The Fan Engagement Pod
Karl Fitzpatrick: the fine line between entertainment product & institution
Episode 25 of the Fan Engagement Pod is an interview with the CEO of Rugby League club, Warrington Wolves, Karl Fitzpatrick. Warrington is itself close to football hotbeds, Manchester and Liverpool, so you can’t just do ‘more of the same’.
Under Karl they’ve become known for their innovative approach to marketing a sport and a club that has to work far harder than football for eyeballs and money. He manages to walk the fine line between the club as an institution with stakeholders, and an entertainment product that needs to excite people.
He’s had a really interesting career to date, having played Rugby League professionally for Widnes and then Salford City Reds between 2000 and 2010, then studied for an MBA, worked on the playing side, eventually becoming football manager at Warrington, then CEO in 2016.
Don’t forget you can join the Fan Engagement Network at faninsights.co.uk/network/join We’re introducing some exclusive member services soon.
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78. Three of the best in Fan Engagement: Gorringe, Scully, Sparks49:39Welcome to the Fan Engagement Pod. Don’t forget the first event of the Fan Engagement Network is on the 26th July at Bristol Rovers. It’s a joint event with Rovers and CEO Tom Gorringe will be speaking.If you work or volunteer in a fan engagement role at a club, a CEO, MD, director or owner and want to attend, drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll reserve you a place.This episode is with the aforementioned Tom, Liam Scully, CEO of Lincoln City, and Ryan Sparks, CEO of League Two Bradford City. The three of them have done impressive jobs with each of the clubs they run, placing structured and strategic Fan Engagement at the heart of what they do, ensuring it feeds into decision making and key commercial decisions.They tell us their lessons from their time in charge, including the learning curve, how each club is unique, but how to apply experiences from elsewhere - including other sports, and how winning only papers over the cracks of a creaking structure. As Liam himself says, this is an exciting time to be in charge of a football club. We’re seeing genuine changes in how clubs are run, with good Fan Engagement now being seen as a positive opportunity. All three are clear that reform - financial and administrative - through the new Independent Regulator will make that opportunity even greater, especially when it comes to staffing in key Fan Engagement roles.If you want to get in touch, ask a question or suggest a topic or guest, drop me a line at email@example.com Episode linksIndependent Regulator White Paper: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/a-sustainable-future-reforming-club-football-governance/a-sustainable-future-reforming-club-football-governanceBristol Rovers Fan Engagement section: https://www.bristolrovers.co.uk/club/fan-engagementBradford City Supporter Services website: https://support.bradfordcityafc.comLincoln City Supporters Board & new 'Four Party' group: https://www.weareimps.com/club/policiesKeep an eye out on https://fanengagement.net and find our socials on https://linktr.ee/thinkfanengagement Please like, subscribe and share. It really does help our visibility.
77. Aaryaman Banerji/Civitas: Can we regulate Fan Engagement?46:17This episode is with Aaryaman Banerji, author of the Civitas report, Governing the Beautiful Game, The Future of Football in Civil Society.Aaryaman produced the report as Lead Football Analyst at Civitas, a political think tank based out of Westminster. Civitas is an independent think tank which conducts forensic research and analysis into critical topics within the British political ecosystem, in order to instruct government policy and shape public debate.He has a widely respected FIFA Masters and a Master's Degree in History from Durham University, where his research focused on the socio-political and economic history of football.He has experience working as a journalist for the Football Association and the Black Collective of Media in Sport, whilst helping in the administration and management of an amateur football club in London.We discuss why the Tories as a largely non-interventionist party have decided to intervene, how the fan led review addressed the impact of years of poor club-fan relations and fan engagement regulation, the nature of the business model of clubs, and how the soon-to-be independent regulator will impact the quality of administration and ownership, and ultimately, fan engagement in the game. Episode LinksCivitas Report: https://www.civitas.org.uk/publications/governing-the-beautiful-gameFan Led Review: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/fan-led-review-of-football-governance-securing-the-games-future/fan-led-review-of-football-governance-securing-the-games-futureBlack Collective of Media in Sport (BCOMS): https://bcoms.co
