Melbourne Victory Members Sub-Committee: Consultation or wedging?

Two of my main interests in life are football and politics, but I am not totally au fait with the tactics of either. I marvel at those who can roll off formations and place the type of player that could play in those positions. I also intrigued by the undercurrents and tactics of our politicians and enjoy reading some political analysis.

So it is quite something when these two, in a way come together.

This week Melbourne Victory members received an email inviting them to join a Members sub-committee. The idea of having a committee where members can regularly discuss issues with the club is a good one. Let’s face it. Melbourne Victory like all A-League clubs is really a commercial entity. The accusation from supporters of clubs who were in the NRL that they are franchises cannot be refuted. So any opening where members can have some input, rather than be totally passive consumers, is a good development.

It is also important to note that this sub-committee was partly a result of the protest from the Northern Terrace following issues within active members. When this idea was raised, many in the Northern Terrace dismissed it because they thought that it would supplant the communication between the Club and the NT active members. Personally, I reserved my judgment until we knew who would be represented, how the representatives were going to be chosen and what type of input was requested. I also agreed with the NT that this sub-committee could not replace any liaison between the NT and the Club as the issues with the NT are very different from other fans who sit down and just watch like me. On the other hand I thought that it would be good for all fans to somehow exchange ideas and opinions. There is a very ‘us and them’ attitude when it comes to active and non-active fans which I think should be changed.

When the details came out I wasn’t too impressed. An exercise in democracy it isn’t. Here the pertinent section of the information given to members:

 

Member Sub-Committee Objectives

  1. To enhance the relationship between Melbourne Victory Football Club and our members and deliver an integrated approach to providing the best membership experience for all.
  2. To establish a ‘medium’ for supporters to communicate directly with the club in a structured manner and receive timely and transparent responses.
  3. To help the club better understand the issues that most affect our members and to enable them to be involved in shaping the future of the Melbourne Victory Football Club.
  4. To develop member ambassadors through the Sub-Committee to assist in the receiving and dissemination of information to our members.

Role of the Member Sub-Committee 

Each elected member of the Melbourne Victory Member Sub-Committee will represent their member category and best serve ‘that group’s’ specific interests in meetings with the club.

Sub-Committee members will be expected to help shape each meeting agenda and actively manage relevant communications with members and the club, to facilitate the increase of information sharing from the club to our members.

The Sub-Committee will consist of eight members to represent a segment of membership most relevant to their profile.  The members that are chosen will create a cross-section profile of the club’s member base in respect to category, age and gender.

The membership segments that will be represented on the sub-committee

The specificity of the membership experience, which the Sub-Committee will be consulted on

  1. Premium A reserved seat member
  2. Premium B reserved seat member
  3. Active member (North)
  4. Active member (South)
  5. General Admission member
  6. Family member
  7. Country/Interstate or alternate member
  8. Non-ticketed member

  

  1. Communication (Member, Media and Social)
  2. Membership category, entitlements and privileges
  3. Match day ticketing and promotion
  4. Match day experience
  5. Merchandise and retail products
  6. Away and ACL fixtures
  7. Community engagement
  8. Equality and social responsibility

Member Sub-Committee Recruitment and Selection

The Club will conduct a recruitment and selection process that is fair and thorough.  An invitation will be sent to all members to detail the purpose, role and responsibility of being an elected member of the subcommittee.  Members can then apply for one of the eight positions.  A panel will meet to review the short-list of applications and select the members to make up the Sub-Committee.

The Club will short-list a maximum of four members per category and the following Selection Representatives will determine the successful candidates;

  1. Inaugural member that has been to over 95% of home games
  2. Melbourne Victory Ambassador
  3. Honorary Chairman
  4. Melbourne Victory Life member
  5. An administration staff member that has worked at the Club for at least 5 seasons
  6. A football journalist
  7. Research company representative

So if I get it right the way this sub-committee will be formed is by the Club short-listing a maximum of four members per category which then the successful candidates will be selected by seven people, which only 2 are ‘fan members’. As far as I can determine I can yet see how, apart for the honorary chairman, these people will be chosen (do we have one or many Ambassadors?)

