Is the answer “When it is written by Walsall Football Club”?
Up until around one month ago, the WFC customer charter published on the official website was very different to the one that has replaced it, without notice, without consultation and without any form of input from supporters other than those with a vested interest in the club: Its officers.
Sections 1-4 and 6-9 remain unaltered, right down to the glaring typos that have been there ever since the document was originally drafted. The one section that has changed is Section 5 – Consultation and Information.
In both old and new charters, the objective of Section 5 is the same – to ensure an ongoing communication and consultation link between the Club and its supporters. How this is to be achieved is what has been changed.
Now, to put it bluntly, the club will achieve the objective by providing news and information on its website and in its matchday programme. Fans can pose questions either through the programme or website, and in a new section, the club advise they will respond to written questions submitted by shareholders at the annual general meeting.
What has been cut totally from the consultation section is, well, anything involving formal consultation.
There used to be a Supporters Liaison Committee (SLC) with 4 nominated members of the official supporters club involved. This committee controlled complaints, suggestions and observations via standard forms and committed to respond on these matters within 14 days.
There used to be a (commitment to hosting a) quarterly focus meeting at the Saddlers Club involving club representatives and 12-15 supporters, according to the old charter. In an email to one supporter Whalley had the audacity to claim that these were stopped because they were badly attended, though usually 12-15 people turned up!
There used to be an extended invitation to a SLC member to attend board meetings where supporter related issues were to be discussed, according to the old charter.
The SLC used to offer an opinion on any new kit, according to the old charter.
The club used to promise to respond to ALL submissions, via the SLC, within 14 days. Now it only commits to “using its best endeavours to respond to correspondence within 14 days”. What does that mean? If they don’t like your tone, they won’t answer your mail?
The club have used the website section “Saddlers Insight” to publish responses to questions posed by fans to the club. This section has not been updated since April.
While it is easy to see that technology has moved on since the charter was written, and that many complaints, observations or suggestions can now be very easily made to the club, there’s now no formal framework that says the supporters have any input [via the SLC] into the club’s response on any issues it is presented with.
What is now missing is a formal supporters group to liaise with the club. It’s well-known that Uncle Jeff has no time at all for the Supporters’ Trust, but now the club won’t even commit to listening to the Saddlers Club supporters, who on the whole have been much more supportive of the club’s actions.
The club, in issuing this new charter, have plainly adopted a ‘divide and conquer’ approach to fans, disenfranchising them by removing the only co-ordinated fan team they had, the Supporters Liaison Committee. It is also deeply disappointing that in making its unilateral changes to the charter, the club did not abide by the old one.
We ask the club: How can the new charter possibly ensure ongoing communication and (more especially) consultation between the club and its supporters when it has comprehensively stripped supporters of any formal voice, opinion or input?