As another season draws to a close and we see differing groups of supporters celebrate and suffer heartbreak, Lincoln City became the first team in the English Football League to be promoted (winning League 2 with a draw at Tranmere Rovers – remember our victory there on the last day of last season?) – and, according to his column in the Halifax Town match programme, Raj Singh thinks Hartlepool United should use the Imps as inspiration. Wasn’t the match against Halifax enjoyable and wasn’t it typical that Rodders would score against us!
As you would expect, we’ve come out second best against Lincoln on more occasions than we haven’t – Pools getting 39 wins and 25 draws against 48 defeats – but they lost their league status before we did and have managed to do what we haven’t – they recovered their league status – twice!
Founded in 1884, Lincoln won the Midland League in 1889–90, their first full season playing league football. They moved on from the Football Alliance to become founder members of the Football League Second Division in 1892, remaining there until they failed re-election in 1908. They won immediate re-election after winning the next year’s Midland League, and would repeat this feat after failing re-election again in 1911 and 1920. Founder members of the Football League Third Division North in 1921, they won promotion as champions in 1931–32, but were relegated two seasons later. Crowned Third Division North champions again in 1947–48, they were relegated the next year, but would remain in the second tier for nine seasons after again winning the Third Division North title in 1951–52. Two successive relegations left them in the Fourth Division by 1962, where they would remain until Graham Taylor’s title winning campaign of 1975–76.
Relegated in 1978–79, they secured promotion again two years later but suffered a double relegation to find themselves in the Conference by 1987. Lincoln made an immediate recovery however, regaining their Football League status with the Conference title in 1987–88. They were promoted again in 1997–98, but were relegated the next season. After falling into Administration at the end of the 2001-2002 season, they reached the play-offs in five consecutive seasons, from 2002 to 2007, losing in the final twice (2002–03 and 2004–05) and the semi-finals three times, which is a competition record. However they exited the division at the other end when they were returned to the Conference after relegation at the end of the 2010–11 campaign. And we complain about life as Pools fans – can you imagine being a follower of the Imps?
A six season stay in non-league was ended when Cowley brothers Nicky and Danny led the club to the National League title in 2016–17, as well as a run to the quarter-finals of the FA Cup – this made them the first non-league side to reach that stage in 103 years. Though they lost in the League Two play-offs the next year, they did win the 2018 EFL Trophy Final.
So, The Imps were promoted from League Two just two years after getting out of the National League. So I applaud Raj looking to Lincoln for inspiration – but we need more than inspiration, don’t we?
According to his programme notes, Singh thinks Pools can look to Lincoln for inspiration, as we look to get back to the Football League with a promotion push next season. “I was really pleased to see Lincoln City achieve promotion to League One last weekend, just two seasons after they got out of the National League.”
The chairman thinks the Imps are the perfect example of what can be achieved when everyone pulls in the same direction; a club makes the right appointments and carry some momentum. “I think it just shows what can be achieved when you build momentum, have the right people in the right places within the club and have a real togetherness.
“I am not saying that it will be easy to follow in their footsteps but they have shown it can be done.”
I agree with what the chairman is saying – but two points in particular hit the button.
Firstly, “it will not be easy” – the pains of the last few seasons have taught us that. And wasn’t Barrow awful?
Secondly, having “a real togetherness”.
HUST vice-chair John Cooke shared a link on the HUST Facebook page on 10 April which made for interesting reading – https://supporters-direct.org/articles/fan-engagement-survey-shows-still-room-for-improvement .
In summary, Supporter groups across the country say that clubs are meeting their obligations around fan engagement but there remains a handful of clubs where significant improvement is needed – according to the results of a national survey.
Last year the Football Supporters’ Federation (FSF) and Supporters Direct (SD) surveyed affiliated fan groups to find out how Premier League and EFL clubs were implementing their “structured dialogue” commitments.
Since 2016, clubs have been required to meet with their supporters to discuss club matters under Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) guidelines. This “structured dialogue” is now in the English Football League (EFL) and Premier League rule books.
Research carried out by the Football Supporters’ Federation and Supporters Direct shows that most clubs are engaging with their supporters and fielding appropriate club officials (such as owners, directors or senior executives) – but there is room for improvement.
The FSF and SD both surveyed specific contacts and affiliated supporter groups and/or trusts with 73 out of 92 clubs covered within the results.
Here’s what supporter groups reported:
84% of clubs are meeting with supporters at least twice per season, which is in line with government guidelines. This matches previous survey’s results, which reported 85%.
94% of clubs are fielding appropriate people – owners, directors and/or senior executives. This is up 8% from the previous year’s survey result (86%).
39% of respondents said their club either misunderstands or doesn’t act upon structured dialogue, although this is an improvement as almost half (48%) of fan representatives said the same last year.
Both the Premier League and EFL have work to do when it comes to building trust among fan groups as 86% didn’t believe, or were unsure, that clubs would be sanctioned by a league for not conforming to regulations.