So the process is not openly democratic. Perhaps it would be too much to expect an election from all members, but this process allows quite a bit of filtering, which opens the process to the accusation that only candidates which fit the ‘Melbourne Victory Corporate Agenda’ will be chosen. Further to this when I tweeted the Club to why there was no Premium C reserved seat member representative (which is my level) on the committee; I was told that I could apply as an ‘active member’. Now I can say categorically that there is little in common in issues facing Category C members and active members, so this somehow has fuelled my suspicions on this exercise.

As you would expect some active members are unimpressed. As one post on the Melbourne Victory Fans Forum states:

Fuck Them.

Personally, its better we aren’t involved. As a mass range of people in a committee has no right to say what can and can’t occur with NT.

On other shit on match day around the ground, blow up crap, kids’ mini games.. Blah Blah.. They can go for their life.

But as for NT issues, that’s between US and club only.

And…

 

End of the day, playing stupid games with the fan base and trying to play them off each other isn’t going to lead to a vibrant active end full of committed people, it isn’t going to lead to people on the wing enjoying themselves and it isn’t going to lead to healthy season ticket numbers over a long period of time so they’d do well not to engage in it.

I don’t really get how they are so inept at dealing with the media every time they go hysterical yet at times they pull out all these manipulation strategies against their own constituents.

 

On the other hand some see some merit:

Honestly, I think you might be looking at this the wrong way. The NTC has a lot to gain and not much to lose from participating in this subcommittee.

There is already good communication within the North Terrace regarding issues, so if something stinks about the way the franchise claim legitimacy of control over the terrace due to the committee (or seeks to change operational aspects of active support etc.) then it is easy to correct the lies. And the Terrace will listen to its own – what have you lost? If the scarfers get the perception that the active support is being precious, how would that be much worse than the situation now?

On the other hand, if the North Terrace Rep (and there will be one, so why not make them someone close to the NTC leadership rather than a random?) uses the committee to clearly and diplomatically build goodwill with the other supporters through this you might just find that this is the best way to document the problems that you see, and thus communicate them to the entire membership base. Once the issues find their way into minutes etc., you have forced the club into transparency.

Seems like a no-brainer to me. Participation brings the chance to drive the agenda. Without it you risk some random NT supporter miscommunicating the terrace’s philosophy, objectives and grievances.

 

But there was one post that took my attentions more than others. This is from a member who I know and is very political astute:

 

I think some of you blokes are taking a myopic view on this.

It’s not about a group ‘dictating” to the NT, or saying anything about the NT.

It’s about supporters generally. At worst, the dynamic is about the club being able to say “we have a good relationship with supporters, blah blah, we have this committee etc., stakeholder involvement blah blah family friendly approach blah blah”.

First up, context says a lot about why something happens. You have to question why the club is doing this NOW, as opposed to any other time. The fact that the initiative is in a letter addressing a controversy with the North terrace makes clear a motive: the stand-off with the NT can at least in part be addressed by forging closer relations with other supporters. Sure, the NT has every right to get involved in this initiative, but in the current context why would they? This kind of move is referred to in many circles as ‘wedging”.

Wedging is different to playing the numbers game to get a uniform outcome: it’s not majority rules, it’s about isolation. At worst, they’re not trying to outvote you: they’re trying to rely on you staying out.

It’s not about you. It’s about not you.

 

So the best take is that somehow the Club is interested in hearing views from representatives of different members, the worse is that it’s a way to wedge the active members out. That the Club could present a public view that it’s consultative while asserting – because the majority of the Members’ committee would say so – that issues faced by active members are not as important in the scheme of things.

Interesting developments. We’ll have to wait and see.

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