76. Making friends with Gooners, meeting Daniel Levy with Kat Law & Martin Cloake01:05:42This is our first face-to-face recording, done at the RSA in John Adam Street, just off the Strand in London, where I’m a fellow. Apologies for some background noise at times.This episode is with Kat Law and Martin Cloake, who until last year were co-chairs of the Tottenham Hotspur Supporters Trust, and who formally stepped down from the board this year. If you want to know what meeting with Spurs CEO Daniel Levy & the rest of the executive board was like, how they dealt with the aftermath of the European Super League car-crash and why they stopped their regular board-to-board meetings with the club, this one’s for you.The collaborative efforts between groups like theirs and supporters’ trusts at rival clubs like Arsenal & Chelsea, was and remains a great tonic to the excesses of the modern, often confected, rivalry between fans off the pitch. As Supporters Direct founder Brian Lomax always said: what unites us off the pitch is greater than what divides us over 90 minutes. I’ve known and at times, worked with both, for many years, and have always liked and respected their honesty, application and professionalism. Their desire to always do what they judged to be the right thing, and to do it well, has never been in question. Kat is still involved with the FSA nationally, and was also on the FA Council for a period.They formed part of the Premier League group of supporters’ trusts that I helped establish & oversee at Supporters Direct, which was the engine for the successful campaign to reduce away ticket prices in the Premier League, and also numerous pieces of policy and campaigning work we did in the game around regulation and fan engagement, and other areas such as Assets of Community Value.If you’re interested in the RSA, including how to become a fellow or use their facilities, go to https://www.thersa.org for more.If you want to get in touch, ask a question or suggest a topic or guest, drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org Episode LinksTottenham Hotspur Supporters Trust: https://www.thstofficial.com The Football Supporters Association: https://thefsa.org.uk Martin Cloake's Substack (The Football Fan): https://martincloake.substack.comEpisode links available in the podcast description. Keep an eye out on https://fanengagement.net and find our socials on https://linktr.ee/thinkfanengagement Please like, subscribe and share. It really does help our visibility.
75. Women's Football with Deborah Dilworth38:27This episode is a chat with Deborah Dilworth, Head of Women’s Football at the Football Supporters Association. Our paths very nearly crossed, as she joined Supporters Direct not long after I left, though then working in the men’s game with supporters’ trusts. She took up a role post-merger of SD & the FSF, and now leads on The FSA’s work in the women’s game.She meets with The FA and other key stakeholders regularly, and supports and advises the new slew of supporters organisations in the rapidly growing women’s game.Pound for pound, this is one of the best episodes I’ve ever done of the Pod. Deborah doesn’t have a fixed mindset on the issues, and our chat is a proper exploration of some of the issues that are currently affecting a game that, let’s not forget, wasn’t even allowed to exist until the early 70s, after a ban lasting from the early 1920s was finally lifted.I hope you enjoy the episode. I’m planning on getting Debs back on for another chat in the future. If you want to get in touch, ask a question or suggest a topic or guest, drop me a line at email@example.com Episode LinksThe Football Supporters Association (Women’s football): https://thefsa.org.uk/our-work/womens-football The Women’s National League: https://fulltime.thefa.com/index.html?league=872938 Keep an eye out on https://fanengagement.net and find our socials on https://linktr.ee/thinkfanengagement Register for free and you get access to the Fan Engagement Hub, with more detailed data and case studies from all the Fan Engagement Indexes.Please like, subscribe and share. It really does help our visibility.
74. Not just a wee success: Gerard Lawlor, NI Football League32:20This episode is a chat with Gerard Lawlor, Chief Executive of the Northern Ireland Football League.Gerard has been CEO since 2021. Professionally, he was in the hospitality industry as a chef for years, but crucially, always a fan and latterly director and chairman of Cliftonville FC. He has clear understanding of the needs of his member clubs both as institutions but also as businesses that need to satisfy fans both as customer and stakeholder, whilst building new loyalties amongst non-traditional fans, particularly women and girls. I just sat back and listened for large parts of this interview. He had so much interesting stuff to say about a league that is clearly undergoing a renaissance, and clubs that are finding themselves more popular than they’ve been for a long time.You can hear how their success was supercharged by Covid, and how their strength really is that they’re close to their fans. I really enjoyed chatting with Gerard, and I’m sure you’ll enjoy listening to it too. Episode LinksNorthern Ireland Football League: https://www.nifootballleague.com Glentoran FC: https://www.glentoran.comLarne FC https://larnefc.com Episode links available in the podcast description. Keep an eye out on https://fanengagement.net and find our socials on https://linktr.ee/thinkfanengagement Register for free and you get access to the Fan Engagement Hub, with more detailed data and case studies from all the Fan Engagement Indexes (new one out very soon).Please like, subscribe and share. It really does help our visibility.
