Why Swansea City are blazing a trail for Premier League fans

The Liberty is bouncing at the minute. And why not? Two wins from two; eight goals scored, none conceded. All under a new gaffer, with his new foreign legion making an instant impact.
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The Liberty is bouncing at the minute. And why not? Two wins from two; eight goals scored, none conceded. All under a new gaffer, with his new foreign legion making an instant impact. It doesn't get much better for Swansea City fans.

And when Michael Laudrup warns against supporters getting carried away, he need not worry.

As fans we all talk of an emotional stake in our clubs. But the Swans support have gone a step further, blazing a Premier League trail as the first to actually hold a stake - 20 per cent, no less - in a top-flight club and boast an elected supporter as a board director.

The three promotions and their move to the Liberty Stadium were all achieved after it was agreed the Swansea City Supporters Trust (SCST) would take a 20 per cent share in the club. Every season ticket holder automatically becomes a member of the Trust, resulting - currently - in a unique connection between Premier League club and fan.

Phil Sumbler, chairman of the SCST, says supporters do boast closer ties to the club thanks to the association.

He told tribalfootball.com: "I think overall the club is closer to it's support because of some of the things that the Trust does. We hold regular fans forums where fans can place questions of the manager and the Chairman and social evenings also bring the manager and players closer to the club than you probably see at other Premier League clubs.

"This is something we have done for many years so to Swansea fans it is pretty much the norm and we're glad that it never changed after we reached the Premier League."

There was no greater indication of the benefits from this unique relationship than this summer's upheaval as Brendan Rodgers quit Swansea for Liverpool. At another club, the reaction would've been chaotic, particularly after Graeme Jones, the Wigan Athletic assistant manager, spoke with Swansea before choosing to stay at the DW.

But as Sumbler recalls, the Trust always had faith in the board's managerial search - which was vindicated when Laudrup's arrival was announced.

"The board have proven time and time again that they can find the right man for the job so I don't think there was ever major concern about replacing Brendan," says Sumbler, before revealing how the club actually kept fans up to date on their search for Rodgers' replacement.

"In terms of how were we kept informed our man on the board – Huw Cooze – is aware of day to day decisions within the club and he is involved in the discussions around these decisions and tells the Trust board of the current state of play when we meet."

On Laudrup, he adds: "I think in general the appointment of Michael has gone down well with most supporters due to his stature in the game and the belief that he will continue in the style of football we have enjoyed for so long.

"After the highs of last season, losing Brendan was a blow but – as with previous appointments – the Chairman has excelled himself and this time delivered one of the biggest names in world football to Swansea."

Laudrup's influence on early transfer policy has proved successful, with Michu, particularly, lighting up the Premier League in the opening two rounds of the season. Just as with everyother aspect of the club's workings, the Trust, through Cooze, does have a say on signings and transfer budgets.

"It would be nigh on impossible to refer to the full Trust board on every transfer decision but I think it's worth remembering that we have the director on the board of the club and he has as much input into this as every other board member," says Sumbler.

"The point of a Supporter Director is he is elected to the Trust board by our members and to the club board by the rest of the Trust board. It would be unwise to expect him to rush back over every decision and us to consult our members but he is actively involved in agreeing budgets and the like for transfers.

"But ultimately the purchasing decision should always sit with the manager."

Could this relationship between supporter and club spread beyond the Liberty? Given the balanced and composed approach of Swans fans to their club's progress, such an association has to be attractive to rival board directors forever locking horns with their own fans.

 
For more information about the Swansea City Supporters Trust, visit: swanstrust.co.uk.

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