On Saturday I met one of Crystal Palace’s chairmen, in a pub in Leicester.
Steve Browett walked in, rather unassumingly, and went about answering any questions the Palace fans had about the club. The hot topic of course being the departure of Dougie Freedman (or Greedman as some fans have taken to calling him) to Bolton and what really caused him to tender his resignation.
Whilst he wouldn’t speculate on the shortlist of potential managerial candidates he was more than happy to indulge the fans and give them an insight into the workings of the club.
The board at Selhurst Park are well known for interacting with the fans and regularly take to fan forums and Twitter to deal directly with questions from supporters.
After all they are fans themselves and part of their mantra when their consortium CPFC 2010 took control of the club following its administration was to be as open with the fans as possible.
Of course they would not reveal any sensitive information about the club or anything which could be used to make a profit. Had Browett revealed the next manager I’m sure many fans would have swiftly downed their drinks and headed towards the nearest betting shop.
But just how open should they be?
We hear stories of players in the past joining fans in the nearest pub after the match to drink with them and socialise. While I’m not saying every team should attend a lock in after a match it is interesting to see how much the game has changed in such a short space of time.
Fans don’t feel they can relate to players any more. The enormous salaries have a large part to play in this; it is difficult to relate to someone who is earning your yearly pay packet in a week. Or a day if you’re Cristiano Ronaldo.
Many players use Twitter to interact with fans and take time out of their day to answer their questions in an attempt to make themselves seem more accessible. In my opinion they should do this, it helps the fans feel more connected to the club they spend their money supporting.
That is why I think transparency in football is to be welcomed in an age where many see footballers as overpaid pre-Madonna’s who have the audacity to earn millions and claim they are “not enjoying their football”.
Realistically many teams could not have one of their chairmen going to a pub before a game; I can’t see Roman Abramovich or Sheikh Mansour popping into the Dog and Duck for a pre-match pint and a game of darts.
But moves like this help fans feel as if they are part of something; and that the people in charge of the team they love are not just faceless corporate businessmen but fans like them, who actually care about the team and not just the money it generates. And to that end I think they should be applauded.