Fans forum media blackout harms both club and fans

Fans forum media blackout harms both club and fans

Rob Fielding is left bemused by the “media ban” over coverage of the club’s fans forum.

Rob Fielding writes

This has been another bizarre week in the recent history of Port Vale FC.

The announcement of a fans forum is something which is generally welcomed by supporters – offering a chance of a two-way dialogue with club officials and a chance to be updated on club issues.

What a pity that the forum aftermath was not dominated by what was said but rather by what couldn’t be said…

With Vale supposedly up for sale, the scheduling of this week’s forum was even more keenly anticipated.

So, what a pity that the forum aftermath was not dominated by what was said but rather by what couldn’t be said.

According to one Port Vale fan’s Twitter account, owner Norman Smurthwaite declared it a “closed meeting” and threatened legal action if the press reported on any isssues that were discussed *

* I would add at this point that this has not been officially confirmed by the club but was widely reported by those in attendance at the meeting as comments Norman Smurthwaite had said.

It seems a completely illogical way to run a fans forum. After all, surely the point of a fans forum is to promote open communication – making it a “closed meeting” makes the whole point of the event rather meaningless.

The point of a fans forum is to promote open communication – making it a “closed meeting” makes the whole point of the event rather meaningless…

Some felt that the club was making a stand against negative reporting in the local media but frankly Vale needs the local media far more than the media needs Port Vale.

There’s also the fans who were unable to attend to bear in mind. Now we have a few hundred fans who were party to Norman’s views but those who were unable to attend (take me – my train from work doesn’t arrive in Aylesbury till 7pm, how can I get to a mid-week evening meeting in Burslem?) are excluded. They can’t even catch up on the key points in the media (although much of what was said was reported on Twitter making a mockery of the club’s media ban in the process).

For this Vale fan, the whole thing seems shambolic. The club has damaged relationships with local media – the same media it will of course rely on in the future for promoting things like season ticket sales and other promotions. Vale has come across as defensive – the logic being why ban the media unless you have something you don’t want them to publish? And finally, it has failed to inform any fans who (for a variety of valid reasons) could not attend.

It’s a sorry state of affairs and what should have been a great PR exercise has left a sour taste in the mouth.