Plenty of people spat out their tea this morning after reading that Everton have sent out a survey to their supporters, part of which is to rate the manager, Sam Allardyce.
Allardyce has plenty of critics, but that’s not the point. For someone like me interested in Fan Engagment, trying to understand the thinking of the fanbase of a club, I certainly wouldn’t shy away from asking difficult questions, and certainly not on the basis of a media firestorm.
What I’m frustrated about in this case is that it appears that Everton have fallen into the trap of thinking that this sort of surveying is a good idea. It’s only a good idea if what you want is a momentary snapshot of someone’s opinion about something within a very fixed 1-10 rating. Other than that, it’s basically useless. It doesn’t provide any kind of context, nor does it allow you to understand why someone thinks what they think. And that’s without thinking about the timing, and how it looks externally, with the other consideration that often gets forgotten where managers are concerned, which is that they’re employees, and they need to be treated with some degree of respect. There’s nothing wrong with discussing the manager, but there’s something rather cackhanded about what Everton are doing.
The question is, what would I do? After binning the first draft, I’d be undertaking research like this in a far more appropriate place, for example a focus group setting, in the context of a wider discussion about how important success on the pitch is in a whole raft of other issues. You don’t make a big event of it, as it’s part of a process. You can do this on an annual basis, or even a rolling, quarterly one for example. It helps to keep a handle on the conversations and views in the fanbase, and it doesn’t just single out the manager at a moment in time.
Clubs still continually make basic, avoidable errors in this area, and consultation still seems to be stuck in the dark ages. It’s time it moved on.
Here are some tips on running focus groups, following some recent work I did at AFC Wimbledon.