Joys and Sorrows at the EFL Forum

Midlands Reps, EFL Forum
Midlands Reps, EFL Forum

Joys and Sorrows were lucky enough to pick up an invite to the second EFL Fans’ Forum of the season, held at Birmingham’s ‘Bierkeller’ on Broad Street on March 19th…

I was lucky enough to get chatting to some Walsall, Derby County, Notts County and fellow Birmingham City fans, while I was there.  Other clubs may have been represented 😉

The photographs are taken with thanks from EFL’s Twitter Feed…

The event was hosted with plenty of banter by BBC TV Presenter (from Final Score amongst other shows) Mark Clemmit…

The evening began, after we’d been plied with some delicious hot snacks and a free trip to the bar, with an overview of the EFL and its current position in key areas from the EFL’s Director of Communications Mark Rowan.

This gave us some interesting facts, such as the 18 MILLION fans who walked through EFL turnstiles during the 16/17 season (making it the most attractive sports property in the UK and the third in Europe), yet the majority of the EFL’s £136m turnover comes from broadcasting revenue, which answered the questions quite easily as to why fans sometimes feel at the mercy of the broadcasters…

Mark conceded the EFL had received a lot of ‘reputational damage’ about the Carabao Cup following decisions to stage draws outside the UK in early morning time slot (750 million people watched last year’s final in 190 territories, so they tried to tap into that market) and also to invite U21 teams from the Premier League sides (Lincoln and Shrewsbury still made it through to the final, and – in fact – only 10 wins across the whole tournament were achieved by U21 sides).  The ‘upside’ was that each team was guaranteed a £20k participation fee just for entering, and League One Clubs have now earned £1.4m from the competition…

There was also a contradiction in terms announced in that the EFL want managers and clubs to have ‘free rein’ over team selection in the Carabao Cup, yet – following ‘BCFC Huddersfield-gate‘ they now expect ten outfield players to remain unchanged from the squad from match to match, next season.  We’ll see what ‘mitigating circumstances’ teams start creatively coming up with, shall we?

Next up, Chris Foy, former Premier League Referee gave us an interactive insight into the challenges facing referees and their assistants in the modern game.

This part was particularly interactive and interesting, throwing up a few differences of opinion, and making us realise just how tricky the ref’s job is.  Chris Foy wasn’t above telling us refs make mistakes, to be fair, but he was full of praise for the increase in professionalism and athleticism of today’s referees.

Ahead of yesterday’s EFL Day of Action, we were then given a presentation about the work that takes place throughout Clubs’ Community Trusts by the EFL Trust‘s Michelle Robbins, who outlined activities taking place on a daily basis to tackle some of the biggest issues in society across education, health, community inclusion and participation.

The final discussion focussed on the digital developments taking place across football, with the EFL’s Russ Byrne expanding on the recent innovative developments being introduced to provide improved access to match streaming, both at home and abroad for supporters across the EFL, through apps like ifollow

We also heard from the EFL’s Competitions Manager Paul Snellgrove, who explained the process of fixture selection and the working relationship between Sky, the EFL and the relevant authorities on this issue before the evening concluded with an open Q&A between us as supporters and the panellists.

Margaret Decker, from the Blues Trust, asked the same question that Joys and Sorrows had submitted, namely that about ‘Regulation 112’ from the EFL regulations.  This was about engagement with fans, that clubs had to engage with fans, and in doing so, a senior executive member of the club had to be in attendance.  The Blues Trust and Joys and Sorrows shared the concern that this wasn’t happening at the fans’ forums, so the EFL took note, and said it would be fed back…

There was some debate as to whether midweek games would be better attended if they were arranged to be more local, but it was generally accepted that clubs preferred derbies and ‘higher level’ matches to be played at the weekend, so ‘harder-to-get-to’ matches would invariably be relegated to the late night midweek ‘slot’…

Ticket pricing was down to the clubs, the EFL said, Sheffield Wednesday being pointed out as an obvious example where ‘twenty ISN’T plenty’, but the teams from the Midlands all seem to have relatively good and fair initiatives in place.

The West Midlands Police came in for some positive feedback for their policing of matches, and their fan engagement.

Disabled supporters understandably renewed calls for better facilities at away matches, and better placement of seating – BCFC disabled fans notably having been seated in the home end of Villa Park.

Overall, a four hour ‘stint’ representing this fine blog was rewarded with a pint and a bit of pub grub, but – moreover – a fascinating insight into the workings of the EFL and the decision-making of the professional referee.  It was also a great chance to socialise with fellow fans.  Blues fans of course, but fellow football fans too.

If you get the opportunity to attend one of these forums, I’d wholeheartedly recommend it.  If you’re a trophy-selfie hunter, this is especially for you.  I preferred to look at them from afar.  Last time I held the Carling Cup, we were the holders, so I didn’t want to touch it again.  The ‘lower league’ cups, I don’t even want to contemplate, and the playoffs are out of reach this season, so why would I want to hold another team’s cup aloft?  Either way, it was impressive seeing the silverware on show…

Keep Right On!

Russ

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3 Comments on Joys and Sorrows at the EFL Forum

  1. The impoverishment of non-Prem clubs escalates. We stand alone and some smaller Cubs will fall by the wayside. Good to see forums holding us together at grass roots level. KRO.

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