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Page last updated at 23:56 GMT, Monday, 14 March 2011

Football clubs 'pay lip service' to customer care

Tottenham supporters fared best in the report
Tottenham supporters fared best in the report

By Matt Slater
BBC sports news reporter

English clubs still take fans for granted, according to a scathing report by the Football Supporters' Federation.

The FSF looked at customer care guidelines in the top two divisions and found many were inadequate or out-of-date - Everton's was non-existent.

Tottenham had the best "club charter" in the Premier League, with Ipswich leading the way in the Championship.

"Many clubs just pay lip service to their fans, a truth reflected in the charters," said the FSF's Amanda Jacks.

"It's quite obvious many documents had little thought put into them and were given a very low priority by the clubs."

The FSF has identified a number of shortcomings

Independent Football Ombudsman chair Professor Derek Fraser

Each club's charter was given a 0-5 rating in seven categories: accessibility, timeliness, quality, clarity of complaints procedure, appeals process and contact details for the relevant league and Independent Football Ombudsman (IFO).

Among Premier League clubs, Spurs scored 31 out of a possible 35 points, with Arsenal second on 23, and Birmingham City and Blackburn Rovers tied in third on 22. Everton scored no points, with Manchester United second from bottom on eight.

In the Championship, Ipswich Town scored 32, Derby County 31 and Norwich City 29, but Sheffield United matched Everton's mark of zero.

The Goodison Park club acknowledged the charter was missing from the official website but said an updated version was currently being prepared.

"What is a quite complex and lengthy process is now almost complete, it will be available again online soon," an Everton spokesman said.

Professor Derek Fraser, chairman of the IFO and Standards Verification UK, welcomed the FSF's research, saying: "The ombudsman places great reliance on the charters in evaluating whether clubs have met their stated obligations to supporters.

Feedback from VisitEngland has been very encouraging that clubs are offering fans a good customer experience

Premier League spokesman

"The FSF has identified a number of shortcomings and the IFO supports the wish to make the charters an even more effective way of clarifying and enhancing the relationship between clubs and supporters."

The IFO was set up by English football's three main authorities - the Football Association, Football League and Premier League - to settle disputes between supporters and clubs on issues such as ticket prices, complaints about merchandise and kick-off times.

The report also rated the authorities' charters. The Football League came out on top, with the Premier League a distant third.

A Premier League spokesman questioned the quality of the FSF research and pointed out that a survey by opinion pollsters Populus found that 65% of supporters think their club offers better customer service than it did five years ago.

"We are currently working with VisitEngland to assess all 20 Premier League clubs under its 'Visitor Attraction Quality Assurance Scheme', which looks at football grounds on similar lines to a more traditional type of visitor attraction," the spokesman added.

"The findings of this work will be announced before the end of the season but feedback from VisitEngland so far has been very encouraging that clubs are offering fans a good customer experience."

The introduction of club charters was a recommendation from the Football Task Force in 1999. That body, chaired by former Conservative minister David Mellor, was introduced by Tony Blair's Labour government in 1997 but disbanded after two largely ineffectual years.

The most recent intervention into football from the world of politics, the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee's inquiry into football governance, continues at Burnley's Turf Moor home on Tuesday.

In the third session of their two-month investigation, the panel of MPs will hear evidence from Ken Bates, John Bowler and Barry Kilby, the chairmen of Leeds United, Crewe Alexandra and Burnley respectively, and Exeter City's vice-chairman Julian Tagg.

They will also quiz Malcolm Clarke and Steven Powell from the FSF, the national supporters' organisation for fans in England and Wales, and Dave Boyle, the chief executive of Supporters Direct, the body that promotes greater fans-involvement in football clubs.

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see also
League chief warns over club debt
15 Feb 11 |  Football
FA to reject government support
03 Feb 11 |  Football

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