Exeter City has been named as the best club for fan engagement across the top four tiers of English football – for the second year running.
The club topped the Fan Engagement Index 2019/20, an index which scores each of the clubs from the Premier League to League Two on the relationship with their fans. It places each club in a league table comprising three areas: dialogue, governance and transparency.
Exeter City topped the league, with fellow League Two clubs, Carlisle United and Cambridge United in second and third place respectively.
The owner of Think Fan Engagement, Kevin Rye, said: “The Index provides a steer as to how the game might prevent things like the ill-fated Super League proposals from seeing the light of day again, and ensuring clubs are better run more generally. It’s all too easy to say we might want something like a ‘German 50%+1’ model as a solution. What the index does is actually shine a light on the values, structures and cultures that might actually deliver a fan-centred future in English football.”
“As we emerge from Covid, the voice of fans is going to be critical. Some clubs understand this, as you can see from the results. But many haven’t paid enough attention, preferring to focus on pushing out content, social media bantz or PR gimmicks.”
Kevin added: “Exeter City offers an example of how to ensure fan engagement is woven into the DNA of everything a club does. It’s far deeper than just 50%+1, even though that’s a fundamental part of who they are. To put it simply, they ‘get it’. That’s the lesson from the Fan Engagement Index 2019/2020: All of those who do well, understand that it’s a balance between structure and culture.”
Exeter City Supporters’ Trust holds the majority shareholding of Exeter City FC. Its board is elected by its membership, and four of its board members sit on the club board, providing opportunities for genuine input from the supporters into the running of the club.
In a joint statement Julian Tagg, president and director of external affairs at Exeter City, and Nick Hawker, chair of the Supporters Trust, said they were pleased to see the in-depth work being done at the club to engage fans being recognised widely across football.
“This is an award for everyone across the Exeter City family, from the media staff who have done so much to engage our fans over the last year and the many, many people working hard behind the scenes, to the volunteers who put so much time into ensuring our club is well run, with a robust governance structure, and it means so much in what has been an incredibly challenging year for us all.
“In a time when football club ownership and the relationship between fans and their clubs is under scrutiny following the Super League proposals, we are proud to be a supporter-owned club, with our fans at the heart of everything we do. We believe in an open dialogue, good governance and transparency in our activities and we work hard to provide opportunities for fan engagement, and ensure that through our democratic processes, fans can genuinely hold us to account and influence the way our football club is run.”