Supporters turned up in their numbers for the first EFL Fan Forum of the season at Wigan Athletic’s DW Stadium on Tuesday night.Fans from EFL clubs around the country attended alongside EFL Communications Director Mark Rowan, Chris Foy from Professional Game Match Officials and former Liverpool and Preston North End striker Neil Mellor.
The primary aim for the EFL Fan Forums is to increase engagement with supporters. Several points were discussed including the ongoing commitment between the EFL and Sky Sports to ensure clubs and their fans are given at least five weeks’ notice ahead of any matches selected for live television coverage.
Foy, Head of Community and Public Engagement at PGMOL, spoke in depth about the changes to the Laws of the Game and the performances of match officials across the leagues.
The former top level referee started the forum by holding an interactive session showing difficult scenarios match officials have to manage with the aim to help promote honesty, integrity and positive behaviour across the game.
“We had a good chat with the fans and they made some really good points,” said Foy. “I enjoyed answering their questions because we are all football fans and we have a shared passion for the game.”
Foy used video clips to emphasise to supporters the challenges referees often face officiating a professional game and making split-second decisions.
Providing the players’ perspective, Mellor, now a reporter for Sky Sports, explained how footballers may perceive referee decisions and react to in-game events, which resulted in an interesting and informative audience debate.
The night concluded with the EFL’s Rowan holding a discussion with supporters about numerous different subjects.
‘A worthwhile exercise’
Speaking to EFL.com, Mellor explained why he thought the forum was a worthwhile exercise for everybody involved.
He said: “Communicating with fans is a very important part of the game at all levels. The connection with supporters is imperative. Football is a very passionate game.
“It was great to attend the EFL Fan Forum with supporters from numerous different EFL clubs and hear their thoughts. The fans can give suggestions and help everyone move forward together.
“The fans that attended will say they benefited from the forum and hopefully they can feedback to other supporters too.”
That view is one echoed by Peter Leatham, the Accrington Stanley Supporters' Club chairman, who felt it was worthwhile evening.
“It was an interesting forum. It was nice to hear first-hand from experts like Chris Foy, Neil Mellor and the representatives from the EFL. They all gave us a really good idea what is happening in the realms of the organisation.”
The EFL Fan Forum at Wigan was the first of the season. Further forums around the country are scheduled to follow in 2017.