So, to the big event. The first QPR Fans’ Forum for almost six years was trailed with great anticipation and expectation across the official club media, supporters were invited to ask questions online in advance and, to great fanfare, the event was broadcast live on the club website. The full transcript has since been issued on the website and furthermore, last friday, a week on, a detailed response to the main talking points raised at the Forum was also placed on the website. All of a sudden, the club have tried to become very inclusive and they took this event seriously.
So, was it all worth it? Well, it has to be said that the idea for the Forum, and the subsequent follow up by the club, reflects the willingness of the twitter addicted media savvy owners and the new management team to reach out to their target market and to be seen to be doing the right thing. Engage with your customers, talk to them and listen to their concerns, it is all the vogue in the business world and a mantra that is preached by all go ahead customer facing businesses. Much of it may be viewed as rhetoric or spin but the club cannot be faulted for trying.
The audience comprised a group of largely middle aged, long suffering male supporters, with a sprinkling of women dotted around for good measure. A fairly cynical group it must be said, all of whom have experienced the highs and lows of following the R’s over a considerable period of time. They were clearly not going to be taken in by any false promises and to be fair to the panel, none were given. All responses on club matters were well considered and thoughtful.
The event was well chaired by Paul Morrissey, the voice behind QPR Player, and both he and Ian Taylor, QPR Head of Media, were very keen to involve the audience and questions flowed seamlessly throughout the evening. There had been a concern in advance that the whole event might be stage managed, but nothing was further from the truth. Indeed it could be argued that some of the questions from the floor appeared so trivial, that it may have been better if more questions had been taken from a pre prepared list. However, that would have taken away the element of spontaneity and the opportunity for fans to ask exactly what was on their minds at that moment, which is just what these events need to be about.
Sat on the top table were a star studded panel, comprising CEO Philip Beard, ‘our’ Harry, plus Clint Hill and Jamie Mackie, carefully and wisely selected as popular players who give their all for the club. Yet interestingly, with such a gathering of stars, it was Philip Beard who was asked the majority of questions, many of which seemed like relatively minor issues, but which clearly were on the minds of many. It quickly became apparent that their voices had not been heard for some time and this seemed to be their only chance to raise their concerns. It did become a little tedious at times but hopefully smaller focus groups will be formed as a result of this evening to discuss specific issues and, if that happens, then the event will have been worthwhile. Whilst clearly a fairly smooth operator, Beard was engaging and showed genuine concern and warmth for the club.
Harry was very much his usual self, but had few chances to really express himself and only on a couple of occasions did he get the opportunity to pontificate about footballing matters and the players, which was a shame. He did look a little bemused at times at the line of questioning to Philip Beard and you had to wonder if he would really have rathered a night back at home to recharge his batteries after a hectic transfer window.
Mackie and Hill were very much the likely lads, they injected some much needed humour to proceedings and their willingness to fight for the cause was never in doubt, which was well known anyway.
So, at the end of it all, the evening was considered a success. Issues were raised that have been acted upon and further forums, focus groups and reps meetings will be set up to address issues going forward. All good news.
Yet for all that, the club can have as many fans’ forums as it likes but it can’t get away from the fact that the most important thing at the moment is scoring a few goals and winning a few matches. Only then will the smiles really return.