Deborah Dilworth from Supporters’ Direct said: “Our survey shows dialogue between supporters and their clubs is in a healthy state, but unfortunately there remains a handful of clubs where this isn’t the case.
“There’s definitely room for improvement and we’ll continue to support fans at clubs where the government’s guidelines aren’t being met.”
The survey also revealed supporters wanted a standardised minimum level of information to be shared ahead of meetings and for a clear distinction between promotional or social fans forum-style events and structured dialogue meetings – where 52% of fans wanted to hear from CEO’s on more difficult topics such as ownership and financial data.
The FSF and SD will continue to raise cases where structured dialogue guidelines aren’t being adhered to with DCMS, the EFL and Premier League.
Where does Pools stand on this? HUST issued minutes of the most recent Fans Forum – why didn’t the Club do this? And what struck me as missing was an agreed date for the next meeting? Personally, I’d like to know much more – and I still feel an absence of true engagement with the wider fan-base – and I guess that, despite the gruesome past season and uncertainties all round, the Club will be expecting my season ticket dosh shortly…..
But getting back to the chairman and taking inspiration from Lincoln City……
The following appeared on the Lincoln City FC Official website on 22 February 2019:
Red Imps Community Trust Supporter Representation Update
The Red Imps Community Trust has announced a ‘new phase in supporter representation’ after an agreement has been made between LISA (Lady Imps Supporters Association), the FPS (Fans Player Scheme), the FPA (Former Players Association), the Lincoln and District Supporters Club and the Gold Membership, as well as having contributions from the 617 Squadron, the Supporters Board and Lincoln City Football Club.
All the groups will retain their independence however, after talks between all the parties, they have agreed to work together to represent as many views of the fans and stakeholders of the club as possible.
The Group will agree to liaise on all relevant matters, to keep all informed of suggestions and concerns, to support each other where problems may arise, to hold Group fans forums, to assist and support each other’s individual fundraising and social events and most importantly to raise the profile of what will effectively become not just the Trust Director on the Board but the Supporters Director on the Board.
Lincoln City chairman, Clive Nates, says that it’s a promising move which highlights a positive development for the future of the Trust and the supporter groups. “It is encouraging to see the closer cooperation between the various supporter groups of Lincoln City Football Club. With a significant stake and board representation the Trust remains highly relevant in influencing the future direction of the club.”
One of the practical aims of the new relationship is to encourage the current members of LISA, the FPS, the FPA, Lincoln and District Supporters Club and the 617, but most importantly other individuals, to take up direct membership of the Trust. This will enable greater democracy in the election of Trust officials and of the Board Director. Furthermore, all members will receive entry to a monthly draw during the season for a £50 club shop voucher as well as to a special draw for the prize of a season ticket. In addition the Trust will be commencing a regular informative e-newsletter for all members.
The following was also on the Official Lincoln City website – can you imagine Pools assisting HUST in its membership renewal process?
SPECIAL OFFER: As a one-off promotion, for all new members as well as for all those renewing their membership via the Eventbrite season ticket process, the cost of joining the Trust for the year will be just £1.
For full details of the Special Membership offer and full details on the supporter representation going forward, visit the Trust website at www.redimpstrust.co.uk . Or you can get involved with your next purchase of your season ticket. All you need to do is look out for the Red Imps Community Trust box on the renewal form and sign up as a new member for just £1. Yes, just £1 and have all the potential benefits for yourself and the Club.
And John’s quick opinion to start the usual Facebook rage – £1 a season is insufficient to support the growth of a sustainable Trust! Any Trust – and ours in particular – needs to be as financially strong as possible….
Having said that I’d be surprised to see the Club helping HUST to collect membership fees, credit must go to the Club for helping to promote the upcoming HUST Golf Day – 24 May at Wynyard! Well done to Pools – and, as ever, to those unpaid volunteers at HUST for doing all the hard work. Good luck guys.
And now to my quick final points….
1. Saddened to see the continuing fall of Bolton Wanderers – one can only hope that the next stages in the history of this once great club are going to be better than looks likely to be the case.
2. John’s football website of the week – https://www.facebook.com/HednesfordTownTV/videos/vb.1904668536294017/364568474392597/?type=2&theater – would be great to see Luke James doing that in early August!
3. They say that age is all in the mind. The trick is to keep it from creeping down into your body.
4. The situation for our friends and near neighbours at Gateshead continues to resemble a ‘slow motion train crash’. Given the positioning of the current owners and some of the potential buyers (Chris Dunphy excluded – he does appear to be a ‘good guy’), I struggle to see us having a derby at the International Stadium next year. Very much hope that I’m wrong….
5. Salford City tomorrow: attended the away fixture on 25 September 2018. A thoroughly depressing evening for many reasons and I very much hope that tomorrow sees an entertaining fixture played out in the right atmosphere – with Pools securing a final day win like that at Tranmere last year! And we need to get out of this league quickly to avoid these ridiculous early kick offs!