Lincoln City FC – A master class in getting fans onside.

Social media is such a fast moving enhancement to life. I remember the days when the only source of ‘behind the scenes’ information was gleaned by either reading the Ferret or talking to a bloke in a bar when knew a girl in the office. Nobody knew how the football club really worked and often that can breed ignorance and division.

Today I’ve been able to watch two recordings via social media, one the excellent ‘Pursuit of Imperfection’ by college students Ellie and Adam the other an hour long  Q&A session with the Imps gaffer Danny Cowley, courtesy of BBC Radio Lincolnshire. The documentary has had me signing ‘allez allez allez ooo’ all morning, and the Facebook Live has had me writing since it finished.

As well as the videos serving their intended purpose as something for us to watch they’ve also highlighted two very important aspects of a successful lower league club, aspects that Lincoln City are getting right.

Firstly let’s talk about Ellie and Adam’s documentary. They approached me after a recommendation to take part in a short documentary they were making about Lincoln City, and how supporting a lower league club differs from following Manchester United or Arsenal. Obviously I was more than happy to join in, although I’m perhaps more suited to the radio as even my Mum says I have the face for it.

I’ve been quite excited to see the finished article. Ellie may have had some prior motivation given her connections to the club, but it still felt good that young people were paying some form of interest Lincoln City. The questions were well thought out and it turned out superbly, capturing not only the joy and closeness we feel to a smaller club, but also a little of the frustration with ‘fickle fans’.

However like Danny Cowley says if people pay their money then they’re entitled to an opinion, but for what it’s worth seeing so many young people in the stands and being interviewed (obviously not myself) did give me significant hope for the future. Another interviewee Lauren spoke of having a season ticket after not coming for a couple of years. Something is coming back to the club, and when you see so many fresh, young supporters following the Imps it gives hope for a bright future.

a2
A Lincoln City press conference

 

Of course this resurgence has plenty to do with our enigmatic and open manager, and we’re able to see these traits through the wonder of social media. Watching a Lincoln City press conference would always be open to the select few, which is perhaps why the Echo played such a crucial role when Leigh Curtis wrote for them. The speculation, debate and dissection happened in the green pages of the Sports Echo, and that is as close as we’d come to having the inside track. We only knew what John Beck was like through rumour and ‘the bloke down the pub’.

Now we can see the inner workings of the club on a weekly basis. The press conference is beamed live to our computers by Radio Lincolnshire, and every Friday we get a different person on for a ‘Friday Facebook Live’ session with Rob Makepeace and Alan Long. We get to see the players, the manager and hear their open and honest opinions. For me the crown in the jewel was this afternoon’s session with Danny Cowley.

In recent weeks a lot of criticism has been levelled at Tom Champion. I believe his time at Lincoln will end without him turning things around, and that’s a shame. However to hear Danny discussing it openly and admitting Tom is struggling I think might help to calm some of the vitriol. Tom Champion is trying to earn a living, he’s a very good player but he’s in a lull at the moment. Not my words, the rough summary of DC. An honest and fair assessment of his time with us so far.

In fact on every issue from the Guiseley ‘ghost’ goal last season to potential new signings he spoke with clarity and precision about how he feels, what he does and where we are as a team. We have never really been able to bare witness to a manager doing this before and I think it helps build strength between the club and the fans. I found it particularly pleasing to hear about the help offered to Stamford Town in their clash with Wrexham and how both he and Nicky remember their roots in those leagues. It might not sound like a big deal but as fans we know we have managers who are respectful, hard working and don’t forget where they came from.

wp-1473853012361.jpg
The fans are coming back

 

This positivity running through the fabric of the club at the moment has to not only come from somewhere, but it also has to have something to keep it around. Sure a good league position and good performances are one way to ensure everyone stays onside, but being a part of what is happening is also a great way to keep things moving. I’ve only met Danny once on a fans training day (another great move by the club to bring everyone closer together), but I’ve spent more time watching and listening to him than I spend visiting my parents, and I’m by no means a stay-away son. I understand what is happening day-to-day, I’m able to see the people who carry the hopes of my football club. You can too thanks to social media.

When fans are kept in the dark, or when fans are filled with half-truths and subterfuge then the crucial relationship breaks down. All-too often we’ve seen the club and fans split, and only a few years ago that split was brought about on social media. It makes fan protests easier to organise, it makes ill-feeling and distrust much easier to spread. Social media has been a burden at times to the club, right back to the days the original Imps message board had to be taken down from the official site. Some characters have hi-jacked websites for their own political purpose, and even yours truly suffered because of the ease of putting an opinion out there.

In 2016 though everything has changed. Chris Moyses helped bring some of the fans back on board and went some way to helping heal the deteriorating relationship between the club and the paying supporter. The investment from Clive and the appointment of the Cowleys has allowed the club to capitalise on improved relations, and now the very open and receptive public profile continues to strengthen that important relationship.

Those older, cynical fans are beginning to get won over. My old man bought a season ticket for the first time in his life this season. The student promotion helped bring a bumper crowd against Braintree. Older fans who lost their passion when we came down are now back in abundance. That is reflected by good results, and as DC said today, winning breeds winning.

So I’d like to raise a glass (of tea, it’s only 3pm) to, in no particular order, Ellie and Adam for their superb an accurate documentary, BBC Radio Lincolnshire for making everything so much more accessible this season, and of course to Lincoln City Football Club, who finally seem to be getting it right in all aspects.

Finally lets thanks social media, it may have helped me lose a job five years ago, but right now it gives me something to write about every day. You can decide whether to be thankful of that or not.

 

14 DAYS LEFT – Listen tonight at 6pm BBC Radio Lincolnshire for some shameless plugging from me.

As you know by now I’ve made it through to the finals of the Football Blogging Awards 2016 thanks to your votes, and I need now need your votes again. There are a couple of ways you can register your vote. You can click on the link below and select ‘The Stacey West Blog’ from the drop down menu under the Best New Blog Category. All you need is an email address to vote. If you voted in the first round you can now VOTE AGAIN in the final stage.

http://www.footballbloggingawards.co.uk/about/vote-now-football-blogging-awards/

If you do Twitter it couldn’t be easier either – just click on the link below to be taken straight to a tweet to vote

https://twitter.com/intent/tweet?text=I%20am%20voting%20in%20%40TheFBAs%20for%20%40Staceywestblog%20as%20the%20Best%20%23New%20Football%20Blog

Please take the time to vote. This is a prestigious blogging award and for us to get to the final is amazing in itself. For a Lincoln City / Non League blog to win the main award it will take all of our collective input, but we made it this far so anything is possible!