To be fair there’s three, really. The DSA acts solely for disabled supporters so directly represents only a small percentage of fans, and there will be a similar organisation at each club. The difference here is that the DSA is effectively a branch of ISSA.
Though I agree regarding the number of groups for a fan base of our size, it’s worth asserting that neither ISSA or WSFC would have been formed had supporters been satisfied with how the Trust performed as our sole representative.
The Trust have for a long time done fantastic work with charities and fundraisers, the local community and with the project in Sierra Leone, but over a decade or so in which the club has been in general decline, they’ve appeared too complicit and unwilling the break rank and speak out.
Both ISSA and WSFC have been prepared to ask tough questions of the club very publicly at a time when they’ve needed to be answered, and forced Walsall FC to embrace a more open platform. That in itself, for me, gives ample validity to one or both groups existing.
Also, both of the newer groups offer very different things. Anyone who has been down to the Railway Club on a Saturday or taken an ISSA coach to an away game will agree they have created a fantastic social platform for our supporters. They’ve also taken some really ambitious ideas to the club, created a fantastic ex-players network and generated some great publicity.
WSFC, a group formed in response to the general decay at the club, has been more than worthy of a place at Working Party Meetings. Admittedly, the very sudden departure of Bonser meant we’ve had to reevaluate our approach and tone, but we’ve successfully campaigned for the club to recognise and address a wide range of issues (from catering to the state of the toilets) that likely wouldn’t have been considered otherwise.
So regardless of whether these questions would have been better asked as a unified voice, the important thing is that they are being asked and that the club is taking notice.
On that note I should say, as somewhat of an insider, that the club (at least since LP took charge) really have started to communicate and embrace the input of each group, the superb fundraising efforts of the Trust and ISSA during the current crisis being a recent example.
The relationship between the club and fans is changing, gradually, for the better, and each supporters’ group has played a part in that.
Unfortunately, there exists some very deep issues between members of the Trust and ISSA (and by extension the DSA), that are unlikely to be resolved and which the club, quite rightly, are unwilling to adjudicate. These issues have a habit of becoming public, and when they do, this acts to weaken the position of all groups, even those not involved.
It is the reoccurrence of this situation, not the volume of groups or their respective agendas, that damages the legibility of supporter representation.
Ultimately it’s up to those involved to either bury the hatchet or at least reach a reasonable working arrangement, because that’s the only way we’re ever going to reach a united voice for Walsall fans.