73. Changing Fan Behaviour: Time for a rethink57:59This episode discusses policing, at risk fans. We look at how to change the approach of dealing with anti-social behaviour and problem fans from one of removal and banning, to education and helping them to become better citizens. GuestsOwen West, former Chief Superintendent at West Yorkshire Police and now Senior Lecturer in Policing at Edge Hill University: https://research.edgehill.ac.uk/en/persons/owen-west Amanda Jacks, Caseworker at The Football Supporters Association: https://thefsa.org.uk/our-work/casework Kristine Green, Director of Grimsby Town, as well as something of an expert in communications between police and fans, and the club’s Supporter Liaison Officer: https://gtfc.co.uk/kristine-awarded-the-bem Sidney Wise, Writer and Researcher, Think Fan Engagement: https://www.linkedin.com/in/sidney-wise-231431201 Links‘Cleveland Police slammed over Hartlepool United v Stockport County match dogs tweet: https://www.gazettelive.co.uk/news/teesside-news/cleveland-police-slammed-over-hartlepool-25668716Mark Roberts' cocaine remarks: https://www.joe.co.uk/sport/football-fans-staggered-by-police-chiefs-ignorance-towards-safe-standing-309247 Liam Scully, CEO at Lincoln City, condemning Roberts' remarks: https://www.weareimps.com/news/2022/november/CEO-resonds-to-police-chief-claims The Anfield Wrap Podcast - special (with Amanda Jacks from The FSA) https://www.theanfieldwrap.com/2022/07/podcast-dark-side-of-football-paying-price-for-passion-special)? Standard Liege intervention programme https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-36516017Germany’s fanprojekt programme: https://www.lemonde.fr/en/sports/article/2022/09/12/is-germany-s-innovative-approach-to-football-hooliganism-paying-off_5996604_9.htmlEFL sanctions guidelines for clubs: https://thefsa.org.uk/news/efl-unveils-new-sanctions-policy/ Apologies for the poor sound quality in places. Keep an eye out on https://fanengagement.net and find our socials on https://linktr.ee/thinkfanengagement Please like, subscribe and share. It really does help our visibility.
72. EPL & EFL failures | Establishing a Shadow Board37:27Part oneAs we head towards a new season, I lay out the position we appear to be in when it comes to Fan Engagement as part of the government’s Fan Led Review. This is after all the context for every discussion about reform of Fan Engagement. I look at where The Premier League are and where The EFL are on this critical issue.Part twoThe main part of this episode is where I try to get my head around a major recommendation of the Fan Led Review’s proposed reforms - and a major plank of the Premier League’s new Fan Engagement Standard. I chat with Shaun Lockwood COO of Doncaster Rovers and Dave Matthews Jones, Fans Elected Director of Cambridge United. This is part of my attempt to create and contribute to the discussion I think we need. Both clubs are at different stages of implementing Shadow Board structures, and I chat with them about where they are, and why they think the structure matters to their clubs - and football more widely. I’ll be continuing this theme in the coming months, announcing some exciting news soon about how. Keep an eye out on https://fanengagement.net @thinkengagement or look for us on LinkedIn or Facebook. Email us via firstname.lastname@example.org
71. Fan Engagement Index 2020/2021 Special!01:19:59It's a Fan Engagement Index 2020/2021 season special. As well as running down the table from 92 to 1, we chat with special guests including club CEOs, directors, supporters' trusts and fan groups, and experts in the field.Find out the full results at fanengagement.net/fan-engagement-indexPlease like, subscribe and share. It really does help our visibility.
70. The midst of a crisis for fans: Adam Keely from Push The Boundary (Oldham)38:45This episode takes a stark look at what it's like in the middle of a crisis with Adam Keely from Oldham Athletic activist group, Push The Boundary. It was recorded in mid-December, before the owner, Abdallah Lemsagam, publicly declared his intention to sell, though given the litany of broken promises, I suspect fans are holding their breath.Adam talks us through what it's been like organising against the club he loves, why he fears managed decline, and what it's like trying to unite the fanbase when the team is devoid of identity, and bottom of the table.We also chat about what it's like to go 30 years without a trophy or any promotion, which is where comparisons with their former top-flight opponents, Everton, cease. Presenter Kev also touches on the failures of leadership, and why it's important for owners to keep their promises.One message Kev has for Adam's fellow Oldham fans is remain united.And find out more about our work at https://fanengagement.net. Register for free and you get access to the Fan Engagement Hub, with more detailed data and case studies from the 2018/2019 and 2019/2020 Fan Engagement Indexes.Please like, subscribe and share. It really does help our visibility.