasing Everton merchandise when overseas, particularly in relation to things like shipping costs.
We received a lot of responses and ideas about enhancing the support and resources for supporters clubs to help spread the word about Everton, to better engage existing members, but also to help identify Evertonians of the future. Linked to this were suggestions around strengthening the connection and coordination between supporters groups to help build the bond and sense of involvement between supporters and the Club.
Improving access to information about planning trips to Goodison and (early, where possible) access to match tickets for fans who often have to plan well in advance when travelling long distances also featured as a common theme, and highlights some of the unique characteristics of following Everton from outside the UK.
What were some of the more surprising requests you got about supporter engagement abroad?
This was the first time the Fans’ Forum has sought the views and opinions of supporters abroad and whilst over 64% told us they’re familiar with the Forum, only half knew about the fact that it now has international representation. We hope that the survey will help build further awareness, but there’s more for us to do in that respect.
The survey gave us some insight as to how supporters want to be kept informed and involved. We’ve already launched a podcast series to share key developments and updates on the issues we discuss with the Club and are actively planning Zoom meetings with some of the supporters clubs to advance some of the ideas we’ve heard. Of course, we’ll continue to share information on the Fans’ Forum section of the Club website and share information through all of our social media channels as well.
Another area that stood out from the survey was that only 10% of respondents were female. We’d like to understand more about what’s behind that so that we can work to ensure that all parts of our fanbase outside the UK have the opportunity to share their ideas, views and opinions.
What happens next and how will you keep overseas Blues engaged in future?
We’ve already met with the Club a couple of times to take them through the survey findings. The Fan Engagement Team has been working on some of the issues raised in the survey through its membership and engagement activities and as part of the Club’s international strategy. We’ve now shared a series of recommendations with them, building on the survey findings, that we hope can inform the planning they’re doing to engage overseas supporters for next season and beyond. We’re going to continue working closely with them over the coming weeks and months and will keep supporters informed of progress.
Joe and I feel strongly that Evertonians around the world should have a voice and the survey has been a critical step in hearing more about the unique issues that come with being a Blue abroad. We’ll now be working with the Club and our Fans’ Forum colleagues to keep moving forward.
This act of involving the fans abroad has been warmly welcomed by fan groups abroad, such as the New York City and Southern California groups.
Valuable feedback from International Supporters summarized here. We look forward to working further with the @EFC_FansForum to ensure a strong connection with the club and help with identified areas for improvement. https://t.co/fi3Ey9SEXb— EFC NYC (@nyc_evertonians) July 8, 2020
Massive shoutout to @EFC_FansForum for really going out of their way to engage with the fans. Especially international fans. It means a lot to us out here in the States. Some interesting findings as well. https://t.co/5Kr0iW3qDq— Gyorgi (@TweetGyorgi) July 8, 2020
Overseas Blues who want to learn more about the survey or any other issue, can contact the Fans’ Forum at: firstname.lastname@example.org
We thank Tony for stopping by for a chat, and really appreciate the work being done by you and the other members of the Forum.